An examination of the interaction between morality and self‐control in offending: A study of differences between girls and boys – 2018

There is a well‐documented gender difference in offending, with evidence that boys, on average, are more involved in crime than girls. Opinions differ, however, on whether the causes of crime apply to girls and boys similarly.

Our aim is to explore crime propensity in boys and girls. Our research questions were (1) are there differences between boys and girls in moral values and self‐control; (2) are these attributes similarly correlated with offending among girls and boys; and (3) is any interaction effect between morality and self‐control identical for girls and boys.

Data were drawn from the Malmö Individual and Neighbourhood Development Study, which includes 481 girls and boys aged 16–17. An 8‐item self‐control scale was derived from Grasmick’s self‐control instrument; we created a 16‐item morality scale. Analysis of variance was used to test for differences in scale scores.

There were significant gender differences in moral values but not self‐control. Moral values and self‐control were significantly correlated with offending among both girls and boys. In the multiple regression analysis, the three‐way interaction term used to test the interaction between gender, self‐control and moral values was non‐significant, indicating that the magnitude of the self‐control–moral value interaction is not affected by gender.

Our findings indicate that effects of morality and self‐control are general and apply to girls and boys similarly, so more research is needed to explain gender differences in crime prevalence.

Anna‐Karin Ivert, Frida Andersson, Robert Svensson, Lieven J.R. Pauwels, Marie Torstensson Levander
Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health, 16 January 2018