Integrating criminological and mental health perspectives on low self-control: A multi-domain analysis

Noah C. Venables, Jens Foell, James R. Yancey, Kevin M. Beaver, William G Iacono, Christopher J. Patrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Criminological theories of crime, delinquency, and deviancy emphasize the causal role of low self-control whereas models of psychopathology posit a general trait liability, “disinhibition”, contributing to persistent antisocial behavior and substance use. The aim of the current work was to link these compatible perspectives on deviancy through reference to a biobehavioral conceptualization of disinhibition. Methods: We examined how the Grasmick et al. (1993) self-control scale, relates to (a) trait disinhibition as indexed by self-report scales, performance on inhibitory-control tasks, and brain reactivity to cognitive stimuli, and (b) a cross-domain index combining measures from these three domains. Results: As expected, variation in self-control was robustly associated with antisocial deviance, substance use problems, and measures of disinhibition across measurement domains. Further, a factor analytic model provided compelling evidence that the Grasmick et al. scale operates as a robust indicator within a biobehavioral conceptualization of disinhibition. Conclusions: Findings confirm a strong link between self-control and trait disinhibition, and support the view that deficits in self-control have a prominent biobehavioral basis. Research in the areas of criminology and psychopathology can mutually benefit from a focus on influences contributing to variations in self-control, conceptualized as trait disinhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-10
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
StatePublished - May 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research reported here was supported by US Army grant W911NF-14-1-0018 to CJP and by the National Institute of Drug Abuse grant number T320A037183 to NCV. The content of this paper is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Department of Veterans Affairs, or U.S. Recruiting Command. Funding sources had no role in the study design in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the article for publication. The authors have no financial disclosures or competing interests.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Antisocial behavior
  • Disinhibition
  • Inhibitory control
  • Self-control
  • Substance use


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