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 journalArticle

1 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


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

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