The effects of self-control and social connection on recidivism

by Forkner, Rebecca D., Ph.D., GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY, 2010, 126 pages; 3405155

Abstract:

Self-control is well established as a major contributor to criminality, and a lack of social connectivity has more recently been empirically supported as a factor in the etiology of criminal behavior. The effects of self-control on the ability to make social connections, and the effects of social connectivity on the development and maintenance of self-control have also become a focus as major influences on desistance from crime. Participants were 66 male and 29 female pre- and post-incarceration individuals ranging in age from 18 to 69 years. This study investigated: (1a) the relationship between social connection and recidivism; (1b) the mediation by post-release self-control on the relationship between social connection and recidivism; (2a) the relationship between post-release self-control and recidivism; (2b) the mediation by social connection on the relationship between post-release self-control and recidivism; (3a) the relationship between pre-release self-control and recidivism; (3b) the mediation by social connection on the relationship between pre-release self-control and recidivism. Self-control was measured via a self report scale (Tangney, Baumeister & Boone, 2004) both before release and twelve months after release, and social connectivity occurring across the twelve month self-release period was assessed from self-reports of marital status, employment, and educational and religious service involvement. Recidivism occurring across the twelve month self-release period was measured using self-reports of types of detected and undetected crimes committed and converted into a measure indicating number of types of crimes committed, per the versatility/variety hypothesis (Loeber, 1982). Results provided little support for the hypotheses. Both pre- and post-release self-control related significantly to recidivism, without mediation by social connection. Post-release self-control also related significantly to social connection. No significant direct link between social connection and recidivism was observed, though an indirect link was made via post-release self-control. A short period follow-up period between our assessments (one year), particularly in combination with our adult offender sample, was a limitation. Our purely objective measure of social connection was also a limitation. Our results indicate that both pre- and post-release self-control serve as reliable indicators of recidivism risk, and that social connections may increase self-control between release from prison and one-year post-release. Regarding policy implications, these results underscore the importance of building and maintaining self-control in individuals preparing for release from incarceration or in the post-incarceration environment. Further research with a longer follow-up period and subjective indices of social connection are important.

AdviserJune P. Tangney
SchoolGEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsMental health; Clinical psychology; Criminology
Publication Number3405155

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