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Self-Control Theory Analysis of Prohibited Drug Use and Distribution
In my local area of Brookton, Western Australia, which forms part of the Great Southern Police district I have chosen the usage and distribution of prohibited drugs as the theme for my essay. I will apply the criminological theory of Self-Control from Gottfredson and Hirschi’s, a general theory of crime (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) to this issue to attempt to provide an understanding as to why this form of crime occurs in Brookton and to outline what strategies the Western Australia Police and in particular, what the Great Southern Police district are engaged in to reduce the reoccurrence of this crime. I will look at how the core findings of self-control from Gottfredson and Hirschi’s, contributes to self-control issues of prohibited drug use and distribution.
Low level prohibited drug use and distribution, such as found in Brookton, is becoming more common place and is seen as a soft target crime. However finding the main reason for why people use prohibited drugs or deem it acceptable may be the reason there is a growing support for self-control as a criminological theory. Hasan Buker’s article on the formation of self-control: Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime (Buker, 2011) assists with providing the core elements that contribute to how a person’s self-control is formed. By looking at how self-control is formed, Western Australia Police are able to create effective and proactive strategies as well as providing positive support from outside agencies to reduce the occurrence of these drug related offences.
Buker, H. (2011). Formation of self-control: Gottfredson and Hirschi's general theory of crime and beyond. Aggression and violent behaviour, 265-276.
Gottfredson, M. G., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
Hirschi, T., & Gottfredson, M. (1993). Commentary: Testing the general theory of crime. Journal of research in crime and deliquency, 47-54.
Hirschi, T., & Gottfredson, M. R. (2000). In defense of self-control. Theoretical Criminology, 59-64.
Macquarie. (2009). Macquarie Concise Dictionary . Sydney: Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd.
Newburn, T. (2013). Criminology. Oxon: Routledge.
Self-Control Theory Analysis of Prohibited Drug Use and Distribution
What is self-control and how do we apply it as a theory when referring to criminal activity? How do we use the theory of self-control to create appropriate reduction strategies for combatting criminal activity? The Macquarie Concise Dictionary defines self-control as ‘control of oneself and or ones actions, feelings, etc.’ (Macquarie, 2009) where as Hirschi & Gottfredson refer to self-control as being a ‘concern for the long-term consequences of one’s acts’ (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 2000). Are a person’s actions or their control of, predetermined through learned behaviours or is it merely a social “out” to state that a person has no control over their actions? That they should not be held responsible for behaviours not within their control?
When does a person become responsible for their actions and can a person who has limited self-control take steps to become more self-controlled. At the age of eight years old a person is deemed to have from the ability to have self-control. At this age is would be more likely that they have learned this self-control from factors such a family structure and schooling. As maturity is a limited factor at such a young age, if a person has not formed the ability to self-control their own actions, it will be a ‘visible and stable issue as they grow older’ (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990).
Of those people whose self-control has formed it is often noted that they are more likely to resist temptation and are less impulsive, than those whose self-control has not yet formed. They are said to be able to rationalise and behave in what are deemed social norms on a regular and consistent basis. People with low or unformed self-control tend to be self-absorbed, egocentrically self-centred and bear no concern to what consequences their actions have on themselves or other people (Newburn, 2013). Generally speaking they are more likely to use prohibited drugs, engage in risky behaviour such as unprotected or unsafe sexual practices, consume alcohol to excess and are more likely to participate in criminal activity.
It should be noted that there is a difference to lack of or low self-control and impulsiveness. Lack of self-control can in turn result is continual behaviour reoccurring due to a person creating an acceptable image within their mind that their actions are justified. Impulsiveness can be a one off event that is spurred on by a momentary thought process that may not ever occur again. But this does not mean that people with low self-control are criminals or that all criminals have low self-control. Like most crimes that are committed, there is an element of opportunity that needs to be present. Newburn makes mention that although it does not provide a long term benefit for the person, it can be stimulating, thrilling and is usually an unskilled act or it does not require any form of proper planning and execution (Newburn, 2013). Even with or without opportunity, most crimes need some form of planning to ensure that they are likely to succeed.
In his article on the formation of self-control, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime and beyond, Hasan Buker identifies factors such as Family Structure, Parental Practices, Education and Learning, Biological Factors, Social Structure and Religious Involvement that contribute to how a person’s self-control is formed (Buker, 2011). By examining these factors we can attempt to create positive approaches to interact with people who have committed criminal offences and try to rehabilitate them from reoffending. But can those people who have already had their self-control formed be rehabilitated? Or must we strike while the iron is hot during the younger years of a person’s life and ensure that they are being appropriately taught right from wrong?
The primary factors that determine one’s self-control as outlined in the general theory of crime are family structure and diminished parental supervision and parenting practices. If this is the case then it must be said that the secondary influences for self-control formation are social structure, education and learning. Almost all of these factors occur before a person has hit the defined age of eight years old for self-control formation. If parents find it socially acceptable to use prohibited drugs, then a young impressionable mind may feel that it too is an acceptable practice and is more likely to experiment if they are offered prohibited drugs at a later stage in their life. If suitable supervision occurs, which includes setting up appropriate boundaries and expectations, during the early years of a person’s childhood, including the adolescent years, they are more likely to respond in a positive manner to those who have no set boundaries and expectations. With this in mind, if parents are behaving in what is deemed law abiding behaviour, and they supervise their children in the same manner, then it must be said that their children’s level of self-control and ability to resist temptation would be greater and they are less likely to behave in criminal activity to those children who are not supervised in the same manner.
Buker also raises social structure in his article stating that this can also lead to diminished self-control in an individual. Lower socio economic neighbourhoods are often linked to poor family structure and parental supervision as well as adverse learning environments. In these areas due to limited parental supervision, parents may often fail to monitor adverse behaviour and discipline their children in a correct and an appropriate manner. (Buker, 2011).