Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Shayne Jones

Co-Major Professor

Michael J. Lynch


absolute stability, antisocial behavior, relative stability, risk factors, trajectory analysis


A key proposition of Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) self-control theory is the stability hypothesis which suggests that an individual's level of self-control, once established between the ages of 8-10, is stable over the life course. Empirical results from examinations of the stability hypothesis have been mixed. Prior tests of the stability hypothesis have employed aggregate assessment methods (e.g., mean-level and correlational analyses). Such approaches fail to take into account the possibility that individual developmental pathways may differ. This study employs individual longitudinal data over a four year period for 3,249 7th to 10th grade subjects to assess the stability hypothesis using both traditional stability estimation techniques (e.g., ANOVAs and zero-order correlations), as well as heterogeneity assessment methods - semiparametric group-based trajectory modeling (SPGM). Multinomial logistic regression (MLOGIT) of theoretically and empirically relevant risk factors (i.e., parenting, parental criminality, deviant peers, bonds to school) was employed to distinguish between developmental trajectories. SPGM results suggest that self-control is stable for a majority of the sample; however, a sizeable portion of the sample evinced trajectories for which self-control was marked by considerable change. Specifically, 6 unique trajectories in the development of self-control were identified - two groups were identified with high stable trajectories of self-control and four groups were identified that had lower, less stable trajectories of self-control. Additionally, several risk factors differentiated these groups. The results indicate that those with lower, less stable trajectories have more deviant peer association, higher rates of parental criminality, less intense bonds to school, and lower levels of parenting. These results indicate that self control is not stable nor is it consistent across groups, leading to a rejection of Hirschi and Gottfredson's explanation.