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The question of motivation is of high importance in the studies of criminality since it is essential to understand the factors which affect delinquency and crime. In the article under analysis, self-control theory is employed to investigate the causal relationships between self-control and thrill-seeking. This paper aims to discuss the article’s primary purpose and key questions addressed, data and methods which were used, and the study’s conclusions and limitations.
Article’s Main Purpose
Burt and Simons (2013) begin with the explanation of self-control theory (SCT). In general, this method perceives the motivation to commit a crime as invariant, deriving from the assumption that the pleasure which is obtained from delinquency is equally attractive to everyone. However, such assumption focuses only on the ends of crime (e.g., received delectation) and neglects the other potential causal source: “differential attractions to the means” (Burt & Simons, 2013, p. 1328). Therefore, the authors’ primary intention was to explore the process of crime in the context of individual differential patterns of motivation. These models represent a balance between the reward of crime and the possible risk of punishment.
Key Questions Addressed
In their attempt to bring “consideration of the process of crime into SCT,” Burt and Simons (2013) address several important questions (p. 1329). Firstly, they observe possible inequality in attraction to crime. Secondly, the correlation between self-control and thrill-seeking is questioned as the authors struggle to understand whether or not thrill-seeking could moderate the effect of self-control (Burt & Simons, 2013). Also, the authors explore the question of how deviant decisions are made, and how the risk of punishment shapes the delinquent behavior.
Data and Methods Used
Furthermore, it is important to discuss data and methods which were used in the study under consideration. The research is based on data which is taken from Family and Community Health Study (FACHS). It was collected in Georgia and Iowa using identical research procedures (Burt & Simons, 2013). The sample consists of 897 African American families that vastly differ in their demographic characteristics, such as the level of income and racial composition. The authors used delinquency as the dependent variable. Additionally, six items for measuring self-control and four items for thrill-seeking were developed.
The principal conclusion that derives from the study is that there is inequality of motivation and attraction to crime. Crime, presented as a process, gives a different context to the evaluation of delinquency’s desirability because the risk, which is always involved in the criminal offense, shapes individual’s motivation immensely (Burt & Simons, 2013). Another important conclusion which derives from the study is that a personal thrill-seeking level immensely influences self-control. People who obtain pleasure from risky acts tend to have a higher level of attraction to crime compared with individuals with low thrill-seeking level (Schulz, 2016).
However, it is essential to mention the limitations of the study. First of all, the most critical limitation is the nature of sample which was analyzed in the article. It comprises African American families residing in Georgia and Iowa. Therefore, it is essential to further explore other geographical contexts alongside with more racially diverse sampling. Secondly, the question of measures is also of high importance because a more profound understanding of the correlation between the authors’ measures and the SCT concepts is needed. Finally, the study by Burt and Simons (2013) focused exclusively on motivation while further research should examine it alongside with other variables such as deviant norms, personal morality, social binding, and negative emotionality.
Burt, C. & Simons, R. L. (2013). Self-control, thrill seeking, and crime. Motivation matters. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 40(11),1326-1348.
Schulz, S. (2016). “Don’t blow your cool”: Provocation, violent coping, and the conditioning effects of self-control. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 32(4), 561-587.