The study tested whether developmental changes in self-control stabilize by late childhood (age 10) or continue into early and middle adolescence. Second, it tested the bidirectional, longitudinal relationship between self-control and deviance over an 11-year period.

Children (N = 1159) from the longitudinal NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (SECCYD) were assessed six times, ages 4.5 to 15 years. Latent growth models tested self-control and deviance trajectories, using competing growth functions to capture change over time. The longitudinal, bidirectional self-control-deviance links were examined in a cross-lagged latent model.

Findings showed that children's self-control significantly increased during childhood, but stabilized sometime between 8.5 and 10.5 years. Deviance also changed in parallel, but in the opposite direction; some evidence was found of continued change in deviance during early adolescence. Finally, self-control and deviance were bidirectionally and longitudinally linked across all assessments through childhood only.

Findings support theoretical predictions that self-control principally develops during childhood (by age 10) and subsequently remains stable. They also support longitudinal, bidirectional self-control-deviance links, largely identical in size prior to the age of 10; study findings are contextualized vis-à-vis self-control theory as well as recent behavior genetic evidence.

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Published in Journal of Criminal Justice, v. 56.

© 2017 The Authors

This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/BY-NC-ND/4.0/).

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