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Deviant Behavior

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maternal characteristics, parenting, and adolescent sexual behavior: the role of self-control

Trina L. Hope a; Constance L. Chapple b a University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA b University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

To cite this Article Hope, Trina L. and Chapple, Constance L.(2004) 'maternal characteristics, parenting, and adolescent

sexual behavior: the role of self-control', Deviant Behavior, 26: 1, 25 45 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/016396290500405 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/016396290500405

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Deviant Behavior, 26: 2545, 2005 Copyright # Taylor & Francis Inc. ISSN: 0163-9625 print/1521-0456 online DOI: 10.1080/016396290500405

maternal characteristics, parenting, and adolescent sexual behavior: the role of self-control
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Trina L. Hope University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA Constance L. Chapple University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
Gottfredson and Hirschis general theory of crime has been extensively tested by researchers in the field of criminology, and measures of self-control have been shown to predict crime, delinquency, and deviance. With few exceptions, however, the theory has not been applied to the study of adolescent sexual behavior. Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) and the Children of the NLSY79, this research explores the direct and indirect effects of parenting and self-control on adolescent sexual behavior. Self-control predicts engagement in sexual activity, the number of sex partners, and relationship to last sex partner. Self-control also mediates the relationship between certain parental behaviors and adolescent sexual behavior.
Received 11 August 2003; accepted 24 May 2004. We would like to thank Karen Sheriff-Le Van and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Address correspondence to Trina L. Hope, Department of Sociology, 331 Kaufman Hall, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019. E-mail: thope@ou.edu

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Adolescent sexual activity has been associated with a variety of delinquent behaviors (Jessor and Jessor 1977). Research indicates that sexually active teens are more likely to be involved in delinquency (Paul et al. 2000) and to drink and take drugs (Raine et al. 1999; Paul et al. 2000) than are their abstaining peers. One criminological perspective, Gottfredson and Hirschis (1990) General Theory of Crime, suggests that adolescent sexual behavior and illegal behavior overlap because they share one common cause: low selfcontrol. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, people lacking in self-control will also tend to pursue immediate pleasures that are not criminal: they will tend to smoke, drink, use drugs, gamble, have children out of wedlock and engage in illicit sex (1990:90). The scope of the general theory has been extended to predict several analogous acts (Pratt and Cullen 2000), yet researchers have rarely tested the relationship between self-control and adolescent sexual behavior (see Kern 2000 for an exception). The research that has been done shows that parental attachment, parental monitoring, and parental deviance are related to adolescent sexual activity and the acquisition of self-control (Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990; Gibbs et al. 1998; Avakame 1998; Dittus and Jaccard 2000; Benda and Corwyn 1999; Jacobson and Crockett 2000). Our research suggests, however, a possible causal sequence in which parental behavior not only directly predicts adolescent sexual behavior but also indirectly predicts it through the acquisition of self-control. Self-control theory has been tested by many researchers and is a significant predictor of crime, delinquency, and deviance, but tests of the theorys ability to predict adolescent sexual behavior are rare. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79; Children of the NLSY79), we explore two questions. First, is selfcontrol a significant predictor of adolescent sexual behavior and second, do parental behaviors affect adolescent sexual behavior directly, and=or indirectly via self-control? In order to theoretically ground our research, we first describe the general theory of crime and what current research suggests about the predictors of adolescent sexual behavior. Then we apply Gottfredson and Hirschis (1990) theory to adolescent sexual behavior.

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LITERATURE REVIEW Self-Control Theory Gottfredson and Hirschi first defined criminality as the stable differences between individuals in their propensity to commit criminal acts: Criminality may be defined as the tendency of the actor to seek short-term, immediate pleasure without regard for long-term consequences (Hirschi and Gottfredson 1986:58). Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) later define criminality by self-control, the differential tendency of people to avoid criminal acts regardless of the circumstances in which they find themselves. They begin their discussion of the concept of self-control by describing six elements of criminal acts and the corresponding characteristics of those engaging in such acts. According to the authors, crime and analogous behaviors provide immediate gratification of desires, easy or simple gratification of desires, excitement, thrill, risk, few or meager long-term benefits, little skill or planning, and pain or discomfort for the victims (p.89). Correspondingly, those lacking in self-control will tend to be impulsive, insensitive, physical (as opposed to mental), risk-taking, shortsighted, and nonverbal, and they will tend therefore to engage in criminal and analogous acts (p.90). Furthermore, Gottfredson and Hirschi suggest that deviance, criminality, and recklessness are parts of a single larger category characterized by a focus on the attainment of immediate pleasure coupled with a lack of concern about harmful consequences. The low self-control individual is thus one who is likely to choose, when the opportunity is presented, immediate gratification despite the potential of longterm negative consequences. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) assert that their concept of self-control is unique because it explicitly addresses stability as well as versatility. The former suggests that differences in the tendency to engage in criminal or deviant acts emerge early in life and persist over time (Caspi et al. 1989; Sampson and Laub 1993; White et al. 1990; Wright et al. 1999). Versatility suggests that low self-control manifests itself in a variety of criminal and analogous acts (Britt 1994). When discussing versatility, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990:10) assert: In our view, the common element in crime, deviant behavior, sin and accidents is so overriding that the tendency

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to treat them as distinct phenomena subject to distinct causes is one of the major intellectual errors of positive thought. Overall, Gottfredson and Hirschi assert that self-control shows up early, is stable over time, and is the primary individuallevel determinant of crime and analogous behaviors. So what are the primary determinants of self-control? According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, low self-control is not produced by socialization or learning but by the absenceofnurturance,discipline,ortraining(1990:95).Subscribing to classical human nature assumptions, Gottfredson and Hirschi assume that we all have the ability to recognize the benefits of crime: immediate, easy, and simple gratification of desires. Not everyone, however, recognizes the costs of crime and analogous behaviors, which tend to be more long-term. The transition from an impulsive, self-interested individual to one who thinks about the consequences of his behavior occurs as a result of effective socialization. Gottfredson and Hirschi define the minimum conditions necessary for adequate childrearing to occur: Someone must (1) monitor the childs behavior; (2) recognize deviant behavior when it occurs; and (3) punish such behavior (1990:97). In order for these conditions to occur, someone must care about the child (attachment), watch the child (supervision), and recognize and punish deviant behavior when it occurs (discipline). Attachment, supervision, and discipline are therefore the three most important family variables believed to determine ones level of self-control, and past research confirms that such family characteristics are important predictors of self-control (Hay 2001; Hope et al. 2003). Self-Control and Adolescent Sexual Behavior Researchers testing the general theory primarily focus on its ability to predict crime and delinquency, yet substantial literature exists testing the relationship between self-control and deviance. As the theorys emphasis on versatility would predict, low self-control has been associated with other analogous acts such as refusal to wear seatbelts (Keane et al. 1993), accidents (Junger and Tremblay 1999), substance use (Sorenson and Brownfield 1995; Tibbetts and Whittimore 2002; Winfree and Bernat 1998), occupational delinquency (Gibson and Wright 2001), white-collar crime

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(Benson and Moore 1992), academic dishonesty (Cochran et al. 1998) and general indexes of deviance (Polakowski 1994; Arneklev et al. 1993; Gibbs et al. 1998; Paternoster and Brame 1998), but little research has explicitly tested whether low self-control predicts adolescent sexual behavior (see Kern 2000 for an exception). In the only test of the general theory and adolescent sexual behavior, Kern (1999) found that attitudinal measures of low self-control in adolescence predicted engagement in sexual activity and the number of sexual partners. Adolescents who reported lower levels of self-control were more likely to be sexually active and to have greater numbers of sexual partners. While research using the general theory to predict adolescent sexual behavior is limited, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) suggest that people lacking in self-control will be versatile offenders, a finding that is confirmed among sexually active adolescents. Research indicates that adolescent sexual activity is part of an overall deviant behavior pattern (Paul et al. 2000; Jessor and Jessor 1977) that includes alcohol and drug use (Raine et al. 1999; Paul et al. 2000; Whitbeck et al. 1999) as well as gang membership (Harper and Robinson 1999). It appears from this literature that low self-control may be tied to risky sexual activity as part of an overall behavioral pattern. Correlates of Adolescent Sexual Behavior Past research has found that a variety of family, individual, and demographic variables predict adolescent sexual behavior. Parenting, and in particular, parental attachment=bonding and parental supervision, has been shown to have an especially profound effect on adolescent sexual behavior (Whitbeck et al. 1997). Youth who are strongly attached to their parents are less likely to be sexually active (Benda and Corwyn 1999; Dittus and Jaccard 2000; Rosenthal et al. 2001), as are youth who are more closely supervised by their parents (Benda and Corwyn 1999; Jacobson and Crockett 2000; Rosenthal et al. 2001). In addition, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) suggest that parental deviance inhibits the development of childrens self-control, thus allowing adolescent involvement in delinquency and deviance (1990). Reflecting this assumption, research indicates that children of teenage mothers are more likely to

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be sexually active (Paul et al. 2000; Crockett et al. 1996), which is consistent with the finding that parental deviance negatively affects adolescent self-control (Avakame 1998). In terms of the psychological correlate of self-control, greater impulsivity leads to sexual activity (Donohew et al. 2000), more sexual partners (Donohew et al. 2000; Kahn et al. 2002), unprotected sex (Kahn et al. 2002; Donohew et al. 2000), and early initiation of sex (Kahn et al. 2002). Although impulsivity is clearly tied to risky sexual behavior, Gottfredson and Hirschis (1990) concept of self-control is more global and includes measures of selfishness and the lack of diligence as well as impulsivity. Finally, as is the case with delinquency and, to a lesser extent, self-control, adolescent sexual behavior differs by gender, race=ethnicity, and social class. Researchers have found that boys are more likely to be sexually active and have more sex partners than girls (Benda and Corwin 1999; Whitbeck et al. 1999), and that African-American youth are more sexually active than white youth (Benda and Corwyn 1999). Additionally, Jacobson and Crockett (2000) found an inverse relationship between socioeconomic status and adolescent sexual activity. Although the field of adolescent sexual activity is well researched, and adolescent sexual activity is associated with impulsivity and other delinquent acts, the work that has been done often utilizes cross-sectional, convenience samples with little representation of poor and non-white youths, who are more likely to be sexually active. Researchers testing the general theory have rarely examined adolescent sexual behavior or whether self-control mediates the effects of parental behavior on adolescent deviance, yet this suggestion is clearly in keeping with Gottfredson and Hirschis (1990) theoretical model. While other research has assessed the degree to which self-control mediates the relationship between ADHD and delinquency (Brannigan et al. 2002; Unnever et al. 2003) or the relationship between gender and delinquency (Tittle et al. 2003), few studies investigated whether self-control mediates the effect of parental behavior on adolescent deviance. We use a national, longitudinal study of American youth that contains an over-sampling of poor and non-white respondents to investigate whether self-control predicts adolescent sexual behavior and whether

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parental behaviors have direct effects on adolescent sexual behavior and=or indirect effects through self-control. METHOD The Sample Data for this study are taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) and the Children of the NLSY79. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth is a nationally representative longitudinal sample of youth aged 14 to 21 in 1979 who have been surveyed annually. The NLSY79 contains extensive information about the employment, education, training, and family experiences of the respondents (Center for Human Resource Research 2000:1). Since 1986, the children born to the women in the NLSY79 have been surveyed every two years on childhood development, and educational, family, and occupational experiences. In 1994, children aged 15 and older were no longer assessed with their mothers, but instead completed personal interviews focusing on adolescent and young adult attitudes and behaviors. The NLSY79 Child and Young Adult samples approximately represent a cross-section of children born to a nationally representative sample of women who were between the ages of 31 and 38 on January 1, 1998 (Center for Human Resource Research 2000:3). For our analyses, we combine data from the original female respondents of the NLSY79 (the mothers) with childhood assessments taken when the children were ages 1113 (collected in 1996) and young adult data collected when the youth were ages 1517 (in 2000). We generated two samples from this general sample. The full sample contains complete data for 709 respondents aged 1517 in 2000. We use this full sample for our analysis of adolescents sexual experience (ever had sex). From this full sample we extracted the 223 sexually active adolescents for our analyses of sexual risk-taking (number of partners and relationship to most recent sexual partner). Measures Exogenous Variables Because we use structural equation modeling programs for our analyses, we refer to independent variables as

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exogenous and dependent variables as endogenous. We divide the exogenous measures used in our analyses into two components: parental behaviors and the sociodemographic characteristics of our respondents. We use three measures of parental behavior: maternal attachment, parental monitoring, and mothers age at first intercourse. In order to assess the causal importance of parental behavior on adolescent sexual behavior, the parenting items we used were measured in 1996 when the respondents in our sample were between the ages of 1113 years old. The items measuring maternal attachment were entered into a principle components analysis with varimax rotation. One factor emerged and four items had factor loading scores higher than .45 (Tabachnick and Fidell 1996). Attachment to mother is measured by a Likert-type scale comprised of four items. The first two items, how well the mother and child share ideas and how close the child feels towards the mother, were coded so that 1 not well=not close, 2 quite well=close, 3 fairly well=not close, and 4 not not well=not close. The remaining two items, does the mother listen to the childs side of an argument and how often the mother and child talk over important decisions, were coded so that 1 never, 2 sometimes, and 3 often. The alpha reliability for this scale is .70. The scale ranged in value from 414 with a mean for the full sample of 11.5 and a mean for the sexually active subsample of 11.2, indicating moderate to high levels of maternal attachment. Two items measure parental monitoring, how much you tell parents about your whereabouts and how much you tell your parents about whom you are with. These items were coded so that 0 not at all, 1 just a little, 2 some, some, and 3 a lot. The parental monitoring scale ranged in value from 06 with a mean for the full sample of 5.0 and a mean for the sexually active subsample of 4.8, indicating moderate to high levels of parental monitoring. The final parental variable, mothers age at first intercourse, ranged in value from 826 years old with a mean for the full sample of 17.3 and a mean for the sexually active subsample of 16.9. We use the following socio-demographic variables in our analysis: race, gender, age, and family poverty status from 19961998. Race was coded so that 1 non-white and

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2 white. Fifty-two percent of our full sample was white while only 45% of the sexually active subsample was white. Gender was coded so that 1 boys and 2 girls. Fifty-two percent of our full sample and 50% of the sexually active subsample were girls. Poverty status was determined by a maternal report of the familys status from the years 19961998. Responses ranged from 0 (never lived in poverty during these years) to 2 (lived in poverty during both of these years). The mean of poverty status for the full sample was .32 and .44 for the sexually active subsample.
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Endogenous Variables Because of the conventions of structural equation modeling, intervening variables (self-control) and dependent variables (ever had sex, number of sex partners, and relationship to last sex partner) are considered endogenous variables. We measured self-control in 1996 when our respondents were between the ages of 1113. The mothers of the youth in our sample assessed their children on a series of attitudinal and behavioral measures of problem behavior and self-control during childhood. Readers may note that our parenting variables and our measure of self-control are coterminous. We chose to measure self-control at the same time as our parenting variables for two reasons. First, the prediction of self-control is not the primary focus of this research, but instead we investigate whether selfcontrol mediates the effects of parenting variables and maternal characteristics on adolescent sexual behavior. Second, and most important to self-control theory researchers, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) suggest that self-control should be stable after age eight. In order to do proper causal modeling of self-control and to investigate adolescent sexual behavior we would need parenting variables associated with both self-control and adolescent sexual behavior very early in the childs life. Parenting during the early adolescent years, however, should be more predictive of adolescent sexual behavior than parenting when the child enters childhood. This necessitated measuring self-control conterminously with our parenting variables. Ours is the second use of maternal reports of childrens self-control in the literature testing the general theory (see

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Turner and Piquero 2002).1 We believe that parental reports of childrens self-control are conservative estimates of childrens actual self-control, as parents may underestimate the extent of low self-control in their children or may not be aware of much of their childrens problem behaviors.2 The general Behavioral Problems Index (BPI) has been validated and used extensively in the child-development literature (Center for Human Resource Research 2000), and Turner and Piqueros (2002) research validates the reliability of similar measures of self-control over time. We began by entering 11 items from the BPI into a principle components factor analysis with varimax rotation. One factor emerged. The eight items with factor loading scores over .45 comprised our self-control scale and were a mix of attitudinal and behavioral measures of self-control, including insensitivity to others, physicality, and incorrigibility. Descriptions of the items comprising our self-control scale are listed in Appendix A. The alpha reliability of this scale was .80 and the scale ranged in value from 1029. The mean for self-control was 23.2 for the full sample and 22.8 for the sexually active subsample, and the scale was coded so that high scores indicated high self-control. Our three sexual behavior variables were measured in 2000 when our respondents were 1517 years old. Our first endogenous variable, ever had sex, was coded as 0 never had sex and 1 ever had sex. Approximately 31% of our sample had ever had sex in 2000 (223 respondents). The variable number of sexual partners measured how many sexual partners the respondents had in the last year. The mean for number of sexual partners was 1.55 for the sexually active subsample and ranged in value from 05, indicating that the majority of our youths who had
1 Michael Gottfredson (personal communication, 10=02) suggested that parental reports of adolescents self-control should be reliable measures of self-control. He commented that if anything, this measurement strategy underestimates the extent of low self-control in our sample, thus attenuating the effects of self-control on adolescent sexual risk-taking. 2 Parental reports of childrens behavior have a history in criminology beginning with the Glueck and Glueck data in 1950 and continuing with Sampson and Laubs (1993) reassessment of the Glueck and Glueck data. Additionally, Whitbeck et al. (1997) find that parental and adolescent assessments of home environment and parenting behavior for homeless and runaway youth (who have more strained parental relationships than most of the youth in our sample), although not identical, were similar and in the same direction.

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TABLE 1 Descriptive Information for the Full Sample and the Sexually Active Subsample
Full samplea Mean (percent) .499 .500 .830 549 2.15 2.24 1.60 3.26 .460 Standard deviation Mean (percent) Sexually active subsampleb Standard deviation .489 .501 .816 .638 2.05 2.24 1.70 3.45 1.55 0.30 (30% casual) 1.07 .459

Race (1 non-white, 2 white)

Gender (1 male, 2 female)

Age (1517) Familys poverty status in 1996 & 1998 (02) Mothers age at first intercourse (826) Maternal attachment (414) Parental monitoring (06) Self-control (1029) Ever had sex (0 no, 1 yes)

1.45 (45% white) 1.50 (50% female) 16.2 .442 16.9 11.2 4.77 22.8

Number of sexual partners in last year (05) Relationship to sexual partner (0 committed, 1 casual)

1.52 (52% white) 1.52 (52% female) 16.9 .32 17.3 11.5 4.96 23.2 .31 (30.5% yes)

N 709 N 223

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sex in the last year had only one sex partner (the zeros represent youths who had ever had sex but had not had sex in the last year). Approximately 66% of our sexually active subsample had either not had sex in the prior year (6%), or only had sex with one person (60%). On the riskier end of the continuum, approximately 11% of the sexually active subsample had sex with three or more partners in the last year. Finally, our last endogenous variable, relationship to sexual partner, measured the relationship the respondent had to his or her most recent sexual partner. Although the original variable was quasi-categorical with responses ranging from engaged to just met, this variable had so little variation that we chose to dichotomize it so that it represented committed vs. casual relationships. The relationship to sex partner variable was coded so that 0 committed relationship (engaged; living together=romantic; going together=steady) and 1 casual relationship (going out once in a while; just friends; had just met). The mean for relationship to sexual partner was .30 for the sexually active subsample, indicating that for 70% of the sample, their most recent sexual experience was within the context of a committed relationship. Table 1 presents the summary statistics for all the variables in our analyses. RESULTS Because we are interested in the direct and indirect effects of parental behavior on adolescent sexual behavior, we created three models. We use two structural equation-modeling programs for our path analyses. One of our endogenous variables, number of sex partners, is a continuous variable, and we used multiple-least squares analysis in AMOS (Arbuckle and Worthke 1999). For the analysis of the dichotomous endogenous variables, ever had sex and relationship to last sexual partner, we used weighted-least squares analy sis in Mplus (Muthen and Muthen 1998). The treatment of missing data for each program varies, however. AMOS uses FIML (full information maximum likelihood) to estimate missing data. For the Mplus analysis, we addressed the missing data with mean replacement using information from related items (Tabachnick and Fidell 1996). The same theoretical model was specified for each dependent variable and

Adolescent Sexual Behavior TABLE 2 Standardized Regression Coefficients of Significant Paths (Direct Effects) on Self-Control and Sexual Behavior

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SelfSelfNumber of Type of control control Ever had sexual sexual (full sample) (sub-sample) sex partners partner Female Poverty status in 1996 & 1998 Non-white Age Mothers age at first intercourse Maternal attachment Parental monitoring Self-control Squared multiple correlation

.19 .12 .14 .10 .08

.29 .15 .16 .11

.23 .14 .12 .09

.18 .14 .06

.20 .23 .09

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.05;

p < .01;

p < .001

adjusted to eliminate all non-significant correlations and regression paths from the analyses. The results of the analyses are listed in Table 2. Table 2 contains information from the analysis of ever had sex for the full sample of adolescents using MPlus. The model specified for ever had sex was a good fit to the data (p .181; RMSEA .026; TLI .954; CFI .979).3 Selfcontrol was significantly predicted by gender and mothers age at first intercourse, and was significantly associated with maternal attachment and parental monitoring. Among the demographic variables, only gender was significantwith girls having higher levels of self-control. Among the parenting variables, those whose mothers were older at first intercourse, and those with higher levels of maternal attachment and parental monitoring had higher levels of self-control. The squared multiple correlation for the self-control model was .08, indicating that approximately 8% of the variance in self-control was explained by our exogenous
According to Arbuckle and Worthke (1999), for good fitting models, the p-value should be non-significant, the RMSEA should be less than .05, NFI=CFI should be close to 1.00; and TLI (or the non-normed fit index for non-normal data) should be close to 1.0.
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variables. For the endogenous variable, ever had sex, only three variables significantly predicted youths engaging in sexual activity.4 Ever had sex was predicted by mothers age at first intercourse, parental monitoring, and selfcontrol. Respondents with higher levels of self-control and parental monitoring, as well as those whose mothers were older when they first had intercourse, were less likely to be sexually active. Maternal attachment and gender did not directly predict ever had sex, but did exert indirect effects through self-control (i.e., girls and respondents with strong maternal attachment had higher self-control). Self-control did not mediate the effects of mothers age at first sex or parental monitoring on adolescent sexual activity. While both variables were significantly associated with selfcontrol, they both remained significant predictors net of self-control. The squared multiple correlation for ever had sex was .09. Table 2 also contains information from the AMOS analysis of number of sexual partners for the sexually active subsample. The model specified was a good fit to the data (p .504; RMSEA .000; Chi-square=df .833; NFI .999). Self-control among the sexually active subsample was significantly associated with maternal attachment, never having lived in poverty, and gender, indicating youth with higher maternal attachment, those who had never lived in poverty, and girls had higher levels of self-control. Mothers age at first intercourse and parental monitoring did not predict self-control among our sexually active subsample, although both were significant predictors of self-control in the full sample. The squared multiple correlation for self-control among the sexually active subsample was .11. Number of sexual partners was significantly predicted by gender (boys have more sexual partners) and low self-control. Age, race, parental monitoring, and mothers age at first intercourse did not, however, predict the number of sex partners among our subsample. Similarly, maternal
4 Although very few of our independent variables directly predicted initiation to sexual activity, bivariate analyses did confirm that, consistent with prior research, older adolescents, non-whites, those whove lived in poverty, and those with weaker maternal attachment are significantly more likely to have had sex. We did not find, however, that gender was significantly related to initiation into sexual activity (32% of the boys versus 29% of the girls had ever had sex).

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attachment and poverty status did not directly predict number of partners, but both had an indirect effect via selfcontrol. The squared multiple correlation for number of sexual partners was .06. Finally, Table 2 presents analysis of our last endogenous variable, relationship to last sexual partner. The model specified here also is a good fit to the data (p .749; Chi-square=df .289; RMSEA .000; CFI 1.0). The analysis of self-control is identical to the prior model; self-control was significantly associated with gender, maternal attachment, and never living in poverty. In this model, relationship to last sexual partner was predicted by age and self-control, indicating that younger respondents and those with lower self-control were more likely to report that their most recent sexual experience was within the context of a less committed relationship. Poverty status, race, mothers age at first intercourse, and maternal attachment were not significant predictors of relationship to most recent sexual partner. Maternal attachment and poverty status did not directly predict the type of sexual partner but did operate indirectly through self-control. The squared multiple correlation was .09. CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION Prior research indicated that sexually active adolescents were more likely to be involved in delinquency than their abstaining peers. Gottfredson and Hirschis (1990) general theory of crime specifically addresses this overlap between sexual behavior and delinquency and suggests that people with low self-control are more likely to involve themselves in a variety of risk-taking behaviors. Although self-control has been found to predict crime, delinquency, and deviance, it has rarely been applied to adolescent sexual activity. We addressed two research questions in our analyses: Is selfcontrol a significant predictor of adolescent sexual behavior? and, Are the effects of parental characteristics on adolescent sexual behavior direct and=or indirect through their influence on self-control? In our sample of adolescents, we found that self-control predicted ever having sex, the number of sexual partners in the prior year, and the relationship to last sexual partner.

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Those respondents with higher levels of self-control were less likely to have initiated sexual activity, but when sexually active, they reported fewer sexual partners and were more likely to have had sex within committed partnerships. Among our subsample of 223 sexually active respondents, we predicted the number of sex partners and the relationship to most recent sex partner, both of which contained measures of riskier sexual behavior. The number of sex partners our respondents reported was predicted by gender and self-control. Boys and respondents with lower levels of self-control reported more partners. Number of partners also was indirectly predicted by maternal attachment and poverty status through self-control: Those who had never lived in poverty and those with higher maternal attachment had higher levels of self-control. Finally, both age and self-control were significant predictors of relationship to last partner. Younger respondents, as well as those with lower levels of self-control, were more likely to report that their most recent sex partner was a casual boy=girlfriend, just a friend, or someone they had just met, rather than a committed relationship. We found that self-control mediated the effects of parental behaviors (monitoring, attachment, and mothers age at first intercourse) on adolescent sexual behavior, while several structural characteristics (poverty status, age, and gender) retained significant, direct effects on adolescent sexual behavior net of self-control. Overall, self-control predicted all three of our dependent variables (ever had sex, number of partners, and relationship to last partner), but did not explain a large part of the variance in these behaviors. There are a few possible explanations for this. First, we employed a non-conventional measure of self-control, generated from maternal assessments rather than adolescent self-reports, which had less variation. This measure of self-control may have attenuated the effects of our exogenous variables and underestimated the extent of low self-control among the respondents. Second, although the sample was nearly a national one, with many children born to young, non-white, and poor mothers, most of our respondents were conventional as many reported moderate to high levels of maternal attachment and monitoring, and few were sexually active. Only

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30% of our full sample had ever had sex by the time they were 1517 years old, and the majority of the sexually active youth reported just one partner who was a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. Although we found differences between our sexually active subsample and the general sample on variables such as parental attachment and selfcontrol, these differences were not substantial. Overall, we found ourselves trying to predict relatively rare events in a conventional sample, which may explain why our models accounted for so little variation in self-control and sexual behaviors. Finally, Pratt and Cullens (2000) review of past research also suggested that the predictive power of self-control was weaker in longitudinal studies than in cross-sectional ones, which may account for the reduced effect sizes and explained variance. Although our findings raise some questions regarding selfcontrol and adolescent sexual activity, our analyses offer insights as well. First, our sample is nearly nationally representative, contains many non-white and poor respondents, and is longitudinal and intergenerational. These unique data allowed us to investigate the causal relationship between self-control and deviance from multiple reporters, which is rarely found in analyses of the general theory. Additionally, we were able to undertake a partial causal analysis of self-control, as we found that mothers age at first intercourse predicted childhood self-control. We believe that further studies of the general theory should utilize longitudinal data to discern the development of self-control. Second, very little research from a criminological perspective has investigated the role of self-control on adolescent sexual behavior. Instead, the majority of research on adolescents using Gottfredson and Hirschis (1990) concept of self-control has investigated delinquency, substance use, or used composite scales for adolescent deviance that contained sexual behavior. None of the prior research on self-control suggests that it mediates the effects of parental behavior on adolescent sexual behavior, although this suggestion is clearly in line with Gottfredson and Hirschis description of the role of self-control in the causes of crime and deviance. Our results indicate that self-control not only predicts a variety of adolescent sexual behaviors, but also mediates the effects of several structural and familial background factors on

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adolescent sexual behavior. Self-control has an important role in the etiology of adolescent deviance beyond predictions of traditional crime and delinquency. APPENDIX A Items Comprising the Self-Control Scale
Description of Items in the Self-Control Scale
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How often are these statements true about your child . . . ? Child Child Child Child Child Child Child Child bullies or is cruel to others. is not sorry after misbehaving. is disobedient at home. is restless or over-active. is stubborn, sullen, or irritable. has a very strong temper. is disobedient at school. has trouble getting along with teachers.

Alpha .80

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