Disentangling Self-Control from Its Elements: A Bifactor Analysis

Jeffrey T. Ward, Matt R. Nobles, Kathleen Talbot

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Scopus citations


    Objectives: Disentangle self-control from its elements and provide several new insights into the self-control dimensionality debate including: the proportion explained variance in scale items attributed to self-control and its elements, the viability of using total and individual scores to measure self-control and its elements in observed variable analyses, and the unique effects of general (self-control) and specific (elements) latent factors on crime and victimization. Methods: The current study utilizes bifactor measurement and structural equation models to address the research objectives. The sample consists of Florida jail inmates and self-control and its elements are measured with the Grasmick et al. scale. Results: Results indicate the elements exist above and beyond the general factor of self-control, and that these specific factors collectively account for nearly one-third of the total proportion explained variance in the scale items. Findings from omega reliability analyses provide evidence supporting the use of a total score to measure self-control, but discouraging the use of subscales to measure the individual elements, when measurement error is not taken into account. Results from a bifactor structural equation model predicting crime and victimization reveal that the effects of three latent specific factors (temper, risk-seeking, and self-centeredness) are substantially larger than the effects of the general factor (self-control). Conclusions: Bifactor methods placed self-control and the elements on equal conceptual footing and found both to explain variation in Grasmick et al. item responses and both to influence crime and victimization. Future work should examine the origins and stability of self-control vis-à-vis the individual elements.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)595-627
    Number of pages33
    JournalJournal of Quantitative Criminology
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


    • Bifactor
    • Dimensionality
    • Elements of self-control
    • Gottfredson and Hirschi
    • Measurement
    • Psychometrics
    • Self-control

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
    • Law


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