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Female Juveniles And Drug Use

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You are a mother of a sixteen year old daughter. You are sitting at the police station posting bond for your child. She has been arrested because she was high on drugs and was buying drugs from a drug dealer. As you wait for your daughter to be released, you wonder how she got in this predicament in the first place. Well, if you are a self-control theorist or believe in the self-control theory, the answer would be as follows - she committed the crime because she has low self-control and did not consider the long-term consequences.

Overview of the Self-Control Theory

The self-control theory basically states that every individual faces opportunities to involve themselves in risky behavior. Those who have strong self-control, which is obtained in early childhood as a result of effective parenting, are able to resist participating in such behavior. Those who have weak self-control, a condition natural to all individuals that are not taught otherwise, tend to give in. "...self-control theory is presented as a general account that depicts low self-control as 'for all intents and purposes', the individual-level cause of crime" (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). It also states that "criminal" behavior, defined as acts of force or fraud, is inherently gratifying so that individuals vary little in their motivation to do it.

This theory does not include the different reasons why an individual is attracted to crime as part of the process leading to criminal behavior. Instead, it states that "various crimes differ in their basic inherent appeal, presumably to all people, but that for any given crime, the attraction is equal for all." (Tittle & Botchkovan, 2005)

Although individuals are said to be attracted to criminal behavior because of its characteristics, not all individuals act in response. Those who do not, have adequate self-control to refrain from risky behavior that results in negative consequences.

In addition, criminal behavior is produced by low self-control when there is a reduction of an individual's ability to assess the long-term consequences of their behavior. The outcome is simple - low self-control results in high misbehavior and high self-control results in low misbehavior.

Females and Drug Use

There has been some research conducted regarding females and drug use. Here is a list of some statistics per Ketchum and Nicholas (2003) -

* Over the years, drug use and drug addiction have increase steadily among adolescent girls.

* Girls are more likely than boys to use and become addicted to prescription painkillers, stimulants, and tranquilizers.

* Girls and young women get hooked faster, they get hooked using lesser amounts of alcohol and [other] drugs, and they suffer the consequences faster and more severely.

* Girls tend to experiment with drugs if they reach puberty early, have eating disorders, want to reduce stress or alleviate depression, or have been physically or sexually abused.

* Girls and young women are more susceptible than boys and young men to experiencing adverse health consequences related to drug use.

The answer to why adolescent girls, juveniles, and young women are using these drugs can be answered with the Self-Control Theory.

Definition of Self-Control

Self-control can be defined as "what enables people to overcome their own self-oriented wishes and impulses in order to do what is best according to the interests and standards of the culture." (Baumeister & Exline, 1999).

Gottfredson and Hirschi (1999) state that many pursuits of immediate pleasure, such as smoking, drinking, using drugs, gambling, and engaging in illicit sex (p. 88) reflect low self-control, as do other things such as unstable marriages and job profiles (p. 89) skipping school and having accidents (p. 92).

In addition, recent literature has linked low self-control to fraud, shoplifting, drinking and driving, general deviance, utilitarian and nonutilitarian adult self-reported criminality, white-collar crime, larceny, sexual assault, and adolescent self-reported delinquency. (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 2000).

Major Sources of Self-Control

The long-range consequences of the actions of children is taught from many sources . Two of these sources are parents and natural sanctions. According to the self-control theory, actions of parents or other responsible adults is the major source of self-control. When pertaining to drugs, Ketcham and Pace (2003) state, when parents are concerned and actively involved in their children's lives, they can have a powerful influence on adolescent drug use. Natural sanctions are "penalties that follow more or less automatically from certain forms of behavior" (Paternoster & Bachman, 2001). Some of the things this includes is a scraped knee from running, a bruise from falling off a bike, and being burned by a hot stove. Since these sanctions can be dangerous, parents spend a great deal of time protecting their children from them.


Although the self-control theory never defines opportunity, it does state that opportunity has a conditional influence on is effects on crime. Tittle, Ward, and Grasmick (2003) state "opportunity for crime exists when a given criminal act is physically possible." A lot of times, a young female is physically able to purchase drugs from a



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