Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (xii, 224 pages) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Ryan D King

Committee Members

Steven F Messner, Kate Strully


Impulsivity, Neighborhood Disorganization, Person-Context, Impulsive personality, Neighborhoods, Social control, Criminal behavior, Prediction of, Juvenile delinquency

Subject Categories

Criminology | Sociology


Impulsivity has emerged as a strong predictor of delinquency. A growing body of research suggests that neighborhood disorganization moderates the association between impulsivity and delinquency. However, there are several competing perspectives on the direction of this moderation, and the empirical research has generated a small body of discordant findings. This dissertation addresses the research linking impulsivity, neighborhood disorganization, and delinquency in two ways. First, I propose that the inconsistent findings to date might be attributed to variation in measurement and modeling strategy across earlier studies. Second, I argue that the mechanisms underlying the differential effect of impulsivity on delinquency across neighborhoods remain unclear. Most prior work focuses on neighborhood informal social control as the key moderating mechanism. Yet the concept of informal social control, especially as a deterrent, is inconsistent with the core claims of the impulsivity literature. Instead, I propose that criminogenic opportunity structures, defined as the unique neighborhood features that contribute to the presence of temptations and provocations toward specific forms of offending, moderate the association between impulsivity and delinquency. The empirical analyses presented herein rely on individual, parental, and contextual data drawn from the first two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Findings indicate that the moderating role of neighborhood disorganization is substantially more complex than suggested in prior work on impulsivity and delinquency. Evidence of contextual moderation is strongly influenced by the measurement of impulsivity and delinquency as well as the neighborhood characteristics examined. Notably, the geographic aggregation of neighborhood effects is consequential in the estimation of contextual moderation. Contrary to expectation, informal social control has a strong, negative effect on the association between impulsivity and delinquency. Finally, the analyses reveal modest support for criminogenic opportunity structures as moderators of the impulsivity-delinquency relationship. The association between impulsivity and burglary is stronger in neighborhoods with higher levels of female labor force participation, and the association between impulsivity and drug-dealing is stronger in neighborhoods with pre-existing drug problems. Implications for the impulsivity literature as well as more general criminological research linking individuals with their broader environments are discussed.

Included in

Criminology Commons