Self-Control Theory and a Suburban Murder Payton Bronstrop CJ 4340.256 Crime Theory and Victimization May 3, 2021 Introduction: For this paper I chose to read Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs by John Bloom and Jim Atkinson. In this case, Candy Montgomery, a middle aged suburban wife, was said to murder her friend Betty Gore. To explain Candy Montgomery’s criminality I will be using the Self-Control theory proposed by Hirschi and Michael R. Gottfredson. Book Summary: Candy Wheeler was classified as an independent and aspirational person from a young age but seemed to lack motivation for being successful on her own. Though she moved out and began working directly after high school, she dreamed of being a full time stay at home mom and wife. She maintained a high standard of wanting a rich and successful man, and had an active dating life before she met Pat Montgomery. Though Pat had strong intentions to be wealthy one day, Candy was not too fond of him upon their first encounter. She eventually decided to pursue a relationship with him and they had a small wedding. Following their marriage, Pat began a successful career at Texas Instruments and they were able to purchase their dream home in Lucas, Texas after having two children, a son and a daughter. Allan Gore worked in the telecommunications field while Betty Gore was a grammar school teacher. Following their first child being born, Betty suffered from postpartum depression and she was typically just prescribed Valium by her doctors because of the lack of research in mental health in the 1970s. After their second child was born, Betty’s depression worsened which greatly affected her and Allan’s marriage. Like many times in her life, Candy Montgomery was getting bored of her day to day mundane life and was considering having an affair to add excitement and make herself feel sexy. Her fascination for Allan Gore began during a volleyball tournament that their mutual church hosted one weekend. Candy and Allan had previously met before because their daughters were friends and they attended the same church, but Candy was more intrigued in him than before. After some time of back and forth flirting, Candy asked Allan if he would be interested in having a “no strings attached” affair, where they would participate in only causal sex. Allan agreed and the two began meeting each other during their lunch breaks at motels to engage in their said casual sexual relationship. After a few months of their spontaneous and exciting affair, Candy found herself losing interest in just the sexual aspects and she once again was losing interest in her life. One weekend when Alisa Gore, Allan and Betty’s daughter, wanted to stay another night at the Montgomery's home, Candy stopped by Betty’s house to ask permission since she wasn’t picking up the phone. Upon her arrival, Betty had informed her that she knew about the affair with her husband. Following this event, Allan attempted to call Betty because he was out of town for work, but she never answered. Allan’s neighbor walked through the unlocked front door to hear their newborn baby crying in her bed and in a poor physical state. Sure something was wrong, the neighbor walked through the house further where he found Betty laying in a pool of blood with her face smashed in. Police focused on Allan’s lack of emotion during the investigation of the murder and his confession to having an affair with Candy. Upon questioning Candy, police gained adequate evidence for her arrest. During the trial, Candy insisted that Betty came at her with an ax during their confrontation about the affair. Candy said she then grabbed the ax in self defense and killed Betty then returned to church to teach bible study. Because Candy claimed self defense, she was found not guilty, but doubt arose following the verdict when people questioned whether Betty actually knew of the affair. Allan claimed Betty never mentioned her knowledge of the affair to him and according to her parents, Betty referred to Candy as a good friend in a handwritten letter days prior. People believe that Candy attacked Betty because of jealousy and that she claimed to be bored of the affair to create an innocent narrative for herself (Bloom and Atkinson, 2018) Summary of Theory: The Self-Control Theory was proposed by Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi when challenging theories related to career criminals and the tendency to commit a crime or analogous act. The theory suggests that unrestrained individuals or people with little commitment and no concern with long-term consequences are attracted to crime because they are self-centered and exhibit low self-control. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, self-interest is the motivating factor in human behavior which reflects the desire to obtain pleasure. To fully understand the Self-control Theory, it is important to understand the definition of self-control in terms of how Gottfredson and Hirschi intended it to be perceived. The implementation of self-control is mainly formed in childhood years from adequate parental management, and individuals who aren’t properly punished for behavior result in having low self-control exhibiting criminal activity for immediate pleasure and minimal effort. Gottfredson and Hirschi describe six characteristics of low-self control individuals including the need for immediate gratification, simplicity, physicality, need for risk taking, self-centeredness, and anger. (Winfree and Abadinsky, 2017). Many examples of studies have been conducted to test the empirical validity of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s proposal. In an study conducted by Matt DeLisi and Machael Vaughn when looking at the impact of self-control and criminal behavior, it was found that self-control had the greatest impact on criminal tendency when compared to race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status (DeLisi and Vaughn, 2008). In another study conducted, researcher found that studies that tested claims of the Self-Control Theory generally reported the same results, stating: The fact that measures of self-control independently formulated by different researchers produce similar results lends credence to the conclusion that the relationship of self-control to crime/deviance is not due to a unique operationalization of the construct of self-control. (Burton, Cullen, Evans, Alarid, Dunaway, 1998) This claim further supports the empirical validity of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s proposal on the correlation between self-control and crime because it provides explanation researchers who test the theory normally produce the same results. Theory and Crime Explanation: The Self-Control Theory proposed by Gottfredson and Hirschi best explain the criminal or analogous acts that Candy Montgomery participated in. Candy exemplifies having low self-control throughout her life. Upon further research and examples that were stated in the book, Candy portrayed a constant pattern of acting out through the duration of her teenage and early adult years. She often found herself bored of her life and strived to find excitement. Although the theory can be linked to career criminality, low self-control does not always require crime. An individual can participate in analoguos behavior such as drinking, drug use, illicit sex, and possibly accidents. Because the theory does not define what specific criminal behaviors are likely to occur, there is great versatility in the type of crime or behavior (Akers, 1991). Although Candy did not have a criminal history, the theory can be applied to her continuous acts of self-centeredness and gratification. One characteristic that is consistent with people who have low self-control is simplicity. In the book, it is expressed that although Candy strived for a rich and exceptionally handsome husband, she quickly settled for someone who she considered mediocre for the simplicity of it. She tended to avoid complicated decisions and always wanted to be a stay at home mom or housewife rather than working. During her confrontation with Betty, Candy would rather kill her than have some sort of ongoing conflict. Secondly, Candy’s actions relied mainly on immediate gratification. The Self-Control theory emphasizes that one major factor in determining someone’s ability to participate in criminal activity is their desire for immediate gratification. An individual's actions are influenced by their need for immediate gratification, where they overlook the long-term consequences and favor the instant fulfillment (Duckworth and Steinberg, 2015). For example, upon graduation she would rather have casual relations rather than form deep connections because she was not interested in the long term tie. This idea continues through her life when she decides to have an affair with her husband because she was feeling bored or unsatisfied. Instead of talking through her feelings with her husband, she instantly jumped to sleeping with another man because it didn’t require much emotional strain and gave her immediate gratification. According to Gottfredson and Hirschi, individuals with low self-control are unable to recognize the incompatibility of the crime with long-term interests and objectives (Gibbs and Giever, 2006). This can explain why the benefits of Candy’s actions outweighed the possible consequences. Although she knew cheating on her husband was wrong, the affair brought more gratification than the weight of the consequences if either spouse found out. One thing to note is that a criminal opportunity must be present inorder for an individual to participate in that act. When an opportunity is presented, low self-control leads an individual to act on the opportunity. When there is an absence in criminal opportunity, low self-control cannot manifest a crime because the individual must first be introduced to the act (Hay and Forrest, 2008). In a study conducted when evaluating the relationship between self-control and opportunity, it was found that self-control is depleted when given the opportunity to an individual. Individuals ultimately possess some sense of self-control, but the failure to apply control occurs when opportunities are given for immediate gratification (Muraven, Pogarsky and Shmueli, 2006). Because opportunity plays a major role in acting on criminal activity, the quantity of opportunities can have a direct relation to how often an individual engages in criminal activity. In a study conducted comparing the relationship between the number of opportunities individuals are given and the number of criminal offenses or analogous acts committed, researchers found that: Compared to the general population, people with extensive histories of criminal involvement may be more attentive to new criminal opportunities and may learn about such opportunities more often because of their continued association with other criminals. (Longshore and Turner, 1998) Opportunity played a major role in Candy’s behavior. In order for her to first cheat on her husband, an opportunity had to arise first. If Candy and Allan had never flirted the day of the volleyball game, it is likely that she would not have made any effort to produce a relationship. Furthermore, if Allan did not suggest making plans to meet up every other week at a motel, it is likely that their relationship would not have advanced. And finally, Candy was given the opportunity to murder Betty when she was watching her daughter and made a visit to her house. Had Betty replied or picked up Candy’s phone calls when asking if her daughter could stay the night at her house, Candy would not have had to go to the Gore’s home to ask in person. This interaction created the opportunity for Candy to murder her. Conclusion: In Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs by John Bloom and Jim Atkinson, Candy Montgomery’s criminal acts can be explained by the Self-Control Theory proposed by Gottfredson and Hirschi. The self-control theory explains that individuals who exhibit low self-control participate in crime or analogous because they seek immediate gratification, are self-centered, and have a need for risk taking. Although Candy is not a career criminal, her personality, faithfulness to her husband, and the murder of her friend Betty Gore correlate with the main tenets of the self-control theory. 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