MELBOURNE, Australia, September 28, 2011 ( – A new study has found that marriage can potentially help reduce crime because married people tend to develop significantly greater self-control.

“Self-control is one of the strongest predictors of differences between people in terms of their involvement in crime,” said Dr. Walter Forrest, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Australia’s Monash University, in a press release from Monash University.

“Our study shows that improvements in a person’s level of self-control are related to changes in their involvement in crime over time. It also shows that marriage is a significant source of those improvements,” said Dr. Forrest.

The researchers used data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) in order to test “empirical associations between the occurrence of key life events such as marriage, employment, and military service, and desistance from crime.”

The resulting analysis revealed that “transitions such as marriage might also promote desistance, in part, by enabling offenders to develop and exercise increased self-control.”

“Most people seem to develop greater self-control as they get older, but married people seem to experience the greatest increases, independently of the age at which they married,” said Dr. Forrest.

“Those increases in self-control, in part, explain why people are less likely to be involved in crime when they are married than when they are single.”

To explain the findings of the research, Dr. Forrest posits that higher standards of behavior, or “social control,” are inherent in married life in that the spouses expect and help each other toward responsible behavior.

“And, as any married man or women knows, couples are rarely shy about telling one another when they’ve failed to live up to those standards. We think that helps provide people with practice regulating their behaviour,” said Dr. Forrest.

The research paper, titled “Life-course transitions, self-control and desistance from crime” was published online here, ( in advance of print publication in the Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

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