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Section II Extent, Theories, and Factors of Victimization

It was not exactly a typical night for Polly. Instead of studying at the library as she normally did during the week, she decided to meet two of her friends at a localbar. They spent the evening catching up and drinking a few beers before they decided to head home. Because Polly lived within walking distance of the bar, she bidher friends goodnight and started on her journey home. It was dark out, but because she had never confronted trouble in the neighborhood before—even though itwas in a fairly crime-ridden part of a large city—she felt relatively safe.

As Polly walked by an alley, two young men whom she had never seen before stepped out, and one of them grabbed her arm and demanded that she give them herschool bag, in which she had her wallet, computer, keys, and phone. Because Polly refused, the other man shoved her, causing her to hit her head, while the first mangrabbed her bag. Despite holding on as tightly as she could, the men were able to take her bag before running off into the night. Slightly stunned, Polly stood theretrying to calm down. Without her bag, which held her phone and keys, she felt there was little she could do other than continue to walk home and hope herroommates were there to let her in. As she walked home, she wondered why she had such bad luck. Why was she targeted? Was she simply in “the wrong place at thewrong time,” or did she do something to place herself in harm’s way? Although it is hard to know why Polly was victimized, we can compare her to other victims tosee how similar she is to them. To this end, a description of the “typical” crime victim is presented in this section. But what about why she was targeted?Fortunately, we can use the theories presented in this section to understand why Polly fell victim on that particular night.

Photo 2.1 Polly, on her way home from the bar.

© iStockphoto.com/theprint

Measuring VictimizationBefore we can begin to understand why some people are the victims of crime and others are not, we must first know how often victimizationoccurs. Also important is knowing who the typical crime victim is. Luckily, these characteristics of victimization can be readily gleaned from

existing data sources.

Uniform Crime ReportsBegun in 1929, the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) shows the amount of crime known to the police in a year. Police departments around thecountry submit to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) monthly law enforcement reports on crimes that are reported to them or that theyotherwise know about. The FBI then compiles these data and each year publishes a report called Crime in the United States, which details thecrime that occurred in the United States for the year. This report includes information on eight offenses, known as the Part I index offenses:murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Arrest dataare also listed in the report on Part II offenses, which include an additional 21 crime categories.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The UCR is a valuable data source for learning about crime and victimization. Because more than 97% of the population is represented byagencies participating in the UCR program, it provides an approximation of the total amount of crime experienced by almost all Americans(Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], 2014a). It presents the number of crimes for regions, states, cities, towns, areas under tribal lawenforcement, and colleges and universities. It does so annually so that crime trends can be determined for the country and for thesegeographical units. Another benefit of the UCR is that crime characteristics are also reported. It includes demographic information (age, sex,and race) on people who are arrested and some information on the crimes, such as location and time of occurrence.

Despite these advantages, it does not provide detailed information on crime victims. Also important to consider, the UCR includes informationonly on crimes that are reported to the police or of which the police are aware. In this way, all crimes that occur are not represented, especiallybecause, as discussed shortly, crime victims often do not report their victimization to the police. Another limitation of the UCR as a crime datasource is that the Part I index offenses do not cover the wide range of crimes that occur, such as simple assault and sexual assaults other thanrape, and federal crimes are not counted. Furthermore, the UCR uses the hierarchy rule. If more than one Part I offense occurs within thesame incident report, the law enforcement agency counts only the highest offense in the reporting process (FBI, 2009). These exclusions alsocontribute to the UCR’s underestimation of the extent of crime. Accuracy of the UCR data is also affected by law enforcement’s willingness toparticipate in the program and to do so by reporting to the FBI all offenses of which they are aware.

Crime as Measured by the UCR

Nonetheless, the UCR can be used to paint a picture of crime in the United States. In 2015, the police became aware of 1,197,704 violentcrimes and 7,993,631 property crimes. According to the UCR data shown in Figure 2.1, the most common offense is larceny-theft. Aggravatedassaults are the most common violent crime, although they are outnumbered by larceny-thefts. The typical criminal who is arrested is a young(less than 30 years old) White male (although young Black males have highest offending rates) (FBI, 2015a).

Figure 2.1 Number of Crimes Occurring in 2015, Comparison for UCR and NCVS

Source: Created by author with U.S. Department of Justice data.

Note: The UCR includes only forcible rape, whereas the NCVS includes both rape and sexual assault. The UCR measures only aggravatedassault, whereas the NCVS includes both aggravated and simple assault.

National Incident-Based Reporting System

As noted, the UCR includes little information about the characteristics of criminalincidents. To overcome this deficiency, the FBI began the National Incident-BasedReporting System (NIBRS), an expanded data collection effort that includes detailedinformation about crimes. Agencies participating in the NIBRS collect information oneach crime incident and arrest in 23 offense categories (Group A offenses) thatencompass 49 specific crimes. Arrest data are reported for an additional 11 offenses(Group B offenses). Information about the offender, the victim, injury, location, propertyloss, and weapons is included (FBI, 2015a). Also of importance, NIBRS does not usethe hierarchy rule when classifying or counting crimes (FBI, n.d.-a).

Although the NIBRS represents an advancement of the UCR program, not all lawenforcement agencies participate in the system. As such, crime trends similar to thosebased on national data produced by the UCR are not yet available. As more agenciescome online, the NIBRS data will likely be an even more valuable tool forunderstanding patterns and trends of crime victimization.

With consideration of these limitations, in 2015, the 6,648 law enforcement agencies(36.1% of all law enforcement agencies) participating in NIBRS reported 4,902,177incidents that involved 6,668,103 offenses, 5,979,330 victims, and 4,607,928 knownoffenders. Of the offenses, 62.9% were property crimes, 23.2% were crimes againstpersons, and 14.0 % were crimes against society (also referred to as victimless crimes).There were 3,081,609 arrests for offenses tracked in NIBRS in 2015 (FBI, 2015a).

NIBRS is also a source of information on crime victims and incidents. Slightly less thanone-quarter of victims were between 21 and 30 years of age and 51% of victims werefemales. Almost three-fourths of victims were White (72%), 20.8% were Black orAfrican American, 1.4% were Asian, 0.6% were American Indian or Alaska Native, andless than 0.1% were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (FBI, 2015b). In a slightmajority of crimes against persons (52.3%), the victim knew his or her offender but wasnot related to the offender, and in 10.2% of the crimes against persons, the perpetratorwas a stranger (FBI, 2015c). Most crimes against a person occur at the victim’s home(62.8%), whereas slightly more than 4 in 10 property crimes occur at the victim’s home(although this was the most common location of property crime category) (FBI, 2015d).

National Crime Victimization SurveyAs noted, the UCR and NIBRS have some limitations as crime data sources, particularlywhen information on victimization is of interest. To provide a picture of the extent towhich individuals experience a range of crime victimizations, the Bureau of Justice

Statistics (BJS) began, in 1973, a national survey of U.S. households. Originally calledthe National Crime Survey, it provides a picture of crime incidents and victims. In 1993,the BJS redesigned the survey, making extensive methodological changes, and renamedit the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

The NCVS is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau to a nationally representativesle of about 95,000 households. Each member of participating households who is 12years old or older completes the survey, resulting in about 163,000 persons beinginterviewed (Truman #038; Morgan, 2016). Persons who live in military barracks and ininstitutional settings (e.g., prisons and hospitals) and who are homeless are excludedfrom the NCVS. Each household selected remains in the study for 3 years and completesseven interviews 6 months apart. Each interview serves a bounding purpose by givingrespondents a concrete event to reference (i.e., since the last interview) when answeringquestions in the next interview. Bounding is used to improve recall. In general, the firstinterview is conducted in person, with subsequent interviews taking place either inperson or over the phone (Truman #038; Morgan, 2016).

The NCVS is conducted in two stages. In the first stage, individuals are asked if theyexperienced any of seven types of victimization during the previous 6 months. Thevictimizations that respondents are asked about are rape and sexual assault, robbery,aggravated and simple assault, personal theft, household burglary, motor vehicle theft,and theft. The initial questions asked in the first stage are known as screen questions,which are used to cue respondents or jog their memories as to whether they experiencedany of these criminal victimizations in the previous 6 months. An exle of a screenquestion is shown in Table 2.1. In the second stage, if the respondent answersaffirmatively to any of the screen questions, the respondent then completes an incidentreport for each victimization experienced. In this way, if an individual stated that he orshe had experienced one theft and one aggravated assault, he or she would fill out twoincident reports—one for the theft and a separate one for the aggravated assault. In theincident report, detailed questions are asked about the incident, such as where ithappened, whether it was reported to the police and why the victim did or did not reportit, who the offender was, and whether the victim did anything to protect himself orherself during the incident. Table 2.2 shows an exle of a question from the incidentreport. As you can see, responses to the questions from the incident report can helpreveal the context of victimization.

Table 2.1 Exle of Screen Question From NCVS

Other than any incidents already mentioned, has anyone attacked or threatenedyou in any of these ways (exclude telephone threats)?

(a) With any weapon, for instance, a gun or knife

(b) With anything like a baseball bat, frying pan, scissors, or stick

(c) By something thrown, such as a rock or bottle

(d) Include any grabbing, punching, or choking

(e) Any rape, attempted rape, or other type of sexual attack

(f) Any face-to-face threats


(g) Any attack or threat or use of force by anyone at all? Please mention it evenif you are not certain it was a crime.

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics (2015a).

Another advantage of this two-stage procedure is that the incident report is used todetermine what, if any, incident occurred. The incident report, as discussed, includesdetailed questions about what happened, including questions used to classify an incidentinto its appropriate crime victimization type. For exle, in order for a rape to becounted as such, the questions in the incident report that concern the elements of rape,which are discussed in Section VII (force, penetration), must be answered affirmativelyfor the incident to be counted as rape in the NCVS. This process is fairly conservative inthat all elements of the criminal victimization must have occurred for it to be included inthe estimates of that type of crime victimization.

Table 2.2 Exle of Question From Incident Report in NCVS

Did the offender have a weapon such as a gun or knife, or something to use as aweapon, such as a bottle or wrench?

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics (2015b).

The NCVS has several advantages as a measure of crime victimization. First, it includesin its estimates of victimization several offenses that are not included in Part I of theUCR; for exle, simple assault and sexual assault are both included in NCVSestimates of victimization. Second, the NCVS does not measure only crimes reported tothe police as does the UCR. Third, the NCVS asks individuals to recall incidents thatoccurred only during the previous 6 months, which is a relatively short recall period. Inaddition, its two-stage measurement process allows for a more conservative way ofestimating the amount of victimization that occurs each year in that incidents arecounted only if they meet the criteria for inclusion.

Despite these advantages, the NCVS is not without its limitations. Estimates of crimevictimization depend on the ability of respondents to accurately recall what occurred tothem during the previous 6 months. Even though the NCVS attempts to aid in recall byspanning a short period (6 months) and by providing bounding via the previous surveyadministration, it is still possible that individuals will not be completely accurate inrecounting the particulars of an incident. Bounding and using a short recall period alsodo not combat against someone intentionally being misleading or lying or answering ina way meant to please the interviewer. Another possible limitation of the NCVS is itstreatment of high-frequency repeat victimizations. Called series victimizations, theseincidents are those in which a person experiences the same type of victimization duringthe 6-month recall period at such a high rate that he or she cannot recall specific detailsabout each incident or even recall each incident. When this occurs, an incident report isonly completed for the most recent incident, and incident counts are only included for

up to 10 incidents (Truman, Langton, #038; Planty, 2013). As such, estimates ofvictimization may be lower than the actual amount because the cap for counting seriesvictimizations is 10. On the other hand, even without recalling specific detail, theseincidents are included in estimates of victimization. Including series victimizations inthis way reveals little effects on the trends in violence estimates (Truman #038; Morgan,2016). In addition, murder and “victimless” crimes such as prostitution and drug use arenot included in NCVS estimates of crime victimization. Another limitation is that crimethat occurs to commercial establishments is not included. Beyond recall issues, theNCVS sle is selected from U.S. households. This sle may not be trulyrepresentative, for it excludes individuals who are institutionalized, such as persons inprison, and does not include homeless people. Remember, too, that only those personsages 12 and over are included. As a result, estimates about victimization of childrencannot be determined.

Extent of Crime Victimization

Each year, the BJS publishes Criminal Victimization in the United States, a report aboutcrime victimization as measured by the NCVS. From this report, we can see what themost typical victimizations are and who is most likely to be victimized. In 2015, morethan 19,600,000 victimizations were experienced among the nation’s households(Truman #038; Morgan, 2016). Property crimes were much more likely to be experiencedcompared with violent crimes; 5 million violent crime victimizations were experiencedcompared with 14.6 million property crime victimizations. The most common type ofproperty crime reported was theft, whereas simple assault was the most commonlyoccurring violent crime (see Figure 2.1).

Typical Victimization and Victim

The typical crime victim can also be identified from the NCVS. For violentvictimization except for rape and sexual assault, males and females were equally likelyto be victimized. Persons who are Black and those under the age of 24 have highervictimization rates than others. Characteristics of victimization incidents are alsoevident. Less than half of all victimizations (47%) experienced by individuals in theNCVS are reported to the police. Property crimes are less likely to be reported than areviolent crimes, with some crimes being much more likely to come to the attention ofpolice than others. For exle, rape and sexual assault are the least likely of all violentcrimes to be reported, whereas robbery is the most likely to be reported. Almost 70% ofmotor vehicle thefts are reported to the police, but only about 29% of all thefts are(Truman #038; Morgan, 2016). This disjuncture in reporting is likely tied to features of thevictimization and motivations for reporting. For exle, the lack of reporting may be

related in part to the fact that most victims of violent crime know their offender; mostoften, victims identified their attacker as a friend or acquaintance. Strangers perpetratedonly about one-third of violent victimizations in the NCVS (Truman et al., 2013).Reporting, on the other hand, may be tied to wanting to secure property back, especiallya car. In addition, when a person has his or her car stolen, a police report is necessary forinsurance purposes, so a person may be particularly motivated to report this type ofvictimization to the police. Returning now to incident characteristics, females are morelikely than males to be victimized by an intimate partner. In about 58% of incidents theoffender had a weapon, and about 55% of violent crimes resulted in the victim beingphysically injured (Truman et al., 2013). Now that you know the characteristics of thetypical victimization and the typical crime victim, how do Polly and her victimizationcompare?

International Crime Victims SurveyAs you may imagine, there are many other self-report victimization surveys that areused to understand more specific forms of victimization, such as sexual victimizationand those that occur outside the United States. Many of these are discussed in latersections. One oft-cited survey of international victimization is the International CrimeVictims Survey (ICVS), which was created to provide a standardized survey to comparecrime victims’ experiences across countries (van Dijk, van Kesteren, #038; Smit, 2008). Thefirst round of the survey

was conducted in 1989 and was repeated in 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004/2005. Collectively, more than 340,000 persons have beensurveyed in more than 78 countries as part of the ICVS program (van Dijk et al., 2008). Respondents are asked about 10 types ofvictimization that they could have experienced: car theft, theft from or out of a car, motorcycle theft, bicycle theft, attempted orcompleted burglary, sexual victimization (rapes and sexual assault), threats, assaults, robbery, and theft of personal property (vanDijk et al., 2008). If a person has experienced any of these offenses, he or she then answers follow-up questions about the incident.This survey has provided estimates of the extent of crime victimization in many countries and regions of the world. In addition,characteristics of crime victims and incidents have been produced from these surveys.

Focus on International Issues

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is a victimization survey of persons age 16 and over living in England and Wales. Beginning in1982, the CSEW was conducted every 2 years until 2001, when it was changed to reflect victimizations during the previous 12 months. BeginningApril 1, 2012, the CSEW changed its name to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (formerly the British Crime Survey). Using computer-assistedpersonal interviewing to aid in interviewing, it is a nationally representative survey of about 35,000 adults and 3,000 children in the 10- to 15-year-oldsupplement. Persons are asked about victimizations that their households and they experienced. To get the sle, about 1,000 interviews areconducted in each police force area. If individuals answer yes to any screen question about victimization, they complete a victim module that includesdetailed questions about the event. Findings from the CSEW for year ending 2015 indicate that there were 6.4 million crimes against households andthose 16 and older, with 1.3 million violent incidents (Office for National Statistics, 2015).

Source: Home Office (2011).

Theories and Explanations of VictimizationNow that you have an idea about who the typical crime victim is, you are probably wondering why some people are more likely thanothers to find themselves victims of crime. Is it because those people provoke the victimization, as von Hentig and hiscontemporaries thought? Is it because crime victims are perceived by offenders to be more vulnerable than others? Is there somepersonality trait that influences victimization risk? All these factors may play at least some role in why victimization occurs toparticular people. The following sections address these possibilities.

Link Between Victimization and OffendingOne facet about victimization that cannot be ignored is the link between offending and victimization and offenders and victims. Asmentioned in Section I, the first forays into the study of victims included a close look at how victims contribute to their ownvictimization. In this way, victims were not always assumed to be innocents; rather, some victims were seen as being at least partlyresponsible for bringing on their victimization—for instance, by being an offender who is victimized when the victim fights back.Although the field of victimology has moved from trying to place blame on victims, the recognition that offenders and victims areoften linked—and often the same person—has aided in the understanding of why people are victimized.

Victim and Offender Characteristics

The typical victim and the typical offender have many commonalities. As mentioned before in our discussion of the NCVS, thosewith the highest rates of violent victimization are young Black persons. The UCR also provides information on offenders. Thosewith the highest rates of violent offending are also young Black males. The typical victim and the typical offender, then, sharecommon demographics. In addition, both victims and offenders are likely to live in urban areas. Thus, individuals who spend timewith people who have the characteristics of offenders are more likely to be victimized than others.

Photo 2.2 This area may be a hot spot due to lots of people milling about at night.

© iStockphoto.com/RyanJLane

Explaining the Link Between Victimization and Offending

Some even argue that victims and offenders are often one and the same, with offenders being more likely to be victimized and viceversa. It is not hard to understand why this may be the case. Offending can be viewed as part of a risky lifestyle. Individuals whoengage in offending are exposed more frequently to people and contexts in which victimization is likely to occur (Lauritsen, Laub,#038; Sson, 1992).

There also may be a link between victimization and offending that is part of a broader cultural belief in the acceptability andsometimes necessity of violence, known as the subculture of violence theory. This theory proposes that for certain subgroups of thepopulation and in certain areas, violence is part of a value system that supports the use of violence, in response to disrespect inparticular (Wolfgang #038; Ferracuti, 1967). In this way, when a subculture that supports violence exists, victims will be likely torespond by retaliating. Offenders may initiate violence that leads to their victimization by, for exle, getting into a physical fightto resolve a dispute. Recent research shows that the victim–offender overlap does indeed vary across neighborhoods and that thisvariation is related to the neighborhood’s strength of attachment to the “code of the streets” and degree of structural deprivation(Berg #038; Loeber, 2012; Berg, Stewart, Schreck, #038; Simons, 2012).

Being victimized may be related to offending in ways that are not directly tied to retaliation. In fact, being victimized at one point inlife may increase the likelihood that a person will engage in delinquency and crime later in life. This link has been found especiallyin individuals who are abused during childhood. As discussed in Section IX on victimization at the beginning and end of life, thosewho are victimized as children are significantly more likely than those who do not experience child abuse to be arrested inadulthood (Widom, 2000) or to engage in violence and property offending (Menard, 2002).

The reasons why victimization may lead to participation in crime are not fully understood, but it may be that being victimizedcarries psychological consequences, such as depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, that can lead to coping throughthe use of alcohol or drugs. Victimization may also carry physical consequences, such as brain damage, that can further impede

success later in life. Cognitive ability may also be tempered by maltreatment, particularly in childhood, which can hinder schoolperformance. Behavior may also change as a result of being victimized. People may experience problems in their interpersonalrelationships or become violent or aggressive. Whatever the reason, it is evident that victimization and offending are intimatelyintertwined.

Insomuch as victimization and offending are linked, it makes sense then, as you will see in the following sections, that the sameinfluences on offending may also affect victimization and hence may explain the link between victimization and offending. This isnot to say that the only explanations of victimization should be tied to or be an extension of explanations of offending—justremember that when you read about the research that has used criminological theories to explain victimization, it is largely becauseof the connection between victimization and offending.

Routine Activities and Lifestyles TheoriesIn the 1970s, two theoretical perspectives—routine activities and lifestyles theories—were put forth that both linked crimevictimization risk to the fact that victims had to come into contact with a potential offender. Before discussing these theories indetail, first, it is important to understand what a victimization theory is. A victimization theory is generally a set of testablepropositions designed to explain why a person is victimized. Both routine activities and lifestyles theories propose that a person’svictimization risk can best be understood by the extent to which the victim’s routine activities or lifestyle creates opportunities for amotivated offender to commit crime.

In developing routine activities theory, Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson (1979) proposed that a person’s routine activities, ordaily routine patterns, impact risk of being a crime victim. Insomuch as a person’s routine activities bring him or her into contactwith motivated offenders, crime victimization risk abounds. Cohen and Felson thought that motivated offenders were plentiful andthat their motivation to offend did not need to be explained. Rather, their selection of particular victims was more interesting. Cohenand Felson noted that there must be something about particular targets, both individuals and places, that encouraged selection bythese motivated offenders. In fact, those individuals deemed to be suitable targets based on their attractiveness would be chosen byoffenders. Attractiveness relates to qualities about the target, such as ease of transport, which is why a burglar may break into ahome and leave with an iPod or laptop computer rather than a couch. Attractiveness is further evident when the target does not havecapable guardianship. Capable guardianship is conceived as a means by which a person or target can be effectively guarded toprevent a victimization from occurring. Guardianship is typically considered to be social, when the presence of another personmakes someone less attractive as a target. Guardianship can also be provided through physical means, such as a home with a burglaralarm or a person who carries a weapon for self-protection. A home with a burglar alarm and a person who carries a weapon arecertainly less attractive crime targets! When these three elements—motivated offenders, suitable targets, and lack of capableguardianship—coalesce in time and space, victimization is likely to occur.

When Cohen and Felson (1979) originally developed their theory, they focused onpredatory crimes—those that involve a target and offender making contact. Theyoriginally were interested in explaining changes in rates of these types of crime overtime. In doing so, they argued that people’s routines had shifted since World War II,taking them away from home and making their homes attractive targets. People beganspending more time outside the home in leisure activities and going to and from workand school. As people spent more time interacting with others, they were more likely tocome into contact with motivated offenders. Capable guardianship was unlikely to bepresent; thus, the risk of criminal victimization increased. Cohen and Felson also linkedthe increase in crime to the production of durable goods. Electronics began to beproduced in portable sizes, making them easier to steal. Similarly, cars and otherexpensive items that could be stolen, reused, and resold became targets. As Cohen andFelson saw it, prosperity of society could produce an increase in criminal victimizationrather than a decline. Also important, they linked victimization to everyday activitiesrather than to social ills, such as poverty.

Michael Hindelang, Michael Gottfredson, and James Garofalo’s (1978) lifestyles theoryis a close relative of routine activities theory. Hindelang and colleagues posited thatcertain lifestyles or behaviors place people in situations in which victimization is likelyto occur. Your lifestyle, such as going to bars or working late at night in relativeseclusion, places you at more risk of being a crime victim than others. Although theauthors of lifestyles theory did not specify how opportunity structures risk as clearly asdid the authors of routine activities theory, at its heart, lifestyles theory closelyresembles routine activities theory and its propositions. As a person comes into contact—via lifestyle and behavior—with potential offenders, he or she is likely creatingopportunities for crime victimization to occur. The lifestyle factors identified byHindelang and his colleagues that create opportunities for victimization are the peoplewith whom one associates, working outside the home, and engaging in leisure activities.In this way, a person who associates with criminals, works outside the home, andparticipates in activities—particularly at night, away from home, and with nonfamilymembers—is a more likely target for personal victimization than others. Hindelang andcolleagues noted that a person’s lifestyle is structured by social constraints and roleexpectations. That is, because of a person’s demographic characteristics, he or she maybe afforded less opportunity to engage in particular activities. Consider the fact thatfemales are socialized differently from males. Females may be expected to be thecaretaker of the home and, when younger, may be supervised more closely than males.Accordingly, females may spend more time at home and spend more time under thesupervision of their parents or other guardians. Given these social constraints and roleexpectations, females may be less likely to engage in activities outside the home that

would place them at risk for victimization, hence explaining why females are at lowerrisk for victimization than males.

Hindelang et al. (1978) further delineated why victimization risk is higher for somepeople than others using the principle of homogamy. According to this principle, themore frequently a person comes into contact with persons in demographic groups withlikely offenders, the more likely it is the person will be victimized. This frequency maybe a function of demographics or lifestyle. For exle, males are more likely to becriminal offenders than females. Males, then, are at greater risk for victimizationbecause they are more likely to spend time with other males. Now that you know aboutroutine activities theory, do you think Polly’s routines or lifestyle placed her at risk forbeing victimized? Today, researchers largely treat routine activities theory and lifestylestheory interchangeably and often refer to them as the routine activities and lifestylestheory perspectives.

One of the reasons that routine activities and lifestyles theories have been the prevailingtheories of victimization for more than 30 years is the wide empirical supportresearchers have found when testing them. It has been shown that a person’s routineactivities and lifestyle impact risk of being sexually victimized (Cass, 2007; Fisher,Daigle, #038; Cullen, 2010a, 2010b; Mustaine #038; Tewksbury, 1999, 2007; Schwartz #038; Pitts,1995). This perspective also has been used to explain auto theft (Rice #038; Smith, 2002),stalking (Mustaine #038; Tewksbury, 1999), cybercrime victimization (Holt #038; Bossler,2009), adolescent violent victimization (Lauritsen et al., 1992), theft (Mustaine #038;Tewksbury, 1998), victimization at work (Lynch, 1997), and street robbery (Groff,2007).

Recent research on routines suggests that people may also alter them after beingvictimized. You may expect that a person who is victimized may engage in moreprotective behaviors such as installing a burglar alarm following having his or her housebroken into or would avoid walking alone at night after being mugged at night.Researchers have investigated whether such changes in behaviors occur. Some of thefirst works in this area showed that victims had greater use of defensive behaviors(things like avoiding certain areas or people) and that property crime victims engaged inhigher use of household protective efforts (such as installing lights and timers) (Skogan,1987). Victimization has also been linked to moving, which would certainly alter yourroutines! (Dugan, 1999; Xie #038; McDowall, 2008). For exle, using data from theNCVS, Bunch, Clay-Warner, and McMahon-Howard (2014) found that whereas victimsdid change some of their behaviors after being victimized compared with nonvictims(such as going out at night more often!), these differences were not due to thevictimization event but could be attributed to preexisting differences between victims

and nonvictims that influence victimization risk.

Ripped From the Headlines

At a pre–MTV Video Music Awards party hosted by Chris Brown, multiple gunshots rang outinside a packed club in West Hollywood. Several people were hit, including Suge Knight, thefounder of Death Row Records. This was not the first time that Knight has been shot—he wasshot at another pre-awards party that was hosted by Kanye West, and he was driving the vehiclewhen Tupac Shakur was shot and killed (and was shot himself). Although the exact motivesbehind Knight’s shooting are unknown, the preliminary investigation has linked the shooting togang ties. Knight has been connected to the Compton’s Bloods gang, and several knownmembers were at the party. Knight also has a criminal history, having spent time in prison forviolating probation regarding an assault case and for violating parole when he assaulted a parkinglot attendant. Can you apply lifestyles theory to the shooting that occurred at the party?

Source: Branson-Potts (2014).

Structural and Social Process FactorsIn addition to routine activities and lifestyles theories, other factors also increase aperson’s risk of being victimized. Key components of life—such as neighborhoodcontext, family, friends, and personal interaction—also play a role in victimization. Toread about how immigration may be linked to victimization read Box 2.1 at the end ofthis discussion.

Neighborhood Context

We have already discussed how certain individuals are more at risk of becoming victimsof crime than others. So far, we have tied this risk to factors related to the person’slifestyle. Where that person lives and spends time, however, may also place him or herat risk of victimization. Indeed, you are probably not surprised to learn that certain areashave higher rates of victimization than others. Some areas are so crime-prone that theyare considered to be hot spots for crime. Highlighted by Lawrence Sherman (Sherman,Gartin, #038; Buerger, 1989), hot spots are areas that have a concentrated amount of crime.He found through examining police call data in Minneapolis that only 3% of alllocations made up most calls to the police. A person living in or frequenting a hot spotwill be putting himself or herself in danger. The features of these hot spots and otherhigh-risk areas may create opportunities for victimization that, independent of a person’slifestyle or demographic characteristics, enhance chances of being victimized.

What is it about certain areas that relates them to victimization? A body of research has

identified many features, particularly of neighborhoods (notice we are not discussing hotspots specifically). One factor related to victimization is family structure. RobertSson (1985), in his seminal piece on neighborhoods and crime, found thatneighborhoods that have a large percentage of female-headed households have higherrates of theft and violent victimization. He also found that structural density, asmeasured by the percentage of units in structures of five or more units, is positivelyrelated to victimization. Residential mobility, or the percentage of persons 5 years andolder living in a different house from 5 years before, also predicted victimization.

Beyond finding that the structure of a neighborhood influences victimization rates forthat area, it also has been shown that neighborhood features influence personal risk. Inthis way, living in a neighborhood that is disadvantaged places individuals at risk ofbeing victimized, even if they do not have risky lifestyles or other characteristics relatedto victimization (Browning #038; Erickson, 2009). For exle, neighborhooddisadvantage and neighborhood residential instability are related to experiencing violentvictimization at the hands of an intimate partner (Benson, Fox, DeMaris, #038; Van Wyk,2003). Using the notions of collective efficacy, it makes sense that neighborhoods thatare disadvantaged are less able to mobilize effective sources of informal social control(Sson, Raudenbush, #038; Earls, 1997). Informal social controls are often used asmechanisms to maintain order, stability, and safety in neighborhoods. Whencommunities do not have strong informal mechanisms in place, violence and otherdeviancy are likely to abound. Such communities are less safe; hence, their residents aremore likely to be victimized than residents of more socially organized areas.

Exposure to Delinquent Peers

The neighborhood context is but one factor related to risk of victimization. Socialprocess factors, such as peers and family, are also important in understanding crimevictimization. Generally, one of the strongest influences on youth is their peers. Peerpressure can lead people, especially juveniles, to act in ways they normally would notand to engage in behavior they otherwise would not. Having delinquent peers placesyouth not only at risk of engaging in delinquent behavior—juvenile delinquency does,after all, often take place in groups—but also of being victimized (Lauritsen, Sson,#038; Laub, 1991; Schreck #038; Fisher, 2004). Spending time with delinquent peers placespeople at risk of being victimized because, as lifestyles and routine activities theorysuggests, spending time in the presence of motivated offenders increases risk. Nevermind that these would-be offenders are your friends! Another reason having delinquentpeers may be related to victimization is that a person may find himself or herself in riskysituations (such as being present for a fight) in which being harmed is not unlikely. Inthis situation, it may not be your friends per se who harm you, but others involved in thefight may attack you, or you may feel the need to come to the aid of your friends. Taylor,Peterson, Esbensen, and Feng (2007) note that being a member of a gang increases ayoung person’s risk of experiencing violence.

Box 2.1 Immigration and Victimization: Are They Related?

If you have been paying attention to the news, you may have heard people blame the crimeproblem in the United States on immigrants—legal or otherwise—who have come across our

borders. This argument has been made all the more salient in the wake of mass shootings on oursoil like the one that occurred in Orlando, Florida, on June 12, 2016, at Pulse nightclub thatresulted in 49 deaths and 53 people injured. Even though the shooter was a U.S. citizen (and waseven born here!), some people reinforced their calls for tighter security and reduced ability forpeople to enter the country. This concern is related to crime that may be committed by peoplecoming to our country, but there is also concern that immigration is related to victimization.There are many reasons to be concerned about the victimization experiences of immigrants. In astudy of criminal justice personnel throughout the nation, it was found that these individualsbelieve that recent immigrants are less likely than others to report their victimization experiencesto the police because of language barriers, fear of retaliation, and lack of knowledge about thecriminal justice system (Davis #038; Erez, 1998). Other research has found that increases inimmigration are not linked to increases in crime victimization (this study examined immigrationin western Europe) (Nunziata, 2015). At the individual level, some research has documented thatimmigrant youth are at particular risk for being bullied in schools, whereas other research has notfound an elevated risk. Still other research has suggested that assimilation is the driving factorbehind increased risks for victimization and that lifestyles and routines can help understand thisrelationship (Peguero, 2013). Immigration and being an immigrant need to be more fully studiedto understand if they play a role in victimization risk.


Especially during adolescence, the family also plays an important role in individualexperiences. Having strong attachments to family members, particularly parents, islikely to insulate a person from many negative events, including being victimized. Notsurprisingly, research has found that weak emotional attachment between familymembers is a strong predictor of victimization (Esbensen, Huizinga, #038; Menard, 1999;Lauritsen et al., 1992). This may be due to parents being unable and unwilling to exertcontrol over the behavior of their children, such that they are more likely to end up inrisky situations. Family units may also spend more time together when there is strongattachment, thus reducing exposure to motivated offenders. Youth may also be lesslikely to place themselves in risky situations because they do not want to disappointtheir parents, for they place high value on the relationships they have with them. In theseways, emotional attachment to family members serves to reduce risky behavior. At thispoint, you may be noting that familial attachment may be related to lifestyles androutine activities theories—and you would be right! This relationship is explored, alongwith how delinquent peers increase victimization risk, by Christopher J. Schreck andBonnie S. Fisher (2004) in Reading 1 included in this section.

Social Learning TheoryAccording to social learning theory (Akers, 1973), criminal behavior is learnedbehavior. Specifically, it is learned through differential association (spending time with

delinquent or criminal others) whereby imitation or modeling of behavior occurs. A person learns behavior as well as the definitions about behavior, such as whether it is acceptable to engage in crime. The likelihood that a behavior will persist depends on the degree of reward or punishment. In this way, behaviors are differentially reinforced, and people continue to engage in behaviors that are rewarded and cease to engage in behaviors that are punished. When a behavior is rewarded, the definitions favorable toward

that act will eventually outweigh the definitions against that act. Although this sociallearning process was originally posited to explain delinquency, it has also been used toexplain victimization, especially intimate partner violence in the sense that children whoare exposed to violence between parents in the home are more likely to be victims ofintimate partner violence than others later in life (see Section VIII for a more detaileddiscussion). Other research has linked social learning theory to stalking victimization(Fox, Nobles, #038; Akers, 2011).

Control-Balance TheoryA general theory of deviancy, control-balance theory, may also apply to victimization.Developed by Charles Tittle (1995, 1997), this theory proposes that the amount ofcontrol that people possess over others and the amount of control to which one is subjectfactor into their risk of engaging in deviancy. When considered together, a control ratiocan be determined for individuals. Control-balance theory posits that when the control aperson has exceeds the amount of control he or she is subject to, that person has acontrol surplus. When the amount of control a person exercises is outweighed by thecontrol he or she is subject to, that person has a control deficit. When a person has acontrol surplus or deficit, he or she is likely to be predisposed toward deviant behavior.The type of deviant behavior to which a person will be predisposed depends on thecontrol ratio. A control surplus is linked to autonomous forms of deviance such asexploitation of others. Control deficits, on the other hand, are linked to repressive formsof deviance such as defiance.

Although not expressly a theory of victimization, control-balance theory is used byPiquero and Hickman (2003) to explain victimization. They proposed that having acontrol surplus or control deficit would increase victimization risk as compared withhaving a control balance. Individuals with a control surplus are used to having theirneeds and desires met and have a desire to extend their control. In short, they engage inrisky behaviors (in terms of victimization) because there is little to restrain their actions.They may treat others who have control deficits with disrespect in such a way that thoseindividuals act out and victimize them. Those with control deficits are at risk forvictimization for different reasons. So used to having little control at their disposal, theylack the confidence or belief that they can protect themselves and are, thus, vulnerabletargets. They may also try to overcome their control deficits by lashing out orvictimizing those who exercise control over them. Piquero and Hickman tested control-balance’s ability to predict victimization and found that both control deficits and controlsurpluses predicted general and theft victimization.

Social Interactionist PerspectiveMarcus Felson (1992) posited that distress may be related to victimization. Whenexperiencing stress, peoples’ behavior and demeanor are impacted. People are morelikely to break rules and to be generally irritating to others. Distressed individuals, thus,may entice a certain measure of aggression from others given their poor attitudes andrule-breaking behavior. Consider a student who goes to class having just learned that hefailed a test in his previous class that effectively ruined his chances of passing that class.This student is likely experiencing a level of stress that will negatively impact hisbehavior in class. While in class, then, he may explode after a fellow student makes acomment that he finds unreasonable. The student who is the “victim” of the outburstmay find the other student’s behavior unacceptable and offensive. The attacked studentthen may, as a result, respond aggressively, effectively starting an aggressive exchange.This distress-and-reaction sequence is at the heart of the social interactionistperspective.

Stated more formally, M. Felson (1992) argues that aggressive encounters occur whendistressed individuals break social rules and those who are aggrieved by the breaking ofrules respond aggressively. The distressed individual is then placed in a situation inwhich he or she has to respond to aggression. If this person does so unsatisfactorily, theoriginal aggrieved person is likely to implement punishment—in other words,victimization. The distressed individual then may retaliate, thus continuing the cycle ofaggression. In this way, distress is a cause of victimization.

Life-Course PerspectiveEmerging in the 1990s in the field of criminology, the life-course perspective considersthe development of offending over time. In doing so, it uses elements from biology,sociology, and psychology to explain why persons initiate into, continue with, and desistor move out of a life of crime. Contributing to the growth of this field, in large part dueto the overlap between victims and offenders discussed shortly, victimologists haverecently begun applying and testing the principles of life-course criminology tovictimization. A summary of these theories is presented in Table 2.3.

Table 2.3 Life-Course Criminological Theories Relevant for Victimization

Theory Author(s) Key Factor Related to Outcome

General theory of Gottfredson and

crime Hirschi (1990) Low self-control

Age-graded theoryof adult social bonds

Sson andLaub (1993)

Social bonds: marriage andemployment; marriage related todesistance

General Theory of Crime

In 1990, Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi published A General Theory of Crime.In this seminal work, they presented their general theory of crime, proposing thatcriminal behavior is caused by a single factor—namely, low self-control. They arguedthat a person with low self-control, when presented with opportunity, will engage incriminal and other analogous behaviors, such as excessive drinking. When examiningthe characteristics of persons with low self-control, the reasons this trait might lead tocriminal behavior are clear. A person with low self-control will exhibit six elements, thefirst being inability to delay gratification; a person with low self-control will beimpulsive and unable or unwilling to delay gratification. Second, the person will be arisk taker who engages in thrill-seeking behavior without thought of consequence.Third, an individual with low self-control will be shortsighted, without any clear long-term goals. Fourth, low self-control is indicated by a preference for physical ascompared with mental activity. This preference may lead an individual to respond todisrespect with violence rather than having a discussion about the finer points of beingrespectful. Fifth, low self-control is evidenced by low frustration tolerance, whichresults in a person being quick to anger. Sixth, insensitivity and self-centeredness arehallmarks of low self-control. A person with low self-control will be unlikely to exhibitempathy toward others.

Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) argue that low self-control is fairly immutable oncedeveloped, which occurs during early childhood. They believe that, although self-control is an individual-level characteristic, it is not inherent; rather, it is developedthrough parental socialization. Once the level is set (around age 8), people will be hard-pressed to develop greater abilities to moderate their behavior. Without self-control, aperson will act on impulses and seek personal gratification—often engaging in crime.Importantly, as noted, low self-control will lead individuals to engage in other behaviorsthat are similar to crime.

In 1999, Schreck applied the general theory of crime to victimization. He was one of thefirst researchers to apply to victimization what had been conceived as a theory of crime.This innovative approach was rooted in his recognition that persons who engage in

crime are also likely to be victimized, a point we return to later. He also noted thatbecause crime and victimization may be closely related, often with the same peopleengaging in both, the same factors that explain crime participation may also explaincrime victimization. He tested his theory and found that low self-control increased thelikelihood that a person would experience both personal and property victimization,even when controlling for participation in criminal behavior. This finding suggests thatsolely being involved in crime does not increase risk of victimization but that low self-control has significant, independent effects on victimization. In a recent meta-analysis,which is a type of study that examines all the research that has been conducted on asubject—in this

case, the link between low self-control and victimization—collectively and produces aneffect size for the magnitude of this relationship, self-control was found to have amodest effect on victimization. The overall mean effect size for low self-control onvictimization is .154, which means that a one standard deviation increase in low self-control corresponds to a .154 standard deviation increase in victimization. Therelationship was strongest for victimizations that were noncontact in nature, such asonline victimization (Pratt, Turanovic, Fox, #038; Wright, 2014). Recent research has linkedself-control with neighborhood disadvantage to victimization risk. Chris Gibson’s(2012) research using data from the Project on Human Development in ChicagoNeighborhoods is one exle. Read this work in Reading 2.

Age-Graded Theory of Adult Social Bonds

Not all criminologists agree that there is a single cause of crime (or victimization) calledlow self-control. Others noted that people do indeed move in and out of criminalactivity, a phenomenon that is difficult to explain with a persistent trait, low self-control.Robert Sson and John Laub (1993) instead believed that a person’s social bondscould serve to insulate him or her from criminal activity. In their age-graded theory ofadult social bonds, Sson and Laub identified two key social bonds—marriage andemployment—that can aid people in moving out of a life of delinquency and crime asthey emerge into young adulthood. If a person enters into marriage and has gainfulemployment, he or she is developing valuable social capital. In other words, a personwho has these two social bonds will have much to lose by engaging in crime, which willpromote crime desistance if he or she was previously involved in crime. If that personwas not involved in crime, social capital would enable him or her to continue living acrime-free life.

Although this obviously is not a victimization theory, because of the link betweenvictimization and offending, researchers have attempted to connect the attainment ofadult social bonds with victimization in that individuals who are married and workingwill be less likely to be crime victims than those with little to lose. Daigle, Beaver, andHartman (2008) found that entering into marriage did in fact predict desistance fromvictimization as individuals moved into early adulthood. They found that employmentwas not similarly protective; instead, employment reduced the chances that a personwould desist from victimization. Looking at routine activities and lifestyles theories,however, this finding is none too surprising. The more time a person spends outside thehome, at work, or in other activities, the greater the chances of being victimized.

Genes and Victimization

The life-course perspective in criminology has also centered on individual factors, suchas genetics, that promote offending. This body of research has found a link betweendifferent genetic polymorphisms and behaviors relevant to criminology, such as criminalinvolvement and alcohol and drug use. A genetic polymorphism is a variant on a gene.Research has shown that sometimes these variations impact the likelihood of engagingin certain behaviors, such as violence, aggression, and delinquency. The genes that havebeen identified as linked to criminality are those that code for neurotransmitters, such asmonoamine oxidase, serotonin, and dopamine. Neurotransmitters are chemicalmessengers responsible for information transmission. In terms of criminal behavior,relevant neurotransmitters are those linked to behavioral inhibition, mood, reward, andattention deficits. One important aspect of the link between genetics and crime is thatpossessing a variant for a gene, or having a certain polymorphism for a particularneurotransmitter, appears to “matter” only in certain environments. This is known as agene x environment interaction. Genes tend to be important not for everyone in everycircumstance but for particular individuals in particular contexts. For exle, a personwho is genetically predisposed toward alcoholism will express these alcoholictendencies only if first exposed to alcohol.

As noted with other life-course perspective approaches, the applicability of geneticfactors to the study of victimization has been explored. In fact, a gene 3 environmentinteraction for one gene in particular, dopamine, has been found to increasevictimization risk. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked to the reward and punishmentsystems of the brain. Dopamine is released when we engage in pleasurable activities,thus reinforcing such behavior. Too much dopamine, however, can be a bad thing. Highlevels of dopamine are linked to enhanced problem solving and attentiveness, butoverproduction of dopamine can be problematic. In fact, it has been linked to violenceand aggression. One gene that codes for dopamine is the DRD2 gene, a dopaminereceptor gene. Research has found evidence for a gene 3 environment interactionbetween DRD2 and having delinquent peers. White males with low levels of delinquentpeers and who have a certain genetic polymorphism for DRD2 are more likely thanothers to be violently victimized (Beaver, Wright, DeLisi, Daigle, et al., 2007). Geneshave also been implicated in the victim–offender overlap. Research has found thatgenetic factors account for from 54% to 98% of the covariation between delinquencyand victimization (Barnes #038; Beaver, 2012). The link between genes and victimization isan emerging area of research, and therefore, additional research is certainly needed tounderstand fully how genes impact victimization.

Role of Alcohol in VictimizationOne of the common elements present in victimization is alcohol. According to data from

the NCVS in 2008, 36% of victims perceived their offender to be under the influence ofalcohol at the time of the incident (Rand, Sabol, Sinclair, #038; Snyder, 2010). Alcohol useis commonplace among crime offenders, but many crime victims also report that justprior to their victimizations, they had consumed alcohol. Patricia Tjaden and NancyThoennes (2006) found in their National Violence Against Women study that 20% ofwomen and 38% of men who experienced rape in adulthood had consumed alcohol ordrugs prior to being victimized. Alcohol use is associated with other forms ofvictimization as well, such as physical assault. This fact should not be too surprisinggiven the effects of alcohol on individuals. Generally, alcohol is linked to victimizationbecause it reduces inhibition and also impedes people’s ability to recognize or respondeffectively to dangerous situations. Offenders may also see intoxicated persons asparticularly vulnerable targets for these reasons. Where a person consumes alcohol isalso important. A person who drinks at home alone or with family is less likely to bevictimized than a person who drinks in a bar at night. The latter person is likelyinteracting with motivated offenders without capable guardianship and may beperceived as a suitable target.

Alcohol use may place a person at risk of being victimized but also may impact how thevictim responds to the incident. Research by Ruback, Me´nard, Outlaw, and Shaffer(1999) shows how alcohol use may be relevant to understanding why victims often donot report their experiences to police. In their study, college students evaluated varioushypothetical scenarios that depicted victimization. Study participants were askedwhether they would advise a victimized friend to report to the police based on a givenscenario. When the friend in the scenario had been drinking, college students were lesslikely to advise that the police be contacted, and this relationship was particularly strongfor victims depicted as being underage and drinking.

As you can see, the explanations of victimization are many. The hallmark victimizationtheory is routine activities and lifestyles theories, based on the notion that a person’sroutines and lifestyle, not social conditions, place him or her at risk. As you have read,however, explanations of victimization have expanded beyond this to include socialprocess and structural factors. The explanations you are drawn to may be tied to the datayou are examining, which you now know are impacted by methodology. To understandthe causes of victimization, you must first know who the “typical” victim is and whatcharacterizes the “typical” victimization. In some of the following sections, specifictypes of victims are examined. Think about what theories can be used to explain theirvictimizations.


The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) uses a nationallyrepresentative sle of U.S. households. Individuals ages 12 and over in selectedhouseholds are asked questions about victimization experiences they faced duringthe previous 6 months. According to the NCVS, the typical victim is a youngWhite male—although Blacks have higher victimization rates than other racial orethnic groups and females experience higher rates of rape and sexual assault thanmales.The typical victimization incident is perpetrated by someone known to the victim,is not reported to the police, and does not involve a weapon.There is a clear link between victimization and offending, as well as betweenvictims and offenders. Persons who live risky lifestyles are more likely to engagein criminal or delinquent activity and to be victims of crime. Victims andoffenders also share similar demographic profiles.Routine activities theory suggests that crime victimization is likely to occur whenmotivated offenders, lack of capable guardianship, and suitable targets coalesce intime and space. Lifestyles theory is closely linked with routine activities theory inproposing that a person who leads a risky lifestyle is at risk of being victimized.Neighborhoods are not equally safe. The risk of being victimized, then, differsacross geographical areas, and even when controlling for individual-level factorssuch as risky lifestyle, neighborhood disadvantage predicts victimization.Spending time with friends who participate in delinquent activities places a personat risk of being victimized. These “friends” may victimize their nondelinquentpeers and encourage them to participate in risky behaviors that may lead tovictimization.Strong attachments to family may serve to protect individuals from victimization,whereas weak attachments may increase victimization risk.Victimization may also be a learned process, whereby victims have learned themotives, definitions, and behaviors of victimization and had them reinforced.According to control-balance theory, individuals with an unequal control-balanceratio—either having a control deficit or a control surplus—are more prone tovictimization than those with a balanced ratio. Those with control deficits may beseen as easy targets. They also may get tired of being targeted and lash out, thusincreasing their involvement in situations associated with violent victimization.Those with control surpluses may engage in risky behavior with impunity, whichcould set them up for being victimized or retaliated against.Research on the general theory of crime suggests that those individuals who havelow self-control are more likely to be victimized than those with higher levels ofself-control.Adult social bonds may explain why people who were once victimized are not

The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) is an official measure of the amount of crimeknown to the police. According to this report, which is published annually by theFederal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the most common crime type is larceny-theft. The most common type of violent crime is aggravated assault. Criminaloffending rates are highest for young Black males.

victimized again as they age into young adulthood. Marriage appears to protectindividuals from victimization.Genetic factors may also play a role in victimization. One specific geneticpolymorphism of the DRD2 gene has been found to increase risk for White maleswho have delinquent peers. A genetic effect that occurs only under certainenvironmental conditions is known as a gene × environment interaction.Alcohol and victimization appear to go hand in hand. Alcohol impacts cognitiveability, and persons who are drinking are less likely to assess and recognizesituations as being risky even when they are. In addition, alcohol is linked tobehavioral inhibition, such that people may act in ways they otherwise would not,which may incite aggression in others. Alcohol is also linked to victimizationwhen offenders purposefully select intoxicated victims because they are seen aseasy targets.

Discussion Questions1. Compare and contrast the UCR and the NCVS. What are the advantages and

disadvantages of each? Which is the best measure of victimization?2. Apply the concepts of routine activities and lifestyles theories to evaluate your

own risk of being victimized. What could you change to reduce your risk?3. What are the individual-level factors that place people at risk of being crime

victims? What are the structural factors and social process factors that placeindividuals at risk of being crime victims?

4. How should the criminal justice system handle victimized individuals who mayalso have been involved in a crime? Do you believe in the idea of truly innocentvictims? If so, should they be treated differently?

5. Given what you have read about the theories and factors that influence crimevictimization, how can victimization be prevented? Be sure to tie your preventionideas to what is thought to cause victimization.

Key termsage-graded theory of adult social bonds 28bounding 17capable guardianship 21“code of the streets” 21control-balance theory 26control deficit 26control ratio 26

control surplus 26delinquent peers 24family structure 24general theory of crime 27gene x environment interaction 28hierarchy rule 15hot spots 23incident report 17life-course perspective 27motivated offenders 21National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) 17neighborhood context 23principle of homogamy 22residential mobility 24routine activities and lifestyles theories 21screen questions 17series victimizations 18social interactionist perspective 26structural density 24suitable targets 21Uniform Crime Report (UCR) 15victimization theory 21

Internet Resources“Alcohol and Crime”: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/ac.pdf

This report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in connection with the U.S. Departmentof Justice, looks at the link between alcohol and crime. It includes several graphs andfigures that show the link between crime, specifically violent crime, and alcohol. Thesestatistics also show that alcohol-related crime is generally decreasing.

Bureau of Justice Statistics: Victim Characteristics:http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp#038;tid=92

The NCVS provides information on characteristics of victims, including age, race, ethnicity, gender,marital status, and household income. For violent crimes (rape, sexual assault, assault, and robbery) thecharacteristics are based on the victim who experienced the crime. For property crimes (householdburglary, motor vehicle theft, and property theft) the characteristics are based on the household of therespondent who provided information about these crimes. Property crimes are defined as affecting theentire household.

Crime in the United States: The Nation’s Two Crime Measures: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/the-nations-two-crime-measures

This website is part of the FBI’s research on various crimes. This one specifically examines thedifferences, advantages, and disadvantages of the UCR and the NCVS. Both forms of research areimportant to the study of crime.

“Opportunity Makes the Thief: Practical Theory for Crime Prevention”:http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110218135832/rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/prgpdfs/fprs98.pdf

This article combines several theories that focus on the “opportunity” of crimes. This includes theroutine activities approach, the rational choice perspective, and crime pattern theory. This publicationargues that the root cause of crime is opportunity. This allows for prevention techniques to focus on howto lessen the opportunity for crime to occur.

Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods:http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/PHDCN/about.html

The Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods is an interdisciplinary study of howfamilies, schools, and neighborhoods affect child and adolescent development. It was designed toadvance understanding of the developmental pathways of both positive and negative human socialbehaviors. In particular, the project examined the pathways to juvenile delinquency, adult crime,substance abuse, and violence. At the same time, the project also provided a detailed look at theenvironments in which these social behaviors take place by collecting substantial amounts of data abouturban Chicago, including its people, institutions, and resources.

How to Read a Research ArticleLet’s use one of the articles in Section II, “Specifying the Influence of Family and Peers on ViolentVictimization: Extending Routine Activities and Lifestyles Theories” by Christopher J. Schreck andBonnie S. Fisher, as an exle for the following steps.

1. What is the thesis or main idea of this article?The thesis or main idea is found in the introduction of this article. Although it is not directlystated, in the final paragraph of the introduction, Schreck and Fisher note what they aretesting. That is, they are examining whether the family and associating with delinquentpeers impacts juveniles’ level of violent victimization.

2. What is the hypothesis?Schreck and Fisher identify two hypotheses, although these hypotheses are not specifically

stated. You can identify the general hypotheses by reading the introduction. The firsthypothesis is located in the second paragraph. The authors suggest that a strong family willreduce the likelihood that an adolescent will experience violent victimization. The secondhypothesis is discussed in the following paragraph. The authors hypothesize thatmembership in delinquent peer groups will lead to increased risk of violent victimization.

3. Is there any prior literature related to the hypothesis?Literature linking victimization to offending is cited throughout the introduction. Inaddition, Schreck and Fisher use routine activities/lifestyles theory to justify why the familyand peer group should be considered when trying to understand violent victimization riskamong adolescents. They link the elements of routine activities theory to family and peersand explain how these activities impact violent victimization risk.

4. What methods are used to test the hypothesis?Schreck and Fisher use survey research to test their hypotheses. They used data from theNational Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which had been collected by otherresearchers. This is known as secondary data analysis. They used a type of regressionanalysis called overdispersed Poisson regression as their analytic tool to examine factorsrelated to higher levels of violent victimization.

5. Is this a qualitative or a quantitative study?Qualitative studies are those that use nonnumerical data or methods, while quantitativestudies use numbers to test hypotheses. Schreck and Fisher use statistics to test theirhypotheses; therefore, their study is quantitative.

6. What are the results, and how does the author present them?

1. The results of the study are presented in the “Results” section. The authorspresent their results in two forms—in a table (Table 1) and in the write-upof the results section. If the statistical technique is one with which you areunfamiliar, the table can be examined by finding those variables that haveasterisks by their coefficients or values. The asterisks indicate that thevariable is significant in the model. Those variables’ coefficients or valuesthat do not have asterisks beside them are not significant. The write-up alsowill tell you what variables are significant and how to interpret the values.Schreck and Fisher found that “teenagers whose friends engaged in higherlevels of delinquency and risky activity tended to experience morevictimization.” Spending time with those friends also increased risk ofexperiencing violence. Two family context variables were related to violentvictimization. A warm, accepting family climate and parents’ positivefeelings toward the adolescent reduced risk of violent victimization.

2. Do you believe that the authors provided a persuasive argument? Why or whynot?

The answer to this question is subjective; however, the authors do make astrong case for examining both the peer and family context in risk forviolent victimization. A close reading of the front end of the paper providesthe reader the basis for the argument. The analytic test shows support fortheir hypotheses—variables measuring both peer and family context do“matter” in predicting risk of violent victimization. It should be noted,though, that variables operationalizing the routine activities/lifestylesperspective were also shown to be relevant (they were significant). Thisfinding suggests that both the routine activities/lifestyles perspective and thepeer and family context should be further examined.

3. Who is the intended audience of this article?As you read the article, you should consider to whom the authors arespeaking. Most academic articles have professors as their audience, ofcourse, but they are also often written for others. Schreck and Fisher arewriting for students, practitioners, and policymakers as well as forprofessors. When determining who the audience is, you should ask yourselfwho would benefit from reading the article. Also, consider for whom thefindings would be beneficial.

4. What does the article add to your knowledge of the subject?This question is obviously specific to the reader. One way to answer thisquestion may be as follows: This article helps the reader understand howthe peer and family context influence risk for violent victimization. It alsohelps the reader understand how the impact of peer and family variables on

the risk of violent victimization can be explained through a routineactivities/lifestyles theory approach.

5. What are the implications for criminal justice policy that can be derived from thisarticle?

Implications for criminal justice policy are likely to be found in thediscussion or conclusion sections of the article. In the conclusion, Schreckand Fisher discuss the implications of their findings mainly in terms of howfuture research and theory may be impacted. They do, however, questionpolicies intended to reduce victimization by educating potential victimsabout ways to reduce their risk, since it is possible that victimization risk istied to family attachment, which they link to socialization. Socializationthrough the family via its effect on the development of self-control has beenpreviously linked to victimization risk. Schreck and Fisher suggest thatvictimization may be linked to something that cannot be easily changed(i.e., low self-control) rather than something that can be easily manipulated(i.e., a person’s routine activities). In this way, policy implications arediscussed. You will notice that some articles have more criminal justicepolicy implications.

Now that we have examined the elements of a research article, it is your turn to answerthese questions as you read through the various articles in the text. Some of the articlesmay be easier for you to read than others, and not all the articles will have all theelements you just read about: introduction, literature review, methods, results, anddiscussion. You should refer to this introduction on how to read a research article forguidance if you have any problems.

Reading /// 1

In this article, Christopher Schreck and Bonnie Fisher (2004) examined how both the family andpeers impact a person’s likelihood of experiencing a violent victimization. Four types of violentvictimization were examined: being threatened with a knife or gun, being shot, being stabbed, orbeing “jumped.” They also examined variables designed to measure risky lifestyles. In doing so,they use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health on more than 3,500respondents. The authors found that the lifestyle factors of sneaking out of the house, drivingaround in a car, and exercising increased the chances of a person being victimized. They alsofound that general feelings the respondent had for his or her family were negatively related tovictimization—the better a person felt about his or her family, the less likely he or she was to bevictimized. Finally, they found that peer delinquency and spending time with peers bothincreased victimization risk. Taken together, they found support for three of the theories or riskfactors identified in this chapter: routine activities/lifestyle, family, and delinquent peers.

Specifying the Influence of Family and Peers on Violent VictimizationSpecifying the Influence of Family and Peers on Violent Victimization

Extending Routine Activities and Lifestyles Theories

Christopher J. Schreck and Bonnie S. Fisher

Criminologists have long been interested in family conditions as an antecedent ofyouthful delinquent behavior (Farrington, 1987; Glueck #038; Glueck, 1950; Gottfredson #038;Hirschi, 1990; Loeber #038; Stouthamer-Loeber, 1986; Rebellon, 2002; Sson #038; Laub,1993). As important as family context is in the delinquency research, the family mayhave broader significance in view of the finding that delinquents tend to experience highlevels of violent victimization (Lauritsen, Sson, #038; Laub, 1991). This connectionbetween involvement in crime and the experience of victimization has led somecriminologists to propose that established correlates of crime—which might includefamily characteristics—are also relevant for understanding victimization (Piquero #038;Hickman, 2003; Schreck, 1999; Schreck, Wright, #038; Miller, 2002). In addition, it appearsreasonable to think that families have an interest in preventing their children from beingthreatened, beaten up, or robbed. Consequently, family context may be particularlyimportant among teenagers, who bear a disproportionately high level of victimizationrelative to every other age group (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2003).

In contrast to the longstanding tradition of family and delinquency research, there havebeen few attempts by researchers to explore a connection between family context andthe experience of general violent victimization. The few studies to consider therelationship between family context and general victimization found that level ofemotional attachment between family members is perhaps the strongest family-relevantpredictor of victimization (Esbensen, Huizinga, #038; Menard, 1999; Lauritsen, Laub, #038;Sson, 1992). Consistent with these studies, we argue that a strong family—one that

possesses durable ties of emotional warmth and support—might reduce the chances thatadolescents will experience violent victimization.

The primary competitor to the influence of the family is most likely the adolescent peergroup, which criminologists and victimologists find to be a risk factor for criminalbehavior as well as victimization (Akers, 1985; Lauritsen et al., 1992; Schreck et al.,2002; Warr, 2002). The peer group represents one of the primary social contexts in thelives of adolescents, aside from the family (Coleman, 1980; Corsaro #038; Eder, 1990). Atthe same time, the presence of criminal associates in a teenager’s life is traditionally oneof the strongest and most consistent correlates of individual delinquency (Akers, 1994;Hindelang, Hirschi, #038; Weis, 1981; Warr #038; Stafford, 1991; c.f. Haynie, 2001).Membership in peer groups, however, also corresponds with a higher risk ofvictimization. Researchers have theorized that membership in a delinquent group caninvite retaliation from the group’s victims or else group norms might favor the use ofviolence as an accepted means of settling within-group disputes (Baron, Forde, #038;Kennedy, 2001; Baron, Kennedy, #038; Forde, 2001; Decker #038; Van Winkle, 1996; Singer,1981). In addition, proximity to other participants in crime leads members of the peergroup to use each other as convenient targets (Jensen #038; Brownfield, 1986; Lauritsen etal., 1991; Schreck et al., 2002). Even research looking exclusively at criminal youthgang members found that membership is a source of risk rather than protection (Miller#038; Decker, 2001; Sanders, 1994). Taken together, attempts at understanding the sourcesof adolescent victimization cannot afford to ignore risk factors originating in the peercontext. Nevertheless, the literature has not given much attention to the effectiveness offamily context as a predictor of victimization after controlling for delinquent peer groupcharacteristics (see Esbensen et al., 1999; Lauritsen et al., 1992).

In view of the importance of the family and peer group for delinquency causation, bothappear to have significance beyond simply being precursors of juvenile delinquency.This article explores family and peer contexts and examines how these contexts link toroutine activities/lifestyles theories of victimization.

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health),we then empirically tested whether the combined influence of family and delinquentpeer-group associations significantly affects adolescents’ level of violent victimization.One important methodological advantage of the Add Health is its national coverage ofadolescents. The Add Health also offers a significant improvement over other major datasets (such as the National Youth Survey or the Monitoring the Future study) in that thestaff collected data from not only the respondent and his or her parents (which would berelevant for measuring family attachment) but also from the respondent’s peers. Thisdata set thus provides a unique opportunity to measure the influence of peer context in

conjunction with family characteristics.

Source: Schreck, C. J., #038; Fisher, B. S. (2004). Specifying the influence of family andpeers on violent victimization: Extending routine activities and lifestyles theories.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 19, 1021–1041.

Theoretical FrameworkOur general framework for explaining how family and peer contexts might influencevictimization draws from the routine activities/lifestyles theories (Cohen #038; Felson,1979; Hindelang, Gottfredson, #038; Garofalo, 1978). Together, these theories stress howsituations or contexts carry their own level of risk for victimization. The routineactivities theory maintains that the convergence in time and space of motivatedoffenders, attractive targets, and ineffective guardianship determines the risk ofvictimization. People who spend a lot of time in settings where they are exposed tooffenders and cannot adequately protect themselves will tend to have a higher risk ofvictimization. Social structure and demographic characteristics generally affect dailyroutines and, thus, exposure and vulnerability to likely offenders (Hindelang et al., 1978;Miethe, Stafford, #038; Long, 1987; Sson #038; Wooldredge, 1987). Family and peercontexts could also be important mechanisms for the meeting of motivated offendersand worthwhile, vulnerable targets; that is, social bonds with family and peers mightstructure or determine routine daily activities that have relevance for victimization risk(Felson, 1986; Horney, Osgood, #038; Marshall, 1995; Schreck et al., 2002).

Attachment to the Family and Violent Victimization

The bond of attachment attends to the degree of sensitivity and emotional closeness thatpeople have for others (see Hirschi, 1969). Although the level of emotional closenesswith others might directly influence risk, the connection between bonds, similar toattachment, and routine

activity is better documented (Felson, 1986; Schreck et al., 2002); that is, attachmentcould serve to constrain the types of activities we routinely engage in and bringindividuals into closer proximity to those with an interest or social obligation to act asprotectors. The following discussion thus shows how attachment to the family hasrelevance for each of the three necessary elements for crime: effective guardianship,exposure to motivated offenders, and target attractiveness.

Family context and exposure to motivated offenders

Bonds to family members should remove would-be victims from the proximity of likelyoffenders. Strong attachment for parents should tend to keep children closer to home andaway from the company of strangers. Felson (1998) noted that although some peoplehave family members who are unquestionably dangerous to be with, it is typically muchmore dangerous to spend time around strangers and outside the home (see also, Bureauof Justice Statistics, 2003; Hindelang et al., 1978). In addition, strong feelings ofattachment might compel parents to regulate their children’s friendship groups (whichincludes getting to know the friends, including them in family activities, and getting toknow their families). As noted earlier, the delinquent peer group may well represent apool of unusually motivated offenders. In short, attachment keeps children closer tohome, makes parents interested in the friends of their child, and thus keeps childrenaway from motivated offenders.

Family context and guardianship

Strong bonds represent a catalyst for the meeting, in time and space, of potential victimswith effective guardians. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) maintained that strong bondsof parental attachment to the child are a prerequisite for effective supervision and,presumably, protection; that is, one might expect that parental presence would makecriminal activity against their offspring inconvenient. One may also assume that childrenwho are attached to their parents will choose to spend more time with them enjoyingtheir protection than children who dislike or distrust their parents. Attachment can alsolead to improved guardianship in ways other than direct supervision. Given the scatterednature of informal control in modern American society (see Felson, 1998), with parentswho work and students who go to school and who may work themselves, parents canensure guardianship by arranging for surrogate parents, such as child care providers orcoaches. Thus, although strong attachment cannot guarantee that parents will always beable to immediately supervise their children, attachment appears more likely to facilitatethe direct presence of alternative guardians.

Family context and target attractiveness

Bonds might create proximate so-called handlers, or people who are socially obligatedto prevent likely victims from making themselves into attractive targets (for more onhandlers, see Felson, 1986); that is, effective handlers will strive to prevent those theyfeel responsible for from behaving provocatively and risking retaliation, which couldhappen if the child is behaving belligerently or insolently to others or is victimizingthem. Handlers may also be in a position to require precautions intended specifically topromote safety (e.g., “Come straight home after school” or “Make sure you take the bus;don’t walk home by yourself”).

Social bonds aside, we would expect that deviant parents will be less capable ofprotecting their children from crime. Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) suggested that suchparents are little inclined to exert themselves monitoring their children. Beyond theeffort and time that effective supervision entails, parents who impair their judgment byconsuming illegal drugs or drinking alcohol to excess will tend to be less effective asprotectors. Deviant parents may also engage in illegal behavior against their ownchildren and represent proximate likely offenders in their own right. The presence oftwo married adults in the household may also be important, as researchers havespeculated that family disruption makes supervision more difficult as well as interfereswith the maintenance of bonds with children (Hirschi, 1991; Rutter #038; Giller, 1983).

Peer Context and Violent Victimization

Although adolescent life typically revolves around the family, the peer group representsa second major context. We have already noted the fact that teenagers spendconsiderable amounts of time engaged in social activity with their friends. As is the casewith the family, the routine activities/lifestyles approaches can offer insights about whycontact with the peer group, most notably the delinquent peer group, also suggestsexposure to motivated offenders, weakened guardianship, and increased attractiveness asa target.

Delinquent Peer Association and Exposure to Motivated Offenders

Although routine activities theory does not attempt to explain why people are motivatedto commit crime, research reveals that there are individual differences in how easy it isto tempt someone into crime (Felson, 1998; Gottfredson #038; Hirschi, 1990). To illustrate,exposure to persons with a record of delinquency—particularly when one is vulnerable—would therefore be risky. The principle of homogamy in lifestyle theory (Hindelang etal., 1978, pp. 256–257) addresses this issue, positing that individuals who share daily

living conditions and social activities with high-risk offenders (because they possesssimilar demographic backgrounds) will have a disproportionately high risk ofvictimization (see also, Miethe #038; Meier, 1994). Ties of friendship to a delinquent wouldtherefore make it more likely that someone will routinely be in proximity to a motivatedoffender and vulnerable. If most crimes do not require significant departures from thenormal routines of the offender, the closeness of a delinquent’s friends would make themaccessible targets (see Felson, 1998).

Delinquent peer association and guardianship

In light of the amount of time teens spend with their peer group, other members of thatgroup are potentially well situated to act as guardians and protect their peers. This rolefor the peer group presupposes that one’s associates are interested in serving asguardians. Guardianship, however, potentially necessitates time, effort, and risk. Felson(1986, 1998) suggested that strong social bonds create a stake in protecting others.These bonds influence the amount of time people spend in risky activity away fromthose who can protect them from the criminal inclinations of others; that is, caring aboutothers may make one spend more time with them, which promotes personal enjoymentand safety from victimization.

The delinquent peer group, on the other hand, undermines guardianship in multipleways. First, Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) characterized delinquents as lackingdiligence and being impulsive and selfish, thus suggesting that they are unlikely to exertthemselves to protect their closest associates when their associates are vulnerable.Second, as Sparks (1982) indicated, someone in a delinquent group would be unlikely toreport victimization to the police and can therefore count on having less policeprotection. Part of this may reflect the delinquent’s understandable lack of comfort indealing with legal authorities. For instance, delinquents might assume that the policewill be quick to dismiss their claims because of their connection to other troublemakers,or else might run a higher risk of implicating themselves merely by talking to the police.

Delinquent peer association and target attractiveness

As noted in criminological research, children who participate in youth gangs and whoclaim the friendship of other delinquent youth are much more likely to participate incrime themselves. In fact, juvenile delinquency frequently occurs as a group activity(Erickson #038; Jensen, 1977; Warr, 1996). A number of researchers have suggested thatparticipation in crime—or even of merely identifying with a delinquent group—canmake a youth a worthwhile target for others. Singer (1981) proposed that retaliation ispart of the normative characteristics of a violent subculture (see also, Baron, Forde, et

al., 2001). Someone thus committing a crime or who is a member of a group responsiblefor committing a crime might thus alternate from offender to victim when the formervictim attempts to retaliate. Youth groups that encourage aggressive behavior maylikewise make themselves attractive targets by precipitating violence through theirconfrontational behavior.

Research QuestionsThere is good reason to think that families with conventional parents and where strongbonds are present between family members will be more effective at promoting thesafety of offspring. At the same time, the prominence of the peer group in the lives ofadolescents represents a plausible source of risk. More specifically, do stronger bonds ofattachment between family members—especially between parents and children—promote greater safety from violent victimization? Does spending time with friends, andhaving delinquent friends, increase risk?

Most existing data sources survey the victimization experiences and traits of only theadolescent respondent, and not their parents or members of their peer network. TheNational Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), however, integratedinformation from each of these three sources—the adolescent, parents, and

friends—which provides more valid measures than would be the case if one relied ondata from only the teenagers. This analysis below, which uses these data, considers therelative influences of family context and peer group factors on the level of violentvictimization.

Data and MethodsThe current research used the first wave of the public-use version of the Add Healthstudy, which was conducted between September 1994 and December 1995. This waveconsisted of in-school and in-home administrations. The goal of the Add Health studywas to create a sle that is nationally representative of students attending U.S.schools in Grades 7 through 12. Our analyses excluded cases with any missing data,leaving slightly more than 3,500 respondents who provided sufficient data for analysis.

Dependent Variable—Violent Victimization

To measure the occurrences of violent victimization for each individual, we created anadditive index. Respondents were asked about having been the victim of four types ofserious violence. These items each measure serious forms of violence: (a) threat with aknife or gun, (b) shooting, (c) stabbing, and (d) being “jumped.” The reference periodwas the 12 months preceding the survey. The Add Health survey recorded responsesusing ordinal categories (never = 0, once = 1, more than once = 2). As expected, thedistribution of violent victimization is skewed; nearly 80% of the respondents were notvictims of any of the violent crimes noted above during the reference period,approximately 10% reported one instance of victimization, and the remainder accountedfor two or more incidences of victimization.

Independent Measures

Family context

There were six family-related measures included in the analysis. The first measure,welfare receipt (coded 1 = yes, 0 = no), measures the economic condition of the family.Less than 10% of the sle reported receiving any public assistance. The secondmeasure, parental drinking, measures how often parents consumed five or more drinks inthe previous month (coded 1 = never through 6 = five or more times). We used thisvariable as a proxy for deviant parents. The median parent reported never consumingfive or more drinks. The third item, positive parental feelings toward child, is a

composite index of four items measuring the parent’s opinions about the child, with ahigher positive score indicating warmer feelings toward the child. Because thecomponent items in this index had different metrics, we converted the raw item scoreindicating more positive feelings toward the child. The fourth measure is a two-itemindex tapping the child’s attachment toward the mother, with a higher score indicatingstronger attachment (coded 1 = not at all through 5 = very much). The median score was5, indicating that the typical child is strongly attached to his or her mother. The fifth itemis also a two-item index made up of similar questions but measuring the child’sattachment toward the father (median = 4.5). The final item, family climate, is a four-item index measuring the general feelings of the respondent for the family (as opposedto the parents specifically). Descriptive statistics indicate that the average respondentlived in a family characterized by closeness between the members (median = 4).

Peer delinquency

The friends located in the respondent’s peer network reported participation in five minortypes of delinquency: (a) cigarette smoking, (b) drinking alcohol, (c) getting drunk, (d)skipping school, and (e) doing risky things on a dare. All items had the followingresponse categories: 0 = not at all, 1 = once or twice, 2 = 3 or 4 times, and 3 = 5 or moretimes. The Add Health survey designers then computed the average level of delinquencyamong those peers nominated by the respondent, or who nominated the respondent, andrecorded them on the respondent’s record. We summed the averages for the five items tocreate a peer delinquency index. The average respondent had a peer network thatengaged in these delinquent or risky activities approximately 4 times during thereference period. Most members of the sle had friends who reported relatively lowlevels of delinquency, averaging four different acts of delinquency committed once ortwice in the previous 12 months.

Peer context

Two variables measure additional dimensions of peer context. The first variable, friendscare, measures the feeling that friends have about the respondent.

Scores range from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much). The second variable, activities withfriends, reflects the amount of time the respondent spends simply hanging out withfriends (coding ranges from 0 = not at all to 3 = 5 or more times per week). The averagerespondent felt that friends generally cared (mean = 4.29) and reported going out withfriends 3 or 4 times per week.


We also employed several activities that bivariate analysis indicated as being correlatedwith victimization: sneaking out of the house at night, driving a car, and exercising.Each of these items represents activity outside the home, which should elevatevictimization risk. One might reasonably interpret each of these activities as events thatare likely to occur away from parental guardians and home, and therefore likely to incuradditional risk.


The multivariate data analyses include several demographic control variables. Genderrepresents the effect of being a male respondent (with female respondents being thereference category). Males constituted 47% of the sle. Racial identity is dividedbetween Black and non-Black (reference), with 25% of the sle being Black. Thevariable for respondent age measures age in discrete years, ranging from 11 to 20. Eachof these variables is a correlate of violent victimization (see, e.g., Bureau of JusticeStatistics, 2003; Cohen, Kluegel, #038; Land, 1981; Hindelang et al., 1978).

ResultsWe were interested in learning whether family and peer-related variables predict violentvictimization and significantly improve prediction beyond baseline demographicvariables. In view of the highly skewed distribution of the dependent variable, we use anoverdispersed Poisson regression model to estimate the effect coefficients of theindependent variables. The first column of coefficient in Table 1 (i.e., Model 1)represents the baseline model. As expected, minorities tend to have significantly higherlevels of victimization, as do male and younger members of the sle. Model 1 alsoincludes the three indicators of unsupervised and unstructured activities. Consistent withthe finding of Schreck and colleagues (2002), the data show that teenagers who engagein leisure activities away from home (and, in many cases, away from supervision) alsotend to have higher levels of violent victimization.

Model 2 incorporates the family-related variables into the analysis. The strongestfamily-related predictors of violent victimization are family climate and parentalfeelings for their children. Adolescents living in households where there is a warmer,more accepting climate experience less violence, while those living in families whereparents dislike them have a greater risk for becoming victims. This supports ourexplanation for children as well as reduced exposure to motivated offenders. Some typesof family closeness do not appear to matter, however. The attachment of child to motheror father did not significantly affect victimization risk. Because attachment from theparent to the child is significant, this finding suggests that parents have the more centralrole when it comes to protecting teenagers from violence. More interesting, drinkingactivity by parents failed to significantly influence victimization risk. In addition,incorporating the family-relevant variables did not substantially alter the baselinevariable coefficients, thus indicating that demographic and lifestyle effects areindependent of the family context variables used in the analysis.

Model 3 adds the peer context variable. Peer delinquency and activities with friendswere the significant peer-context predictors. Teenagers whose friends engaged in higherlevels of delinquency and risky activity tended to experience more victimization.Readers should be aware, however, that the peer delinquency measures tap minor formsof delinquency, and that a measure for more serious forms could yield a larger influence.This finding supports our explanation that those who associate with delinquent peers riskenhanced exposure to motivated offenders, ineffective guardianship, and suitability as atarget for violence. In addition, spending time with friends—whether or not they aredelinquent—also increases the risk of experiencing violence. Having friends who careabout the respondent, on the other hand, did not significantly influence level of violentvictimization. Peer context, however, predicted victimization independently ofdemographic, lifestyle, or family context variables—the effect coefficients of thesevariables, in fact, did not seem much affected by the inclusion of the peer contextvariables. That is, the effects of peer context do not seem to detract from the influence offamily variables; each appears to predict violent victimization independently. Inaddition, the continued strength of demographic predictors even in the full modelindicates that researchers looking to explain demographic variation in violentvictimization would have to look at risk factors other than the ones considered in theanalysis.

Table 1 Poisson Regression Estimates for Violent Victimization

Model 1 Model 2 Model3

b β b β b β

Intercept −1.72 — −.47 — −.40 —


Male .90*** .25 .98*** .27 .95*** .26

Black .42*** .10 .35*** .08 .41*** .10

Age −.05 −.41 −.06* −.49 −.08* −.65


Driving around .35* .08 .32* .08 .30* .07

Sneaks out 1.03*** .18 .78*** .13 .74*** .13

Exercises .15*** .09 .15*** .09 .15*** .09

Family context

Welfare receipt — — .32 .05 .31 .04

Climate — — −.26** −.10 −.25** −.09

Parent drinks — — .04 .02 .03 .01

Parents’ feelings forchild — — −.06** −.09 −.05* −.07

Attached to mother — — −.02 −.01 −.02 −.01

Attached to father — — −.03 −.03 −.02 −.02


Peer delinquency — — — — .03** .06

Friends care — — — — −.04 −.02

Activities w/ friends — — — — .10* .05

–2 Log Likelihood 2097.76 — 2091.52 — 2083.46 —

Generalized R2 .08 — .10 — .11 —

*p < .05.

**p < .01.

***p < .001.

ConclusionWhat relevance do family and peer variables have for general victimization risk amongadolescents? Building from the similarities between the correlates of crime andvictimization, the importance of the family and peer contexts in the etiology ofdelinquency indicates that victimization research might benefit from exploring thesecontexts further. Moreover, the centrality of family and peers in the lives of teenagersand the likely influence these contexts have on the convergence of motivated offenders,attractive targets, and guardianship further recommend research on family and peerenvironments.

In the current study, we linked family and peer context to routine activity/lifestylestheories. In the case of the family, we hypothesized that strong bonds of attachmentdecrease the likelihood that meetings between motivated offenders and attractive andvulnerable targets will occur. To test, we measured attachment in several ways:Attachment included (a) general feelings of closeness with the family, (b) feelings ofwarmth toward parents, and (c) parental feelings toward the child. Our results indicatedthat teenagers in households where the family context is characterized by closeness andunderstanding tend to be safe from violent crime. Likewise, children whose parents areemotionally alienated from them tend to experience a higher risk of victimization. Giventhe preliminary nature of research linking family and peer contexts to victimization,readers should be aware that although the results are consistent with the expectations ofroutine activity/lifestyle theories (that family climate and positive parental feelings for

offspring appear to promote better guardianship, increase distance from motivatedoffenders, and prevent children from becoming attractive targets), the interpretation weoffer might not be the only one. For instance, strong bonds of attachment might alsocreate unwillingness to take risks that might lead to victimization (e.g., by behavingbelligerently or insultingly toward others) because victimization jeopardizes thehappiness of loved ones; that is, attachment might show how much more one has to losethrough victimization and thus deter provocative behavior. Further research about thenature of the attachment-victimization link might clarify this issue.

The presence of delinquent peers appears to be a risk factor, in addition to family-relatedcorrelates. The results support the interpretation that spending time around delinquentpeers is a risky venture. First, group delinquency, or identification with delinquents, caninvite retaliation (Baron, Forde, et al., 2001; Singer, 1981). Affiliation with delinquentpeers also suggests exposure to motivated offenders (Lauritsen et al., 1991; Schreck etal., 2002). Second, delinquents may exacerbate risk because they are not the mosteffective of guardians for their friends. We should note that the magnitude coefficients inour estimated model appear somewhat weaker than those coefficients reported inLauritsen et al. (1992). This may be a reflection of the fact that the National YouthSurvey asked respondents to report on the behavior of their peers, whereas the AddHealth asked the peers themselves. Haynie (2001) found a similar reduction in effectmagnitude, although in the case of delinquent behavior. As is the case with the family,the relation between peer group affiliation and general risk of victimization deservesfurther investigation.

The findings also revealed that demographic variables remain important predictors netof the routine activities/lifestyles, family, and peer variables. Lifestyles theory wasoriginally developed to make sense of demographic differences in the risk ofvictimization; however, measures of lifestyles have had very limited success mediatingthe effects of demographic variables. Our research shows further that demographicdifferences appear to come from sources other than family and peer factors as well.Clearly, there is further room for improvement in our attempts to explain gender andracial differences in violent victimization.

The research on family and peer correlates of delinquency is too numerous to easily citehere, yet parallel research linking family and peer characteristics to general violentvictimization has been comparatively scant. Our research indicates that these twocontexts of adolescent life might be useful for understanding variation in risk of violentvictimization. This importance suggests several new areas of inquiry for theory andresearch. The first new direction follows from the findings about family attachment. Ifthe family determines vulnerability, then could family characteristics socialize childrento be either victims

or nonvictims in the long term? The recent extension of self-control theory tovictimization suggests that this might be the case; however, because Gottfredson andHirschi (1990) posited that differences in self-control stabilize in late childhood, the AddHealth sle is not young enough to address this question about the long-term effectsof family characteristics. Thus, the failure of the parental drinking measure tosignificantly influence risk might not say anything about the empirical status of self-control theory. Nevertheless, the possibility that vulnerability to crime is a time-stablepersonal trait clearly casts into question policies intended to reduce victimization byeducating potential victims about what they can do to protect themselves from crime.This possibility also makes sense of the fact that crime prevention educational programshave been ineffective at making students safer from victimization (Finkelhor, Asdigian,#038; Dziuba-Leatherman, 1995). The family may therefore have broader relevance thanthe immediate-situation importance that we suggest here.

The second new direction relates to our results regarding the peer effect finding. Someof the major criminological theories have built themselves around explaining how peerassociations cause crime (Akers, 1985). We explicitly adopted a situationalinterpretation for the peer effect on victimization; however, the extension ofcriminological theories that stress the socializing role of peer associations might offernew insights about how peer group membership matters when it comes to victimization.Although we do not necessarily endorse this approach, further extensions ofcriminological theory to victimization can add richness to an area that has long sufferedfrom a lack of theoretical innovation and diversity. The vast literature on peers anddelinquency, and the substantive debates about the meaning of the peer effects, may wellapply to victimization. Even though our analyses did not exhaust the full range of riskfactors for violent victimization, the results suggest avenues for further enrichingtheories of victimization.

Discussion Questions1. What role do you think family and peers have on victimization of young adults?

What about older adults? Are these constructs relevant for understanding thevictimization of persons who are not teens?

2. What are the policy implications of the findings that peers and family both matterin the occurrence of victimization?

3. How might the construct of low self-control impact the relationship among family,peers, and victimization? Is it possible that persons with low self-control may seekout delinquent peers? Given what you know about the development of self-control, how might the family be related to both self-control and victimization?

4. What other factors not identified in this article or in this section might be relatedto victimization? Why do you think the factors you identified would be importantin understanding why some people are victimized?

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Reading /// 2

Neighborhoods have long been studied for their crime proneness but have been less studied forhow individual-level characteristics of people interact with neighborhood conditions to enhanceor reduce risks for victimization. In his research using data from the Longitudinal Cohort in theProject on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, Chris L. Gibson (2012) investigateshow levels of self-control relate to neighborhood disadvantage to influence violent victimizationrisk. Of particular note, he finds evidence for the “social push” perspective in that low self-control mattered most in the least disadvantaged neighborhoods.

An Investigation of Neighborhood Disadvantage, Low Self-Control, and ViolentVictimization Among Youth

Chris L. Gibson

Vulnerability to crime and violence is influenced by the context in which individualsreside, the activities they choose to engage in, and the individual characteristics thatmake them different from each other (Gibson, Morris, #038; Beaver, 2009; Leventhal #038;Brooks-Gunn, 2003; Maimon #038; Browning, 2010; Mayer #038; Jencks, 1989; Sson,Morenoff, #038; Raudenbush, 2005; Sson, Raudenbush, #038; Earls, 1997; Schreck,Wright, #038; Miller, 2002; Sharkey, 2006; Rountree, Land, #038; Miethe, 1994). Historically,situational and contextual theories have had the largest influence on understandingvariation in personal victimization (Cohen #038; Felson, 1979; Hindelang, Gottfredson, #038;Garofalo, 1978). Ranging from lifestyle choices to the imposed structural conditions ofneighborhoods, a primary focus in personal victimization research has been on howenvironments encountered by people can put them at risk of victimization, and morespecifically expose them to situations where offenders are more proximate. On the otherhand, studies show that individual traits increase individual risk of being victimized. Inparticular, low self-control—defined as the likelihood that individuals will consider theshort- and long-term consequences of their actions in pursuit of self-gratifying behavior—is a trait that has been shown to influence victimization risk (Schreck, 1999). Theseantecedents of personal victimization have largely been independently explored andresearch has often neglected how the two may be integrated to better understandvictimization risk.

Neighborhood Context and Personal VictimizationIt is established that crime and violence tend to be concentrated in disadvantaged urbanareas. That is, compared to other neighborhoods those with elevated rates of poverty,residential turnover, and ethnic heterogeneity often experience more crime, and thoseliving in them are at an increased vulnerability for becoming victims of violence

(Rountree et al., 1994; Sson et al., 1997; Sson #038; Wooldredge, 1987; Smith #038;Jarjoura, 1989).

Several scholars have empirically extended Shaw and McKay’s [1942] research bymeasuring intervening mechanisms that offer explanations for why residents indisorganized neighborhoods are less capable of controlling crime. Factors such as weakinterpersonal networks, inadequate informal social control, subcultural and competitionmodels that condone and encourage violence, and mistrust among neighbors all havebeen studied as mechanisms that are important for explaining the connection betweenstructural disadvantage and neighborhood crime (e.g., Anderson, 1999; Kornhauser,1978; Sson #038; Groves, 1989; Smith #038; Jarjoura, 1989). For instance, stable residencyin a neighborhood can promote friendships with other residents as well as the discoveryof common interests and values.

A recent extension of social disorganization identified the relationships that maypromote order and consequentially lead to less vulnerability to crime and violence, orwhat Sson et al. (1997) coined as “collective efficacy.” Collective efficacy is thewillingness of residents within neighborhoods to exercise informal social control insituations of disorderly conduct (e.g., kids loitering outside while truant, paintinggraffiti) and to intervene for the common good of their neighborhood, coupled with trustand cohesion among neighbors (Sson, 2006; Sson et al., 1997).

Sson et al. (1997) were the first to show the influence of neighborhood collectiveefficacy on violence reduction. Using data from the PHDCN, they found that collectiveefficacy mediated neighborhood structural influences, such as concentrated disadvantageand residential stability, on neighborhood violence. Children living in areas of highcollective efficacy are less likely to engage in violence (Berg #038; Loeber, 2011; Maimon#038; Browning, 2010; Sson et al., 2005). In sum, neighborhoods have higherconcentrations of crime, violence, and adverse outcomes for children and adolescentswhen residents do not trust one another, are less willing to work together for thecommon good of their neighborhood, and when subcultural values are dominated byunconventional values where competition for respect among individuals often results incrime and violence.

Being that violent offending and victimization are strongly correlated (Berg #038; Loeber,2011; Hindelang et al., 1978; Lauritsen, Sson, #038; Laub, 1991), it comes as nosurprise that neighborhood structural and social factors are also related to violentvictimization risk (e.g., Berg #038; Loeber, 2011; Lauritsen, 2001; Sson, 1985;Sson #038; Wooldredge, 1987). Research shows that—independent of demographiccharacteristics—neighborhood poverty, residential mobility, and family structureincrease the risk of personal victimization (Lauritsen, 2001; Miethe #038; McDowall, 1993;

Sson, 1983, 1985). With a desire to explain community variation in victimization,researchers have integrated the routine activity and lifestyles perspectives with socialdisorganization and collective efficacy (e.g., Lee, 2000; Wilcox, Land, #038; Hunt, 2003).Clearly, community social control and collective efficacy intersect with the routineactivity concept of guardianship. Marcus Felson (1998) noticed that the most effectiveguardianship is informal, where the presence of others deters victimization (see alsoFelson, 1986). This is especially true since formal agents of social control (e.g., thepolice) only infrequently appear in citizens’ lives; routine guardianship must thereforeresult from informal control. As Lee (2000, p. 687) stated, guardianship exists within“the constellation of networks and social interactions with other individuals and groupsexternal to the individual.”

Using data from the PHDCN, the British Crime Survey (BCS), and the Seattle phonesurvey, researchers have scrutinized the joint contribution of individual andneighborhood-level risk factors for victimization. For instance, Sson andWooldredge (1987) used data from the BCS and found that while lifestyles of adults(e.g., living alone or frequent out-of-home activity) influenced violent victimization risk,aggregated neighborhood factors independently influenced victimization risk.Specifically, contextual factors including family disruption, social cohesion, and theamount of activity on neighborhood streets all had significant associations with risk ofbeing robbed. More recent work in a variety of contexts shows similar results (e.g.,Fisher, Sloan, Cullen, #038; Lu, 1998; Kennedy #038; Forde, 1990; Miethe #038; McDowall, 1993;Thompson #038; Fisher, 1996). For instance, Miethe and McDowall (1993) used data fromthe Seattle phone survey and found that people living in poorer and busierneighborhoods were at risk of being victims of stranger violence. In a reanalysis of theSeattle data, Rountree et al. (1994) used a multilevel model that accounted for the factthat community residents are not randomly assigned to neighborhoods and found similarfindings; that is, risk of victimization varied significantly across neighborhoods andvictimization was influenced by contextual variables including density, disorder, andethnic heterogeneity.

Indeed, neighborhood variables appeared to determine how effective individualprotective behaviors were. Sson et al. (1997) found that risk of violence amongresidents was reduced in higher collective efficacy neighborhoods in Chicago. Takentogether, there is impressive consistency in the results that link communitycharacteristics to personal victimization, especially when one considers the variety ofcontexts examined.

Studies conducted to date on the influence of neighborhood conditions on personalvictimization share some noteworthy limitations. First, they have largely used adultsles, leaving less knowledge of how neighborhoods influence personal victimizationamong adolescents. This is an important area of research because individuals at mostrisk of becoming victims of violence are adolescents. Second, although relationshipswere found between neighborhood conditions and personal victimization independent ofindividual characteristics, most studies linking neighborhoods and personalvictimization rarely go beyond incorporating individual-level demographic and lifestylecharacteristics that distinguish between individuals (Berg #038; Loeber, 2011). This makesit unclear what role other theoretically derived individual-level risk factors play in (e.g.,low self-control) understanding neighborhood contextual influences on victimizationexperiences. Finally, given the limited attention to neighborhoods and personalvictimization among adolescents, this initial study focuses on the intersection ofneighborhood structural characteristics—commonly used in the social disorganizationliterature—and individual differences between adolescents to better understand theirpersonal victimization.

Source: Gibson, C. L. (2012). An investigation of neighborhood disadvantage, low self-control, and violent victimization among youth. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice,10(1), 41–63.

Self-Control, Lifestyles, and Personal VictimizationGottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory (aka, self-control theory) is one of the mosttested theories of crime, violence, and deviant behavior (Pratt #038; Cullen, 2000), [and]Schreck (1999) was one of the first to recognize that Gottfredson and Hirschi’s self-control theory is also applicable to personal victimization. He observed that self-controltheory is compatible with situational theories of victimization by theoretically describinghow those with lower self-control make decisions about their lifestyles and havepersonal characteristics that make them highly vulnerable to crime (Schreck et al.,2002). For instance, it is likely that low self-control individuals will have moregrievances against them because they are more aggressive and have aversive personal

styles. Felson (1984) found that most physical assaults took place when aggrievedparties attacked the person who had injured them, and this pattern appears often in theviolence literature (e.g., Anderson, 1999; Jacobs #038; Wright, 2006). With respect toproperty victimization, the tendency to lack foresight works against efforts at self-protection as well, since self-protection entails at least some inconvenience (Schreck,1999). Further, characteristics such as impulsivity and risk seeking can lead individualsinto situations that put them in closer proximity to offenders and situations that moregenerally come with a higher risk of being victimized.

Employing various sles, methods, and data collection techniques, recent research bySchreck and others (e.g., Higgins et al., 2010; Schreck et al., 2002, 2006; Stewart,Elifson, #038; Sterk, 2004) has consistently confirmed that those who have lower self-control are at increased risk of victimization. Also, this research has shown that self-control influences victimization independently of lifestyles and other risk factors such aspeers, indicating that the presence of self-control can independently make a situationsafer while low self-control can worsen personal safety and one’s possessions inotherwise harmless situations (Schreck et al., 2002; Stewart et al., 2004). In addition toresearch showing that low self-control has influences on trajectories of violentvictimization, at least one study indicates that low self-control individuals who arevictims are unlikely to change their routines that may protect them from futurevictimization (Schreck et al., 2006).

The Current StudyIt has been established that neighborhood structural conditions and individualdifferences in low self-control can independently influence adolescents’ vulnerability tocrime. At present, the role of low self-control as a facilitator of personal victimizationvis-à-vis imposed neighborhood structural factors is unknown. That is, does the risk ofpersonal victimization depend on both or do they each have independent influences? Theimportance of the current study is then to understand how neighborhood structure andindividual differences in low self-control jointly shape violent victimization risk.

Although not specifically focusing on victimization, several perspectives have beenarticulated to predict how context and traits will interact to shape behavior. First,intended for understanding biosocial phenomena, Raine (1988, 2002) proposed a “socialpush” perspective to discuss the interplay between social environments and traits forunderstanding how biologically related variables influence antisocial outcomes. Hisnotion of “social push” is consistent with the idea that environments can be “weak” or“strong.” Particularly important for the current study is the idea of a “strong”environment, which is a context that purportedly minimizes the influence of individual

differences because of the strong pressures to behave in certain ways (Lynam et al.,2000; Mischel, 1977). Disadvantaged neighborhoods are one context identified byresearchers as a strong environment; they are contexts where normative cultures aremore likely to strongly influence the behavior of people, especially antisocial andviolent behaviors. Anderson’s (1999) qualitative work on the code of the streets inurban, impoverished neighborhoods exemplifies the notion of strong socialenvironments in that even kids who come from what he coined as decent families mustadopt the street code to gain respect among their neighborhood peers to avoid futurevulnerabilities to criminal violence. In such strong neighborhood contexts, it has beenargued that individual differences among adolescents may not matter much at allbecause of the social pressures that are present. On the other hand, weak environmentsare those where the influence of individual differences in traits will have morepronounced impacts on behavior because of the indefinite nature of the social contexts,which may lack pressures to engage in antisocial and criminal activities. In theseenvironments, adolescents’ behaviors are less dictated by environmental social pressuresand more likely to be influenced by individual differences. From a neighborhoodperspective, and for the purpose of the current study, such a context is the leastdisadvantaged neighborhoods that, in comparison to others, have less social pressuresfor adolescents to engage in crime, consequently leading to a reduced threat ofvictimization regardless of individual differences between adolescents.

Second, Gottfredson and Hirschi would likely argue that neighborhood factors andinfluences are to a substantial degree determined by self-selection into neighborhoods.For instance, those with low self-control would be unable to hold work that paid welland therefore would, absent other sources of support, drift toward disadvantagedneighborhoods, thus increasing the potential number of prospective offenders in thearea. Those with low self-control might have friends, but their ties with others are likelyof low quality (Gottfredson #038; Hirschi, 1990). To them, neighborhood disorganizationand vulnerability to crime in the area would be largely a by-product of an excess ofresidents with low self-control. It might follow that any connection betweenneighborhood structure and victimization should be spurious due to an excess ofresidents with low self-control living in structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Third, neighborhood contextual variables may moderate the relationship between lowself-control and victimization. As discussed earlier, many studies have linkedneighborhood structural conditions to victimization risk. Disadvantaged neighborhoodsmay increase vulnerability to crime among individuals due to a lack of collectiveefficacy and/or informal social control that may increase the concentration of crime in aneighborhood and, consequently, their proximity to offenders (Sson et al., 1997).Further, subcultural norms in such neighborhoods may condone violence as an

acceptable means for handling grievances and/or confrontations with others (Anderson,1999). These conditions can lead individuals with low self-control to be especiallyvulnerable to crime because they are likely to find themselves in situations with lowersocial control and socializing with delinquent peers. Further, such individuals havetemperaments that make them more susceptible to grievances and this type of personalstyle combined with living in neighborhoods where violence is often used as a means fordealing with confrontation and gaining respect can make the risk of violence againstthem lified. On the other hand, individuals possessing more self-control may have alowered risk of becoming a victim in disadvantaged neighborhoods because they mayhave a heightened sensitivity to neighborhood dangers and try to make sure they avoidsituations and people that would otherwise put them at elevated risk of personalvictimization. They will likely consider the potential consequences of their actions; inthis case, it would be the real threat of becoming a victim of violence. Further, in viewof the fact that those with

high self-control will act in ways that are less likely to provoke others, as well as becognizant of the necessity of protective behaviors, then it would seem to follow thathigh self-control youth living in high-risk environments may have reduced risk ofbecoming victims because they are more sensitive to the environmental risks.

HypothesesSeveral competing hypotheses can be discerned from the literature on victimization andthe different perspectives discussed above.

Hypothesis 1: Regardless of neighborhood context, lifestyles, and priorinvolvement in violence, those with low self-control will have an increased risk ofbeing victims of violence.Hypothesis 2: Regardless of self-control and other individual characteristics thatincrease the risk of violent victimization, individuals residing in structurallydisadvantaged neighborhoods will have a greater risk of being victims of violence.Hypothesis 3: As argued in the “social push” perspective, low self-control will notpredict violent victimization among those residing in disadvantagedneighborhoods, but it will for those residing in least disadvantaged neighborhoodsthat lack social pressures for crime.Hypothesis 4: Individuals with lower self-control will be at a heightened risk ofviolent victimization in disadvantaged neighborhoods, whereas those possessingmore self-control are less likely to become victims in disadvantagedneighborhoods.

MethodData from the 9-, 12-, and 15-year-old cohorts from the PHDCN-LCS—aninterdisciplinary study on how the contexts in which children and adolescents residecontribute to their behavior and psychological development—were analyzed to testhypotheses in the current study. Violent victimization is predicted using individual-levelpredictors from Waves 1 and 2 of the LCS. Additionally, 1990 U.S. Census data wereused to measure neighborhood-level structure of the 80 neighborhood clusters (NCs),that is, aggregations of 1–3 census tracts. Through combining data from the LCS and the1990 U.S. Census, the PHDCN is appropriate for assessing the influence andintersection between neighborhood and individual-level factors on violent victimizationexperiences among children and adolescents. A wealth of neighborhood structural,organizational, and social process measures exist that have been validated over time,making the PHDCN a unique study on neighborhoods (Raudenbush #038; Sson, 1999;

Sson et al., 1997).

Data and SlingThe PHDCN was implemented in 1995 to collect quality data on the neighborhoodcontexts in which children and adolescents develop. The sling design of thePHDCN contains two components: selection of NCs and selection of children and theirprimary caregivers for the longitudinal study. A sle of 80 NCs was selected fromwithin the strata of 343 NCs for the PHDCN-LCS. With few exceptions, the 80 sledNCs were representative of the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomically diverse Chicagoneighborhoods (Sson et al., 1997; Sson, Morenoff, #038; Earls, 1999).

Within the 80 NCs, approximately 6,500 children, adolescents, and their primarycaregivers were randomly selected. Starting with a random selection of block groupswithin NCs, a list of dwellings was compiled and household members were enumerated.In total, approximately 40,000 dwellings were screened. Study recruitment consisted ofinfants, children, adolescents (including 18-year-olds) and their primary caregivers. Forselection, subjects had to be within approximately 6 months of the following agecategories: 0, 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, and 18 years. Extensive interviews were conducted withthese children and their primary caregivers over three waves of data collection spacedapproximately 2.5 years apart. The longitudinal study began in 1995; the second waveof data collection occurred between 1997 and 1999; and the third wave of data wascollected between 2000 and 2001. This effort resulted in seven cohorts that span aperiod of development between infancy and early to mid adulthood.1

Analysis SleThe analysis sle consists of 1,889 children and adolescents from the 9- (n = 669),12- (n = 674), 15-year-old cohorts (n = 546), and their primary caregivers from Waves 1and 2.2 Table 1 reports several descriptive statistics for the analysis sle. The sleis 15% White, 34% Black, 47% Hispanic, and 3.5% Other. Males make up 50% of thesle and the average age at Wave 1 is approximately 12 years old. Approximately23% of the children were from single-parent households. These children and theirfamilies resided within 79 of the NCs.

Table 1 Descriptive Statistics (n = 1,889)

AnalysisSle Victim Nonvictim

Dependent Variable

Violent victimization .294 (.456) — —


Sex .502 (.500) .574 (.021) .473 (.014)

Age 11.955 (2.422) 12.555(.102)11.705(.065)*

Single parent .229 (.420) .295 (.019) .202 (.011)*


White .150 (.357) .133 (.014) .157 (.010)

Black .343 (.475) .403 (.021) .318 (.466)*

Hispanic .472 (.500) .433 (.021) .488 (.014)*

Other .035 (.185) .031 (.007) .038 (.005)

Socioeconomic status −.102 (1.422) −.067(.062) −.116 (.039)

Family and parenting

Family attachment .016 (.964)−.100(.045) .065 (.025)*

Warmth .027 (.951) −.046(.041) .056 (.026)*

Supervision .026 (.960) −.023(.043) .046 (.026)

Lack of hostility −.001 (.990) −.021(.043) .007 (.027)

Antisocial propensity

Low self-control −.005 (.978) .217 (.043) −.097(.026)*

Behavioral and lifestyle

Delinquent peers −.022 (.969) .250 (.046) −.136(.024)*

Violent offending .330 (.470) .478 (.021) .268 (.012)*

Unstructuredsocializing −.001 (2.661) .743 (.114)


Note: *p < .05.


Dependent Variable

Violent victimization

A violent victimization measure was created using responses to seven questions from theExposure to Violence (ETV) interview administered to subjects during Wave 2interviews. Subjects were asked whether in the past 12 months they have been hit,slapped or beaten up, attacked with a weapon, shot, shot at, sexually assaulted, and ifsomeone has threatened to seriously hurt them. Given that approximately 70% (n =1,333) of the analysis sle reported not being a victim of any of the seven types ofviolent victimizations and that very few experienced two or more of these,3 a decisionwas made to use a prevalence measure indicating whether youths reported beingviolently victimized in the past 12 months. To this end, 29.4% (n = 556) of the childrenand adolescents in the analysis sle reported being a victim of one or more of theseven types of violent victimizations during the 12 months prior to Wave 2 interviews.

Individual-Level Independent Variable

Low self-control

Following past research (Gibson et al., 2009; Gibson, Sullivan, Jones, #038; Piquero, 2010),a 17-item measure of behavioral indicators of low self-control was constructed using theEmotionality, Activity, Sociability, and Impulsivity Temperament Survey (EASI)-temperament instrument. Administered during Wave 1 interviews, primary caregiverswere asked to report on their children’s inhibitory control, decision making, risk andsensation seeking, and diligence or persistence in completing tasks (see also Buss #038;Plomin, 1975), which are consistent with Gottfredson and Hirschi’s (1990) definition ofself-control as well as past empirical research (see Grasmick, Tittle, Bursik, #038; Arneklev,1993).

Reflecting what Gottfredson and Hirschi call impulsivity, inhibitory control reflects theinability to delay gratification and control frustrations, such as trouble controllingimpulses and having problems with resisting temptations. Items measuring decision timemeasure the (in)ability to delay decision making until alternatives can be seriouslyconsidered including saying the first thing that comes into one’s head, trouble making upmy mind, and acting on the spur of the moment. Taken together, inhibitory control anddecision time reflect what Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) refer to as impulsivity, a maincomponent of low self-control. Sensation seeking, or what Gottfredson and Hirschi(1990) refer to as risk seeking, reflects a preference for novel stimuli, such as seekingnew and exciting experiences, doing “crazy” things, and willingness to try anything.Persistence, or diligence as Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) call it, is the likelihood that achild will complete or follow through with tasks they start. Children with low self-control are often the first to initiate a task, but also the first to abort them, especially

when it does not involve immediate gratification.

For each subject, item responses were summed and standardized α = .68. More positivescores indicate lower self-control, whereas more negative scores indicate higher self-control. Other studies using the PHDCN also find this measure to be reliable (also seeGibson et al., 2009, 2010).

Individual-Level Control Variables

Family attachment and support

Family attachment and support has been repeatedly shown to be a predictor of violenceand victimization and it has also been related to children and adolescents’ self-controldevelopment (Gottfredson #038; Hirschi, 1990). Following Maimon and Browning (2010),a family attachment and support measure was constructed using 6 items from theProvision of Social Relations instrument administered during the Wave 1 interviews (α= .60). This measure gauges the level of perceived emotional and social supportprovided to the respondents from their families. On a scale ranging from not true (1) tovery true (3), respondents were asked to respond to the following statements regardingtheir family: “I know my family will always be there for me,” “my family tells me theythink I am valuable,” “my family has confidence in me,” “my family helps me findsolutions to problems,” “I know my family will always stand by me,” and “sometime Iam not sure I can rely on family” (reverse coded). The measure was standardized withhigher scores indicating more family attachment and support.

Parenting measures

Parenting has been implicated in the development of self-control, as a social controlmechanism for decreasing the likelihood of misbehavior, and has been associated withadolescent victimization. Parenting measures were taken from the Home Observationfor Measurement of the Environment (HOME) Inventory (Caldwell #038; Bradley, 1984;Leventhal, Selner-O’Hagan, Brooks-Gunns, Bingenheimer, #038; Earls, 2004). Thisinventory is generally designed to measure the quantity and quality of stimulation in achild’s home environment from primary caregivers.

Parental sensitivity and responsiveness is one domain of parenting measured by theHOME, which consists of parental warmth and parental lack of hostility (andpunitiveness). Derived from observations of primary caregivers and children during thein-home interviews at Wave 1, the parental warmth measure consists of 9 items.Likewise, parental lack of hostility consists of several observations that interviewers

recorded during the in-home interviews. Reflecting a primary caregiver’s knowledge oftheir child’s whereabouts, familiarity with child’s friends, and rules surrounding curfewsand activities with friends, the parental supervision measure is a 13-item scale of howprimary caregivers directly and indirectly monitor and supervise their children. Eachmeasure was standardized (Gibson et al., 2010 reported these measures to havereliabilities ranging between .50 and .72; also see Leventhal et al., 2004). More positivescores indicate more supervision, more warmth, and less hostility.

Lifestyle, situational, and behavioral variables

Similar to prior research (Maimon #038; Browning, 2010; Osgood #038; Haynie, 2005) peerdelinquency is measured using 11 items from the Deviance of Peers instrumentadministered at Wave 1 to children and adolescents to obtain information regarding thequantity of their peers engaging in a variety of delinquent behaviors. For exle,respondents were asked “during the past year, how many of the people you spend timewith” have “stolen something worth more than $5 but less than $500,” “gone into ortried to go into a building to steal something,” “hit someone with the idea of hurtingthem,” and “attacked someone with a weapon with the idea of seriously hurting them.”Responses to questions ranged from 1 (none of them) to 3 (all of them). The measurewas standardized (α = .81) and higher scores indicate having a larger quantity ofdelinquent peers.

Prior violent offending behavior is included because [of] the robust relationship betweenoffenders and victims and the evidence that shows low self-control is related to bothviolent offending and victimization. During the first wave of data collection, childrenand adolescents were asked to self-report their involvement in a variety of criminal andserious delinquent acts. Seven questions that asked about violence are used to create adichotomous measure indicating whether a respondent ever engaged in at least oneviolent offense. For instance, violent offending items include items such as “have youever:” “attacked someone with a weapon,” “used a weapon or force to get money orthings from people,” “been involved in a gang fight in which someone was hurt [or]threatened with harm,” and “thrown objects, such as a rock or bottles, at people.” Thosereporting at least one violent offense were coded as 1 and those reporting none of theviolent offenses are coded 0. Of the analysis sle, 33% (n = 623) reported engagingin at least one of the violent offenses.

Unstructured socializing with peers is also included as a control because past researchshows that it is related to delinquent behavior (Osgood, Wilson, O’Mally, Bachman, #038;Johnston, 1996), and such lifestyles more generally have been linked to victimizationrisk (Schreck et al., 2002). Similar to Osgood et al. (1996) and Maimon and Browning

(2010), a measure of unstructured socializing with peers was constructed using a 4-itemscale of responses to questions that asked children and adolescents during Wave 2:“How often do you ride around in a car/motorcycle for fun,” “how often do you hangout with friends,” “how often do you go to parties,” and “how many days a week do yougo out after school/at night.” Responses to question[s] range from 1 (never) to 5 (almostevery day). The measure was standardized with higher scores indicating more time spentin unstructured activities with peers (α = .58).

Demographic characteristics

SES is measured using the principal component of three variables including householdincome, maximum education level of primary caregiver and partner, and thesocioeconomic index (SEI) for primary caregivers and partner’s jobs.4 Gender of thesubject is coded 0 (female) or 1 (male). Age of subject at Wave 1 is measured as acontinuous variable.

Neighborhood-Level Variable

Concentrated disadvantage

Neighborhood disadvantage—or neighborhood poverty and segregation—is measuredusing a composite measure of several structural characteristics within each NC of thePHDCN-LCS. Originally created by Sson et al. (1997) and shown to be a reliableconstruct, this measure is composed of 6 items taken from the 1990 U.S. DecennialCensus and includes the following variables: percentage of neighborhood residentsbelow the poverty line, percentage on public assistance, percentage of female-headedfamilies, percentage unemployed, density of children by percentage younger than 18,and percentage of Blacks. Higher scores on this measure reflect more concentrateddisadvantage.

Analytic Strategy

The analysis will proceed in several steps for testing hypotheses regarding neighborhoodstructure, low self-control, and violent victimization. First, bivariate comparisons aremade for victims of violence and nonvictims to determine the demographic andtheoretically derived characteristics that distinguish the two groups. Second, a series ofmultivariate logistic regression models are estimated to determine the direct influence ofneighborhood structure and low self-control on violent victimization. Third, additionalmultivariate logistic regression models are estimated to determine whether the influenceof low self-control on violent victimization varies as a function of the level ofneighborhood disadvantage in which adolescents reside. Finally, conditional predictedprobabilities are estimated to allow a better visualization of the association between lowself-control and violent victimization in the least and most disadvantagedneighborhoods.


Differences Between Victims and Nonvictims of Violence

Table 1 shows comparisons between subjects who self-reported at least one violentvictimization to those not reporting a violent victimization 12 months prior to Wave 2 ondemographic characteristics, family/parenting variables, behavioral and lifestylevariables. First, a significantly larger percentage of males reported being victimizedcompared to females; of those who were victims, 57% were males and of those whowere nonvictims, 47% were males. On average, victims of violence were significantlyolder than nonvictims; victims had a mean age of 12.55 at Wave 1, whereas nonvictims’average age was 11.705. Respondents who were victims of violence were also morelikely to be from single-parent households where the primary caregiver is typically the

biological mother, 29.5% of victims compared to 20.2% of nonvictims. Black andHispanic youth were significantly more likely to be victims of violence, but Whites wereno more likely to be a victim than others. Second, child and adolescent victims ofviolence, on average, had significantly less family support and warmth from theirprimary caregiver compared to nonvictims, yet no significant differences were observedfor average levels of supervision and hostility from their primary caregivers. Third,several significant differences were found between victims and nonvictims for lifestyle,situational, and behavioral characteristics. Victims of violence were significantly morelikely to report engaging in violent offending at Wave 1; 33% reported engaging in atleast one of the violent offenses in their lifetime. Victims of violence also reportedhaving significantly more delinquent peers and spending more time in unstructuredactivities with peers. Fourth, victims of violence, on average, have significantly lowerself-control compared to nonvictims; victims, on average, have .217 standard deviationunits greater than the mean, whereas nonvictims, on average, have .097 standarddeviation units below the mean. Finally, victims were not significantly more likely tolive in disadvantaged neighborhoods compared to nonvictims.

Multivariate Analysis Predicting Violent Victimization

To first address the hypothesis that violent victimization is more likely among thoseliving in more structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods, a hierarchical generalizedlinear model (HGLM) was estimated. Although not reported, results showed that while apositive relationship was observed between concentrated disadvantage and violentvictimization, this relationship was not statistically significant. This analysis confirmsthe bivariate comparison that neighborhood structural disadvantage did not

have a direct, statistically significant influence on violent victimization at Wave 2 among adolescents.

Table 2 shows [a] logistic regression model predicting Wave 2 violent victimization, [with robust standard errors to account for the fact thatyouth are nested in neighborhood].

Table 2 shows a full model that includes demographic characteristics, family and parenting variables, low self-control, and behavioral andlifestyle characteristics. Delinquent peers, self-reported violent offending, and unstructured time spent with peers each have independentsignificant associations with violent victimization. Youth who have a larger portion of their friends that engage in delinquent activities aremore likely to report being violently victimized (OR = 1.196; p < .05). Those reporting that they have committed at least one violentoffense in their lifetime at Wave 1 were also more likely to have reported a violent victimization compared to their nonviolent counterparts.Unstructured time spent with peers also has a statistically significant association with violent victimization (OR = 1.117; p < .05); youthspending more time in unstructured activities with peers are more likely to report being victims of violence. And, after statisticallycontrolling for behavioral and lifestyle measures commonly known to have moderate-to-strong influences on violent victimization, youthwith lower self-control were still significantly more likely to report being a victim of violence compared to those who possess more self-control (OR = 1.287; p < .05). While sex, age, and single-parent family structure retained significant associations, the difference in violentvictimization between Blacks and Whites is accounted for by behavioral and lifestyle characteristics. Blacks are no longer more likely to bevictimized than Whites after statistically controlling for peers, violent offending, and unstructured time spent in activities.

Table 2 Multivariate Logistic RegressionPredicting Violent Victimization (n =




Sex 1.325* (.154)

Age 1.090* (.026)

Single parent 1.466* (.209)

Race (Ref = White)

Black 1.313 (.205)

Hispanic 1.402 (.242)

Other 1.097 (.336)

Socioeconomic status 1.047 (.050)

Family and parenting

Family attachment .964 (.064)

Warmth .988 (.059)

Supervision 1.013 (.062)

Antisocial propensity

Low self-control 1.287* (.073)

Behavioral and lifestyle

Delinquent peers 1.196* (.063)

Violent offending 1.464* (.172)

Unstructured time 1.117* (.025)

χ2 172.51*

Log likelihood −1050.96

Pseudo R2 .08Note: 79 neighborhood clusters.OR = odds ratio; RSE = Robust standard errors.

*p < .05.

Neighborhood Disadvantage and Violent Victimization

Table 3 explores the association between low self-control and violent victimization for youth residing in neighborhoods that arecharacterized by different levels of concentrated disadvantage. Neighborhoods were classified as low, medium, or high concentrateddisadvantage by defining those at the lowest 25th percentile and lower as low disadvantaged; highest 25th percentile and higher as the mostdisadvantaged; and those in between as medium disadvantaged. The pattern of findings that emerged regarding low self-control and violentvictimization across the range of disadvantaged neighborhoods is telling.

Table 3 Logistic Regression Analysis Predicting Violent Victimization by NeighborhoodConcentrated Disadvantage (n = 1,889)

Low Disadvantage

(n = 501)


Medium Disadvantage

(n = 919)


High Disadvantage

(n = 469)



Sex 1.502* (.311) 1.041 (.168) 1.756 (.408)

Age 1.034 (.052) 1.104* (.033) 1.104 (.067)

Single parent 1.300 (.370) 1.794* (.365) 1.163 (.323)

Race (Ref = White)

Black 1.783* (.514) 1.306 (.352) 3.835 (3.234)

Hispanic 1.401 (.354) 1.710 (.508) 2.980 (2.565)

Other .630 (.317) 1.615 (.786) 3.803 (4.236)

Socioeconomic status .994 (.082) 1.108 (.069) .935 (.105)

Family and parenting

Family attachment .866 (.132) .938 (.089) 1.123 (.148)

Warmth 1.071 (.117) .959 (.074) .959 (.146)

Supervision 1.027 (.116) 1.018 (.104) 1.045 (.149)

Lack of hostility 1.162 (.195) 1.052 (.080) .927 (.076)

Antisocial propensity

Low self-control 1.390* (.177) 1.335* (.106) 1.125 (.134)

Behavioral and lifestyle

Delinquent peers 1.382* (.219) 1.151* (.077) 1.180 (.122)

Violent offending 1.345* (.322) 1.468* (.259) 1.496 (.349)

Unstructured socializing 1.122* (.050) 1.138* (.037) 1.108* (.049)

χ2 601.47 139.97 133.08

Log likelihood −272.868 −495.676 −270.539

Pseudo R2 .100 .090 .084Note: OR = odds ratio; RSE = robust standard errors.

*p < .05.

First, a logistic regression model for youth living in the lowest disadvantaged neighborhoods reveals that the association between low self-control and victimization was statistically significant and positive. Consistent with the model reported above, youth with lower self-controlwere more likely to report being victims of violence. Youth in the lowest disadvantaged neighborhoods with more delinquent peers; thosereporting past involvement in violent offending; and those spending more time in unstructured activities with peers were significantly morelikely to report being victims of violence. In addition, males and Blacks were more likely to report being victims of violence in the lowestdisadvantaged neighborhoods. Unlike in the analysis in Table 2, significant differences in violent victimization between Blacks and Whitespersisted after controlling for violent offending, delinquent peers, and unstructured time spent with peers.

Second, Table 3 shows results predicting violent victimization for those youth residing in medium or moderate disadvantagedneighborhoods. Results reported in this model are largely consistent with those from the low neighborhood disadvantage analysis. That is,low self-control continued to have a significant and positive association with violent victimization for youth residing in moderatelydisadvantaged neighborhoods. Moreover, adolescents in moderately disadvantaged neighborhoods who socialize with more delinquentpeers, engage in violent offending, and spend more time in unstructured activities with peers continue to have significantly heightened riskof being victimized by violence.

Finally, Table 3 shows strikingly different results for predictors of violent victimization among those adolescents living in the mostdisadvantaged neighborhoods. Unlike low and moderately disadvantaged neighborhoods, self-control did not have a statistically significantassociation with violent victimization in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. That is, adolescents residing in high disadvantagedneighborhoods with lower self-control were no more likely than those with more self-control to report being a victim of violence duringWave 2 interviews. In addition, delinquent peers and violent offending—factors that past research has consistently found to be correlates ofvictimization—were not significantly associated with violent victimization. Unstructured time spent with peers is the only lifestylecharacteristic that significantly increased the likelihood of adolescents’ violent victimization in highly disadvantaged neighborhoods.5

Conditional Probabilities of Violent Victimization: The Differing Influences of Self-Control

This section reports the conditional predicted probabilities for violent victimization across levels of low self-control for youth living in thelowest and highest disadvantaged neighborhoods while holding constant all demographic, family, and lifestyle variables in previous models.Figure 1 shows a range of standardized self-control scores on the x-axis such that 0 is the average self-control score and negative andpositive values represent standard deviations above and below the mean; those values above the mean indicate lower self-control and thosebelow represent more self-control. Probabilities of violent victimization are represented on the y-axis.

Figure 1 Conditional Probabilities of Violent Victimization

Figure 1 shows low self-control’s influence on violent victimization across neighborhood contexts. First, the probability of violentvictimization increases as a function of low self-control scores, with individuals having lower self-control (higher scores) also having agreater chance of being victims of violence, although in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods the association between self-control andvictimization was not statistically significant. In the lowest disadvantaged neighborhoods, the probabilities of violent victimization increaseexponentially from a low to high likelihood of victimization, whereas the chance of being victimized across low self-control scores is not asnearly pronounced in the high disadvantaged neighborhoods and did not reach statistical significance. Second, even at the highest levels ofself-control, it appears that the difference in violent victimization for those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods is nearly double the riskcompared to those who live in the lowest disadvantaged neighborhoods. For instance, youth scoring a –2.5 on the low self-control measure,that is, possessing the most self-control, have almost a 15% chance of being victimized but those in the highest disadvantagedneighborhoods who have a similar score have almost a 25% chance. In contrast, youth living in the least disadvantaged neighborhoods andwho have the lowest self-control are at most risk of being violently victimized compared to those who have the lowest self-control andreside in the most

disadvantaged neighborhoods. In fact, youth scoring a 2.5 on the low self-controlmeasure, that is, possessing the lowest amount of self-control, in the lowestdisadvantaged neighborhoods have approximately a 45% chance of being a victim ofviolence compared to approximately 35% for those who live in the most disadvantagedneighborhoods and have a score of 2.5 on the low self-control measure.

Discussion and ConclusionThe current study contributed to [the] literature by weaving together two strains ofcriminological research—social disorganization and self-control—to better understandyouths’ vulnerability to violence. Results from a variety of different multivariate modelssupport the idea that these two perspectives should not be considered separately forunderstanding victimization. Three findings are particularly noteworthy. First, thisstudy’s findings confirm work by Schreck and others (Higgins et al., 2010; Schreck,1999; Schreck et al., 2002) showing that adolescents with less self-control areindependently at more risk of becoming victims of crime and violence. More impressiveis the fact that this relationship remained in light of situational, behavioral, and lifestylecharacteristics that are commonly chosen by low self-control individuals and that alsoinfluence their vulnerability to violence. Second, and running counter to research onneighborhoods and victimization among adults, adolescents residing in the mostdisadvantaged neighborhoods were not significantly more likely to report beingvictimized compared to those residing in less disadvantaged neighborhoods, althoughthe substantive differences were in the expected direction. Finally, and most importantly,it was found that self-control’s influence on victimization is conditioned byneighborhood type. Low self-control had a statistically important influence onvictimization for those who live in the least disadvantaged neighborhoods where levelsof self-control did not influence victimization among those living in the mostdisadvantaged neighborhoods. I interpret this finding as largely consistent with the“social push” perspective (Raine, 2002).

To recap, the social push perspective implies that in disadvantaged and criminogenicenvironments more social pressure exists for individuals to engage in crime, violence,and other illegal activities, especially for adolescents and those emerging into adulthood.As such, individual differences between people will have less impact on their behaviorbecause the environmental context overrides individual risk. While Raine (1988, 2002)intended for this explanation to be specific to the influence of biological-based traits onantisocial outcomes, it is highly consistent with the measures and findings in the presentstudy for two reasons. First, although Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) theoretically arguethat self-control is largely influenced by parental disciplining practices, recent empirical

findings show that variation in self-control is partially explained by biological factorssuch as genetics (Beaver et al., 2008; Wright #038; Beaver, 2005), making self-control atrait that fits well under the social push framework. Second, given the strong overlapbetween offending and victimization (Lauritsen et al., 1991), and the studies that findsimilar characteristics that predict both, it is easier to make the leap from antisocialoutcomes that Raine discusses (e.g., violence, conduct problems, etc.) to violentvictimization risk.

Questions still remain as to why variation in violent victimization among adolescentsfrom disadvantaged neighborhoods is not significantly influenced by low self-control,and why those living in the least disadvantaged neighborhoods are. The amount ofcrime, proximity to offenders, and social and cultural processes occurring indisadvantaged neighborhoods may make all adolescents equally vulnerable to violence,and consequently overpowering the effects of individual differences. For instance, it isplausible to speculate that victimization risk is similar for those living in neighborhoodswhere residents are less likely to look after youth, especially in high crimeenvironments. Given the lack of community informal social controls and high crimerates, it is no surprise that these children are supervised more often compared to those inless disadvantaged neighborhoods, yet supervision in this study does not seem to reducerisk of victimization either in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Further, subculturalexplanations are also plausible. Risk may be similar, regardless of individual differencesamong adolescents, because low and high self-control adolescents face similar obstaclesfor attaining status and economic success, which in turn may lead them to adoptunconventional ideals to enhance their status. This can contribute to the emergence ofvalues that encourage and condone violence or an “I will get them before they get me”mentality. Such subcultural values encourage hostile and aggressive sanctions for thosewho are perceived to be disrespectful, but environments such as these can make allyouth vulnerable to crime and more aware of the need to use violence and exhibitaggression in attempts to avoid attacks from their peers (Anderson, 1999). As Andersonstates (1999, p. 33), street cultures present in such neighborhoods provide a “rationaleallowing those who are inclined to aggression to precipitate encounters in an approvedway.” Unfortunately, these adaptations can lead to being on the receiving end ofviolence too (Stewart, Schreck, #038; Simons, 2006). Future research should explore thesereasons for why individual difference variables such as self-control do not influencevictimization risk in disadvantage[d] neighborhoods.

This study does not provide a conclusive explanation as to why low self-controlinfluences violent victimization for adolescents residing in the least and moderatelydisadvantaged neighborhoods. As argued by Raine (2002), this could be because thesocial pressures found in the most disadvantaged contexts are less likely, nonexistent, or

attenuated. It could also be that different social processes are operating in theseneighborhoods that make low self-control’s influence on victimization morepronounced. Whatever the case, it will be left for future research to explore this finding.

Implications, Limitations, and Future Research

Findings from this study have several potential implications for reducing victimizationrisk among adolescents. Because low self-control has such far reaching influences on aspectrum of social and health-related outcomes across developmental stages (Moffitt etal., 2011), it is important to identify early childhood precursors to low self-control toprevent the accumulation of negative outcomes in children’s futures, one of which isvulnerability to violence. Although early prevention is important, promising researchsuggests that self-control is plastic and is susceptible to change in later stages of one’slife course (Roberts, Walton, #038; Viechtbauer, 2006). Thus, unique and universalprevention and intervention efforts are warranted for targeting developmentally sensitiveperiods to train and encourage individuals in making informed decisions and to considerthe consequences of their own behavior. Nonetheless, as Moffitt et al. (2011, p. 2967)stated, “Early childhood intervention that enhances self-control is likely to bring agreater return on investment than harm reduction programs targeting adolescencealone.” According to the present study’s findings, such efforts may be particularlyimportant for those living in the least disadvantaged neighborhood environments.

This is not to say that we should neglect opportunities to change self-control amongthose children and youth in more disadvantaged environments. In fact, in an analysis notreported, youth in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods had, on average, the lowestlevels of self-control. Given the broader negative consequences that can stem from thistrait, it is equally important to improve self-control among youth from impoverishedneighborhoods, especially since families residing in such neighborhoods may not havethe resources to do so. It will also be important to identify and address theenvironmental forces that override the influence of individual differences on crimevulnerability in disadvantaged neighborhoods. Finally, unstructured time spent with

peers was the only factor that exhibited a statistically significant relationship withvictimization risk of adolescents across each category of neighborhood disadvantage.Parents may have success at reducing their children’s risk of victimization by limitingthe unstructured activities they engage in with peers.

The challenging ideas proposed set a modest research agenda that will allowcriminologists to further understand how the intersection between neighborhoods andindividual traits may jointly and independently help minimize youths’ vulnerability tocrime and more specifically reduce their risk of victimization.

Discussion Questions1. What evidence is found for the role of lifestyles/routine activities and

victimization?2. Why do you think that no significant relationship was found between

neighborhood structural disadvantage and violent victimization?3. What is the “social push” perspective? What is the implication of the findings

from this perspective for policy?4. This paper investigates multiple theoretical perspectives. Given its findings, what

theory do you think is able to best explain victimization and why?

NotesThe author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,authorship and/or publication of this article: This project was supported by Grant No.2009-IJ-CX-0041 awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of JusticePrograms, U.S. Department of Justice.

1. At Wave 1 of data collection, there were 1,269 subjects in Cohort 0; 1,003 subjects inCohort 3; 980 subjects in Cohort 6; 828 subjects in Cohort 9; 820 subjects in Cohort 12;696 subjects in Cohort 15; and 632 subjects in Cohort 18.

2. Due to attrition, the original sle of 2,345 subjects in Cohorts 9, 12, and 15 wasreduced to 1,889. T-test comparisons of demographic and individual characteristics forthose in the attrition group to those remaining in the sle at Wave 2 revealed nostatistically significant difference for age, gender, SES, and low self-control; however,statistically significant difference emerged for delinquent peers, single-parent familystructure, and supervision, with those not in the sle at Wave 2 having, on average,more delinquent peers, from single-parent households, and less supervision. To account

for additional missing data, regression imputation was used to arrive at the analysissle.

3. In the 12 months prior to Wave 2 interviews, 18.5% (n = 351) reported experiencingone type of victimizations, 6.99% (n = 132) reported experiencing two types ofvictimizations, 2.38% (n = 45) reported experiencing three types of victimizations,0.95% (n = 18) experienced four types of victimizations, and 0.53% experienced fivetypes of victimization.

4. See http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/PHDCN/imputations.htmlhttp://www.icpsr.umich.edu/PHDCN/imputations.html for a detailed explanation of thecomputation and imputation of this index.

5. Each of the models was assessed for multicollinearity. With variance inflation factors(VIFs) below 10, I ruled out the possibility of severe multicollinearity in each of thelogistic regression models. Those variables showing the largest VIFs were the racevariables in Model 3 of Table 3 when estimating the influence of low self-control onviolent victimization in the most disadvantaged neighborhoods. When race wasexcluded from the model, it did not affect the results; low self-control still did not reacha level of statistical significance.

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