U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Elderly Victims of Crime - A Refinement of Theory in Victimology

NCJ Number
M C Sengstock; J Liang
Date Published
23 pages
This paper examines the relationship between elderly victims and the interaction model of criminal causation which proposed that the victim be viewed as a participant in the penal couple and should bear some 'functional responsibility' for the crime.
In addition, the study examines data from previously published studies of elderly victims of crime and from elderly victims in the U.S. National Opinion Research Center (NORC) victimization survey. The data suggest that the social interaction model does not fit criminal victimization of the elderly, since they are victimized by persons much younger than themselves, and by persons they had not noticed. They tend to be victimized by persons from their own neighborhoods. Thus, they appear to fit the social interaction model in that they have some contact with the offender, but not sufficient contact to be aware of a possible danger. These data suggest the necessity of refining the social interaction model of criminal causation. Three separate models are proposed. In the Victim Precipitation Model, the victim actually entices the offender to commit the illegal act. In the Conflict Model, offender and victim are engaged in extended conflict over a period of time, and they alternate in the roles of offender and victim. In the Available Victim Model, the offender has observed the victim and can predict the victim's behavior, but the victim has only a limited awareness of the offender. The Available Victim Model best fits the case of the elderly victim; such a situation is particularly dangerous for the victim. Further research is necessary to test the validity and frequency of incidence situations which fit these models. Tabular and graphic data, and 57 references are provided. (Author abstract modified).