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Study of Individual and Situational Antecedents of Violent Victimization

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 19 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 159-180
Christopher J. Schreck; Richard A. Wright; J. Mitchell Miller
Date Published
March 2002
22 pages
This article presents a conceptual framework that links individual trait and situational antecedents of violent victimization.
One hypothesis is that there should be a direct inverse relationship between self-control and violent victimization -- as self-control increases, the level of violent victimization should decrease. Another is that strong social ties should reduce the level of risk for personal violence. The amount of time spent engaged in risky lifestyles, as well as contact with delinquent peers, should directly increase the level of violent victimization, net of all other controls. Self-control should indirectly affect activities through social ties and should also influence violent victimization through both ties and activities. Strong social ties may also reduce the level of risky activities and, in turn, indirectly decrease the level of personal violence. This study used data from a sample of 1,139 students attending four junior and senior high schools on May 5-8, 1997, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The data showed that both situational and individual factors contributed to the risk of violent victimization. The presence of high self-control led to significantly fewer encounters with personal violence. Self-control had the largest effect size on victimization of any of the variables in the analysis. A reasonable interpretation may be that those with less self-control are more likely to become targets of violence even in situations that are otherwise relatively safe. The respondents who had many close friends with arrest records also tended to share higher risks, supporting the belief that the delinquent peer group victimized fellow members and/or drew retaliation because of delinquent activities against others. Besides its direct influence on victimization, the peer effect also operates indirectly through risky lifestyles. Both the peer and risky lifestyle effects are of a similar magnitude. The evidence supports the argument that self-control and situational factors each directly and independently affect the level of victimization. Family and school ties do not relate to violent victimization, either directly or indirectly, net of the other variables. 1 figure, 4 tables, 7 footnotes, 50 references, appendix