Structural and Cultural Determinants of Child Homicide: A Cross-National Analysis

By Briggs, Carl M.; Cutright, Phillips | Violence and Victims, January 1, 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Structural and Cultural Determinants of Child Homicide: A Cross-National Analysis

Briggs, Carl M., Cutright, Phillips, Violence and Victims

Models of structural characteristics that may influence national infant and child homicide victim rates are derived from prior research. Expected effects of structural characteristics from a "social control" perspective are compared with expected effects from a "guardians, suitable target" perspective. Gartner's (1991) claim that structural factors influence victim rates only in nations with low social insurance expenditures is also evaluated. Statistical analysis of three infant and child age groups with homicide rates from 1965-1969, 1970-1974 ... 1985-1988 fails to support the claim that high and low social insurance expenditure strata differ. Further, no independent effects of Gartner's (1991) three measures of family structure are found. Indicators of family stress/resources, female status, the culture of violence, and a proxy for unmeasured variables and measurement error all contribute to produce high levels of explained variance in each age group.

The systematic comparative study of national child homicide victim rates was absent from sociological literature before the appearance of Fiala and LaFree's (1988) pioneering work, and subsequent articles by Gartner (1990,1991). These works empirically assess potential structural and cultural determinants of cross-national differences in infant and older child homicide victim rates. This article organizes, expands, and then tests Gartner's basic (1990) and revised (1991) conceptual scheme.

Gartner focuses on two theoretical perspectives. The first considers structural factors that affect adult-child relationships within the nuclear family or kinship group. The character of these attachments will affect the child's risk of becoming a victim of adult violence from family members because they increase or decrease formal and informal social controls that affect the risk of homicide. A nation's "culture of violence" is also seen as influencing the impact of social controls that affect potential murderers (Williams & Flewelling, 1988).

The second perspective considers structural conditions that may mediate the role of "guardians" and other "situational factors" as a means of social control. To this conceptual scheme we add a measure that should correct for unmeasured causal variables, a lack of comparability, and unreliable measurement of independent and dependent variables.

Theories of homicide are largely based on adult victims, whether discussing covariates (Land, McCall, & Cohen, 1990) within the United States or cross-national studies (see Gartner, 1990, and Cutright & Briggs, 1993, for literature review). The determinants of child and adult homicide rates, however, may well be different Perhaps the major contribution of Fiala and LaFree (1988) is their emphasis on relationships among family members. Rather than relying on previous theoretical arguments about the causes of adult homicide rates, Fiala and LaFree viewed child homicide as an extreme form of child abuse and directed their literature review to that topic. This theoretical redirection is of special importance to this analysis.

Several characteristics that differentiate child from adult homicide are apparent in U.S. data. For example, just over 3% of 1989 homicide victims ages 15 or older (17,954) had an unreported proximate cause of death-e.g., firearms, cutting/stabbing (U.S. Department of Justice, 1989, p. 11). In contrast, 26% of the infant victims (254), 11% of the victims ages 1- 4 (340), and slightly over 6% of the 5-14 year olds had an unreported method. Medical examiners are more diligent in reporting the method of killing among older than among younger victims.

A second difference between child and adult homicide victims is their gender. According to the U. S. Department of Justice (1989, p. 10), about 52% of victims under age 10 are male- the percentage we would expect due to the higher male than female sex ratio at birth, and among young children.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Structural and Cultural Determinants of Child Homicide: A Cross-National Analysis


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?