Bullies, Fights, and Guns: Testing Self-Control Theory with Juveniles

Bullies, Fights, and Guns: Testing Self-Control Theory with Juveniles

Bullies, Fights, and Guns: Testing Self-Control Theory with Juveniles

Bullies, Fights, and Guns: Testing Self-Control Theory with Juveniles

Synopsis

Most examinations of juvenile violence are limited in the behaviors studied and the theories used. To address these issues Nofziger applies a test of Gottfredson and Hirschi's (1990) General Theory of Crime to a range of violent and intimidating acts. She explores bullying, fighting, and weapon related behaviors and tests the effects of self-control and opportunity with survey data on 1200 juveniles. The analysis indicates that greater self-control decreases intimidation and violence and that greater opportunity increases the same behaviors. The study supports self-control theory and suggests that lessened self-control and increased opportunity encourage the behaviors under investigation.

Excerpt

Concern over juvenile violence has generated a great deal of interest in the public and media, as well as among criminologists. However, the majority of research focuses on extreme forms of juvenile violence, such as gang related incidents, while largely ignoring the wider range of intimidating and violent behaviors in which juveniles engage. In addition, a great deal of this work is not tied to any criminological or social theory (Devine 1995: 171). Those studies that have incorporated theory have predominantly turned to subcultural theories of crime as explanations of these types of problem behaviors (Felson, Liska, South and McNulty 1994; Wolfgang and Ferracuti 1967; Cloward and Ohlin 1960; Cohen 1955; Sellin 1938). However, cultural theories have been strongly criticized since many empirical tests have generally found that the basic assumptions of these theories are “without foundation” (Kornhauser 1978: 242).

The current study broadens the understanding of juvenile intimidation and violence by focusing on two issues. First, in contrast to examining one specific form of behavior, this study encompasses juvenile behaviors ranging from name calling and school-yard bullying to physical assaults involving the use of weapons. This wide approach is employed in order to provide data on forms of juvenile behavior that have been largely ignored within the literature, as well as to determine if there is one consistent underlying predictor of a variety of forms of juvenile violence and intimidation.

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