Sex- and Age-Specific Relations between Economic Development, Economic Inequality and Homicide Rates in People Aged 0-24 Years: A Cross-Sectional Analysis. (Research)

Article excerpt

Voir page 803 le resume en francais. En la pagina 803 figura un resumen en espanol


Violence is "the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against another person or against oneself or a group of people, that results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, `maldevelopment' or deprivation" (1). Interpersonal violence--the focus of this paper--is violence between individuals for which there is no clearly defined political motive.

Male and female youths aged 15-24 years are the primary victims and perpetrators of interpersonal violence in many world regions (2, 3), and youth violence is a growing contributor to the global disease burden (4). It is important, therefore, to examine whether economic factors affect the rate at which males and females aged 0-24 years are murdered (the homicide rate). This age range includes the late adolescent and early adult periods (during which homicide rates are highest), the age groups for which the risk of homicide is lowest (5-9 and 10-14 years) and the 0-4-year age group, in which the homicide rate is higher than in children aged 5-14 and during which the child's early development shapes later risk for violence (5-9). An understanding of how economic factors vary with homicide rates across these age groups provides insight into the mechanisms that underlie associations between economic development, income distribution and overall mortality (10-12).

International studies that included economic indicators in models of sex- and age-specific homicide rates focused on infants (0-12 months) and children up to 14 years (5, 6). Most other studies used rates aggregated for both sexes and for all ages. For economic development measures, these studies show contradictory results--most indicate higher homicide rates in countries with lower per capita gross domestic products (GDPs) (13-16), but others show no clear relation (17-19). Findings on the association between homicide and economic inequality within countries are less ambiguous; they consistently show that high levels of inequality coincide with high homicide rates (16, 19, 20-24).

This paper aims to explain how economic factors relate to rates of homicide in infants through to young adults. It describes the results of a cross-sectional ecological study of the relation between per capita income, intrasocial and sex-related inequalities in income distribution, and homicide rates in males and females aged 0-24 years. We aimed to model the sex- and age-specific relations between indicators of economic development, economic inequality and homicide rates, and to examine how these relations are modified by the economic status of countries.

We considered including other factors, such as type of political system, social cohesion and attitudes toward violence, in the analysis (25). Unfortunately, indicators of these factors were available for too few of the study countries to be included.

Theoretical considerations

Examination of the risk factors, risk behaviours and situational determinants shown to be associated with youth violence (3) suggests that long-term influences (biological, psychological, family, peer and community) produce stable differences between individuals in their potential for committing violence--the "violence potential". Transient factors that could motivate an individual to be violent, such as anger or drunkenness, contribute towards short-term within-individual variations in violence potential. Situational opportunities that affect the likelihood of a youth motivated towards committing violence encountering a suitable victim in the absence of a capable guardian (26) interact with individual-level factors to determine whether the violence potential converts into actual violence. Economic development and inequality influence these different factors through a mixture of indirect and direct pathways that changes with sex and age. …


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