Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Temperature, Routine Activities, and Domestic Violence: A Reanalysis

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Temperature, Routine Activities, and Domestic Violence: A Reanalysis

Article excerpt

It was hypothesized that base rate differences in the number of complaints made during daylight and nighttime hours were responsible for a previously reported, nonlinear relationship between temperature and domestic violence. This hypothesis was tested by subjecting calls for service in 1987 and 1988 in Minneapolis, to moderator-variable regression analyses with controls for time of day, day of the week, season, and their interactions as well as linear trend, major holidays, public school closings, the first day of the month, and other weather variables. Temporal variables explained 75% of the variance in calls for service. As hypothesized, the base rate artifact was responsible for an apparent downturn in violence at high temperatures: Fewer complaints were received during afternoon hours, because they happen to be the warmest time of the day. The results were interpreted in terms of routine activity theory.

Police departments receive more calls and reports of domestic violence than assaults, homicides, and rapes combined (U.S. Department of Justice, 1988). Although these calls are sometimes classified as misdemeanors, they frequently involve behavior that would otherwise be classified as an assault (Sherman, 1992; Straus & Gelles, 1990a; Straus, Gelles, & Steinmetz, 1980). Moreover, domestic violence sometimes precedes and can escalate into more serious forms of violence, such as simple and aggravated assault (Felson & Steadman, 1983; Rotton & Frey, 1985). These observations provide some justification for taking a closer look at a study (Cohn, 1993) that found that meteorological variables predict domestic violence.

Cohn (1993) developed an equation for predicting domestic violence in Minneapolis, MN, from weather variables. Working with data that had been divided into a calibration sample of reports received in 1985 and 1987 and a replication sample of data from 1988, Cohn found that police received more complaints about domestic violence when temperatures were moderately high than when they were low or very high. This finding is contrary to results obtained in previous studies (Auliciems & DiBartolo, 1995; LeBeau, 1994; Michael & Zumpe, 1983,1986; Rotton & Frey, 1985), which indicate that domestic violence is a linear function of temperature. Typically, police departments receive more complaints about domestic violence on warm than cool or cold days. Cohn did not discuss this apparent anomaly, because her aims were primarily actuarial as suggested by her article's title: "The prediction of police calls for service." However, the results that Cohn (1993) obtained are relevant to a recent exchange about the shape of the curve relating aggression to temperature. On the one hand, Anderson, Anderson, Door, Deneve, and Flanagan (2000) have argued that violence is a Ushaped function of temperature; that is, according to their General Affective Aggression Model (GAAM), high and low temperatures cause negative affect, which leads to violence. On the other hand, Baron and Bell (1976) proposed that violence is an inverted U-shaped function of temperature; that is, according to their negative affect escape (NAE) model, moderate departures from comfortable temperatures provoke violence, but people respond to extreme departures by trying to escape the heat and minimize their discomfort. Bell (1992) has argued that escape tendencies conflict with and thereby reduce aggression.

The linear relationship that is typically observed in this area (e.g., Rotton & Frey, 1985) constitutes something of a challenge for the (2000) General Affective Aggression Model (GAAM). In particular, although cold as well heat is aversive, investigators have consistently found that police departments receive fewer complaints about domestic violence on cool than comfortable days, and even fewer reports are received on cold days. However, as Rotton and Cohn (1999) have observed, this finding can be easily explained in terms of routine activity (RA) theory. …

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