Gender Differences in Victimization Risk: Exploring the Role of Deviant Lifestyles

By Zaykowski, Heather; Gunter, Whitney D. | Violence and Victims, April 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Gender Differences in Victimization Risk: Exploring the Role of Deviant Lifestyles


Zaykowski, Heather, Gunter, Whitney D., Violence and Victims


Although research over the past few decades has illustrated that gender is a significant predictor of victimization, there has been less attention toward explaining these differences. Furthermore, there has been little attention given to how offending and other deviant behaviors contribute to victimization risk for males and females. This is surprising considering that offending, particularly violent behavior, is highly correlated with victimization risk and that males are more likely to offend than females. This study applied cross- sectional and time-ordered models predicting violent victimization and repeat victimization to examine how deviant lifestyles affected victimization risk for males and females. The results suggest that violent behavior increases risk for males and females in the crosssectional models but not in the time-ordered model. These findings suggest that future research and policies should address longitudinal changes and gender-specific analyses.

Keywords: victimization; offending; gender differences; violence; victim-offender overlap

Although there has been a significant amount of research interest in explaining gender differences with violent victimization risk, this body of literature has predominantly focused on intimate partner and dating victimization or sexual assault (Kruttschnitt, McLaughlin, & Petrie, 2004). Recent work has pointed to a lack in scholarship on differences in violent victimization more generally, including identifying the divergent risk factors for males and females (Lauritsen & Carbone-Lopez, 2011). However, the gap in explaining gender differences in risk factors has been limited to demographic, family, and community factors and lifestyles of victims and theories applied to victimization, such as self-control and routine activities theories.

An important factor that has been neglected in explaining gender differences in victimization risk is deviant lifestyles. Offending, particularly violent behavior, has been shown to be the most substantive predictor of victimization (Jennings, Piquero, & Reingle, 2012; Lauritsen & Laub, 2007). It is furthermore well-known that males are far more likely to be violent compared to females. Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) indicates that males have higher rates of violent victimization and offending with the exception of rape/sexual assault compared to females (Lauritsen, Heimer, & Lynch, 2009; Planty & Truman, 2012). Yet, to date, the examination of how offending contributes to gender differences in victimization has been notably absent in the literature. It is also unclear whether the offending-victimization relationship for males and females persists over time.

This study contributes to research on the gender gap in victimization by exploring factors that have received less consideration. First, although there is substantial evidence of an overlap between victimization and offending, the potential impact of deviant lifestyles is rarely considered in understanding gender differences in victimization. Second, and related, research on victimization is often limited by its cross-sectional nature (Jennings et al., 2011). In this study, we explore how violent behavior, substance use, and prior victimization predict assault victimization through responses in a 1-year follow-up survey using a random sample of college students from two cohorts.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Several theories have been proposed to explore variations in victimization risk, although not specifically intended to explain differences by gender. The two most prominent approaches include routine activities/lifestyles and self-control (Jensen & Brownfield, 1986; Schreck, Stewart, & Osgood, 2008; Verweij & Nieuwbeerta, 2002). Schreck (1999) extended the general theory of crime (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) to explain victimization. He argued that victims, like offenders, engage in risky behaviors and lack long-term foresight. …

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