The Social Structure of Violence
in Childhood and Approval of
Violence as an Adult.
David J. Owens Murray A. Straus
A national survey conducted in 1968 for the President's Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence (Baker and Ball, 1969) revealed that one out of four agreed that "groups have the right to train their members in marksmanship and underground-warfare tactics in order to help put down any conspiracies that might occur in the country"; and one out of ten Americans said that they would "participate in a physical assault or armed action against a group of people who are deliberately blocking rush-hour traffic to protest the war in Vietnam." As might be expected, the number of Americans who approve of using violence against people of other nations is much greater. In fact, two out of three citizens agreed that "in dealing with other countries in the world, we are frequently justified in using military force."
Another national sample survey found that one-half to two-thirds of American men approved of shooting in situations such as ghetto riots or campus disturbances, and 20 to 30 percent advised the police to shoot to kill under such circumstances (Blumenthal, et al., 1972; p. 243). Findings of this type, plus a homicide rate which is seven times that of the next highest industrial nation, have led some observers to characterize the United
Paper presented at the 1973 meeting of the American Orthopsychiatric Association. This essay is based on the M.A. thesis of D. J. Owens ( 1973). The preparation of this essay and part of the data analysis were supported by NIMH grant number 15521. The authors are indebted to Professor Sheldon G. Levy for providing a copy of the data tape containing the results of the survey conducted for the Media Task Force of the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence ( 1969) and to Richard J. Gelles for suggestions in revising the paper. This version appeared in Aggressive Behavior, 1 ( 1975), 193-211.