Crime and Violence
Crime and Violence across human societies
– Which societies have the most crime?
Who is most likely to commit crime?
– The Young Male Syndrome
– What keeps young men on the straight and narrow?
Contemporary patterns of crime in the U.S.
– Why has crime decreased recently?
– How does the U.S. compare to other countries?
Why do people commit crime?
– Where you live: Social disorganization
– Who you hang out with: Differential association
– What do you have to lose?
Crime and Violence across
human societies
Which societies have the most crime?
With regard to premodern societies it
is difficult to know how much crime
and violence occurred because there
are no good records.
Studies of contemporary horticultural
and hunting and gathering societies
show high levels of violence compared
to the contemporary U.S.
E.g.!Kung hunter gathers (1963–1969)
had homicide rate of 0.29 persons per
1000 per year—approximately four
times the contemporary U.S. rate.
Seems to be a general trend
In the contemporary world, less
developed societies have higher
homicide rates than more developed
United States stands out from other
developed countries as having a
comparatively high rate of homicide.
The U.S. homicide rate average 7.51
per 100,000 residents, the highest in
the developed world.
Why is this so?
More individualistic ethos and fewer
social welfare benefits in the United
States may promote individualized
means of attaining status and
resources, including criminal means.
Who is most likely to
commit crime?
In all societies, the vast majority of
homicides and other violent crimes are
committed by men.
In most of societies, more than 90%
of the same-sex homicides are
committed by males.
In the United States, most victims and
perpetrators in homicides are male
Percentage Distribution of Single-Offender
Victimizations, by Type of Crime and Perceived Gender
of Offender 2006
Women are more likely than men to be
killed by an intimate or family member
Men are more likely to be killed by an
acquaintance or stranger
In particular, it is young men aged 18–
24 years who are most likely to
perpetrate crimes.
This is often referred to as the young
male syndrome.
At age 20 years, men are approx. six
times more likely than females to be
the victims of homicide.
Men are much more likely than women
to have spent time in prison
Men in age groups 25–34 and 35–44
years have the highest probability of
having spent time in state or federal
Why are young men disproportionately
involved in crime?
In ancestral environment, this was the time
when a young man seeking a wife had to
display formidable physical prowess in
hunting, tribal raids, tribal defense, and
defense of his interests.
Men who did not show prowess in these
areas were unlikely to obtain a wife.
In a modern environment, men no longer
have to show prowess at hunting and
warfare, but they do have to earn money
and status.
For some men, particularly those without
recourse to legitimate methods of earning
money and status, crime and violent
behavior can be a way to earn those things.
What Keeps Young Men on
the Straight and Narrow?
Presence of a biological father when
growing up
Legitimate means of obtaining
resources and status
Contemporary patterns of
crime in the U.S.
All types of crime have been
decreasing recently.
Why has crime decreased
Better policing, economic growth, and
changing demography and a decline in
the proportion of people in high-crime
Levitt’s controversial idea of legalized
abortion playing a role in recent
declines in crime
Another explanation is that because
incarceration rates have increased,
there are fewer cases of former
criminals committing new crimes.
The United States has the highest prison
incarceration rate in the world at 756 per
100,000 of the national population.
It is followed by Russia (629 per 100,000),
Rwanda (604 per 100,000), St. Kitts & Nevis
(588 per 100,000), and Cuba
(approximately 531 per 100,000)
Why do people commit
Where you live: Social disorganization
Poor neighborhoods with high rates of
people moving in and out, many
different ethnic groups, and high rates
of family disruption have the highest
crime rates
Homes are unwatched, children are
inadequately supervised
Who you hang out with: Differential
association theory
If your friends encourage criminal
behaviors, then you are more likely to
become involved in criminal behavior
What do you have to lose?
What people have to lose
is based on their
People with strong attachments to
people who expect them to live up to
certain standards are less likely to
commit crime
People with a great deal invested in a
home, a career, a family, or a lifestyle,
are less willing to do things that
jeopardize those investments.
People involved in many legitimate
activities, are unlikely to have the time
for criminal acts.
People who believe strongly that they
should act in certain ways, and not in
others, are less likely to engage in
criminal acts.

Outline 15: Crime and Violence