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University of Guelph
SOC 2760
Rob Shearer

SOC 2760  Final Exam Chapter Notes Chapter 4: Patterns and Trends (1 question) How common is Homicide?  In 2004: 16,137 Individuals were murdered in the US o This reflects a 2.4% decrease from 2003  In 2005: number increased by 4.8%  It is important to look at not only the absolute numbers of homicides each year but also to consider the rate of homicide Determining the Homicide Rate  Homicide rate = H/(P/100,000) o H = the number of homicides in a particular area o P = the population in the particular area Homicide Trends  The number of homicides in the US decreased 65.3% between 1991 and 2004 Circumstance Type  Homicides involving arguments are most common, making up 43.9% of homicides in which circumstances are known  22.8% of homicides occur alongside a robbery or burglary  Drugs were involved in 16% of homicides in 2004 Victim – Offender Relationship  23% of victims are killed by acquaintances  9% killed by intimate partners  8% killed by family members  3% killed by someone else they knew  1958: Wolfgang published details on relationships in homicide cases, he noted that murder was most likely to occur between individuals who had some type of relationship, and it was more likely they were family members o This is no longer the case  Cases in which the offender-victim relationship is unknown: o 1970: white victims, knifing o 1990: African-American/racial minority victims, guns, younger than in 1970 Sex  Homicide is predominately a male activity  78% of US homicide offenders were male in 2004  Males kill males and females, 89% of males are killed by a male and 90% of females are killed by males 2 Age  Homicide tends to be committed by relatively young people  2004: peak age for homicide is 20-24  those aged 17-29 account for 57.6% of homicides Race  2004: Among known offenders, 48.6% are white and 47.5% are Black, less than 4% are other races  2004: Among homicide victims, 52.9% are white, 43.6% are Black  Although the numbers show higher rates for whites, the rate of homicide victimization is six times higher for African Americans and the rate of homicide offending is seven times higher. Years of Potential Life Lost to Homicide  5% of all the years of lost life were due to homicide  White Women: 2.2% of life years lost to homicide  Black Women: 4.3% of life years lost to homicide  Hispanic Women: 4.2% of life years lost to homicide  White Men: 3.6% of life years lost to homicide  Black Men: 15.4% of life years lost to homicide  Hispanic Men: 10.8% of life years lost to homicide Weapons Use  Guns are predominately used in murders (66%) in 2004  Handguns are the most popular gun choice Community Types  MSA: Metropolitan Statistical Area  MSAs had 88% of the homicides with a rate of 5.9/100,000 residents  Nonmetropolitan Areas: 10% of homicides with a rate of 3.6/100,000 residents  Cities outside MSAs: 4.4% of homicides with a rate of 3.5/100,000 residents Regional  Homicide is most common in cities  Homicide is most common in the southern states o New Orleans o Baltimore o Detroit o Washington, DC o Saint Louis 3  The south is the most populous but also contributes the most to homicide totals  Homicide tends to follow seasonal patterns: July is the highest month, February is the lowest month Cross-National Comparisons  Norway is lowest: 0.95  Canada: 1.77  USA: 5.56  South Africa: 55.86 Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Illness: Homicide in England and Wales  Studying homicide from 1996-1999 found that: o more than 2/5 offenders (42%) had alcohol problems o 40% had a history with drug use o drug or alcohol played a contributory role in 40% of all homicides o less than 1/5 homicides (17%) were committed by individuals with mental health problems Conclusion: Public health approach should focus on drugs and alcohol instead of mental health Chapter 6: Explanations for Homicide (20 questions)  The Sociological approach focuses on factors outside of individuals to explain criminal behaviour  Criminologists using social or cultural perspectives seek to explain these patterns through studying correlates of homicide or by investigating social histories of individual offenders Classical School Perspective  Cesare Beccaria and the Classical Perspective on Criminology: argued that people are rational and hedonistic and possess free will. o Rational: capable of exercising logic o Hedonistic: motivated by desire for pleasure and avoidance of pain o Free will: one can determine their own actions  Beccaria’s explanation of human behaviour is seen in rational choice theory and deterrence theory Social Disorganization Theory  Look to the structural causes for explaining crime  Shaw and McKay: concluded that it was not the people living in the transitional zone so much as the structural conditions of the area in which they lived that led to criminal behaviour o The transitional zone has worse housing conditions, higher rates of poverty, fewer intact families, and less sense of community  Criticism: relied on biased official data, because police look for crime more frequently in inner-city areas o Failed to explain the fact that not everyone who lives in a disorganized area commits crime, and people who live in non-disorganized areas do. Differential Association Theory  Sutherland’s differential association theory stands in contrast to biological and psychological theories of crime  He argues that crime is like everything else that we do, we learn to do it from intimate others Social Control Theories  Assumes people will commit crimes when left to their own devices, unless something exists to prevent them  Our connection to conventional others is what prevents crime 5  Durkheim’s Anomie: with industrialization and the increasing complexity and size of society, more deviance is likely because family and community ties are weaker and individuals will have less to lose by not conforming o Stake in conformity  Travis Hirschi’s Social Bond Theory: the more connected we are in society, the less crime we will commit. Our 4 major bonds are formed through socialization. o Attachment: how close you are to conventional individuals o Involvement: how much time you spend doing legitimate activities o Commitment: how dedicated you are to accomplishing your goals by legitimate routes o Belief: thinking the laws and norms of society make sense and should be upheld  Weak bonds = delinquency General Theory Of Crime  Hirschi and Gottfredson’s: proposed the idea that it is a combination of low self- control and opportunity that leads to criminal behaviour o Low self-control is the result of poor/absent parenting  Criticism: May not explain all types of homicide o Planned homicide cannot be well explained by the general theory of crime Neutralization Theory  Sykes and Matza: proposed neutralization/drift theory to explain juvenile delinquency. Youths drifted into and out of delinquent behaviour.  Youth learn how to explain their situation in such a way that the delinquent or illegal act is justified.  Techniques of neutralization o Denial of Responsibility: It’s not my fault o Denial of Injury: No harm is done o Denial of a Victim: they deserve it o Condemnation of the Condemners: they do it too/worse o Appeal to Higher Loyalties: I had to do it for my family  An individual only has to employ one of the techniques of neutralization Murder as Righteous Slaughter  Katz proposes an explanation for murder that seems in line with neutralization theory.  Katz argues that often when the killers and victims know one another, killers justify the crime in their own mind 6  Katz explains that the killer interprets the situation at hand as one in which the potential victim is doing something the killer cannot ignore o They see themselves pushed by forces greater than themselves Race and Homicide: The Culture of Violence  Wolfgang and Ferracuti: proposed a theory to explain the high number of homicides involving African American men.  They postulated that a subculture of violence exists among African Americans in which violence is learned as an appropriate response in many situations. o Violence in required whenever one is challenged. Not reacting with violence is a violation of social norms Region and Homicide: Southern Subculture of Violence  A southern subculture of honour among white males operates much like the subculture of violence among black males  This explains the higher rate of homicide in the southern states o White men have learned that backing down is weak and unmanly and are expected to retaliate if insulted Lifestyle and Routine Activities Theory  Lifestyle theory focuses on how the lifestyle of an individual may place him or her more at risk for becoming a victim  Routine Activities Theory postulates that three elements are required for crime o A motivated offender o The availability of a suitable target o The absence of capable guardians  Routine activities theory can explain murder at both the micro and macro levels Men and Violence: Feminist Perspective on Masculinity  Explores the connection between masculinity and violence  Males are far more likely than females to commit homicide  Brookman: Interviewed 20 men who killed/violently assaulted a male and found that o Men used violence as a way to control others and to booth their masculine identity o It was important to these men for others to perceive them as tough because to be masculine is to be tough  She suggests there is a subculture of masculinity, and this subculture sometimes requires men to be violent Social Stratification and Homicide 7  William Julius Wilson: Argues that high levels of concentrated disadvantage and poverty generate high levels of crime including homicide  Communities with many people living in poverty are likely to have exponentially greater rates of homicide than those communities that are not saturated with poverty  This holds for both black and white communities Why do we Kill so often in the United States?  US has one of the highest homicide rates in the world  Barkan gives a possible answer: economic stratification. o Countries with high levels of income inequality have high homicide rates o Gun ownership is high o History and culture of violence The Role of Alcohol and Drug Use in Homicidal Behaviour  Evidence suggests a strong correlation between homicide and alcohol or illegal drug use  Over half of homicides involve offenders or victims that are under the influence of drugs/alcohol  Alcohol is more frequently involved than illegal drugs  The connection between drug use and homicide is part of a generally violent lifestyle that may be explained by other theories Chapter 7: Confrontational Homicide (3 questions)  There are many different categories of homicide based on circumstances and victim- offender relationship. These categories are not mutually exclusive  Confrontational Homicide may be the most common type of homicide throughout the world Definition  Confrontational Homicides: those that begin with a public altercation viewed as a contest of honour by at least one of the participants. The altercation quickly evolves into violence and ends in death (1 question) o Also referred to as contest violence o Tends to occur in public places, participants are often under the influence of drugs or alcohol o Both the offender and victim are usually male o The incident is a threat to one of them o There is no initial intent to murder, however the incident escalates quickly and the victim is killed with an available object (or someone leaves and returns with a weapon) o Usually evolves out of a seemingly trivial incident Gender and Confrontational Homicide  Women generally make up less than 15% of homicide offenders in any country where such statistics are kept o There are cases where women are involved in confrontational homicide Data on Confrontational Homicide  Wolfgang: A third of homicides in Philadelphia are confrontational (35% of homicides he studied grew out of trivial altercations)  Polk: 22% of all homicides in Victoria could be classified as confrontational  FBI: nearly a third (29.8%) of homicides in 2004 were related to some type of argument or brawl  Percentage of homicides possibly due to confrontational circumstances: o 2001  36.7% o 2002  35.4% o 2004  36.2% History of Confrontational Homicide  Cooney: argues that such killings have been quite common throughout history and across the world among individuals at all levels of the social hierarchy 9 o Although Cooney does not use the term confrontational homicide, he describes it as the end result of a confrontation that begins when a man feels his honour is challenged  Cooney: reports that in the fifteenth century duelling led to many homicides, and these duels were the result of an affront to a man’s honour  Today, a man may kill because he feels he has been disrespected or dissed o Example of the Morgan Case: he killed Scarlett for disrespecting him and dating his ex-girlfriend. They had a modern day duel which ended in both men drawing their guns Victim Precipitated Homicide  Wolfgang: found it was not uncommon for the victim of a homicide to have been involved in the events that led to his death. o Sometimes the victim initiated the incident that resulted in his death o This is referred to as victim precipitated homicide: a homicide in which the victim was the first to employ physical force against the subsequent slayer.  Wolfgang: determines that 26% of the 588 criminal homicides he examined were victim-precipitated o 90% of victims are male and 80% of victims are African-American, these number are much higher than in non-victim precipitated homicides o Women make up a large percentage (29%) of offenders in victim-precipitated homicides as opposed to non victim-precipitated homicides (14%) o It is possible that men were violent towards them because they saw the woman as challenging their masculinity or disrespecting them Homicide as a Situated Transaction  Luckenbill (1977): emphasized that homicide is often the result of seemingly inconsequential incidents that turn into character contests in which adversaries interact in a way that at least one of them believed would keep him from looking weak o These are called situated transactions  Most of the homicides occurred when the offender and victim were taking part in leisure activities such as dancing, watching TV, drinking and on weekends between the hours of 6pm and 2am  60% of the cases Luckenbill studied involved victims and offenders who were related or friends  Luckenbill describes 6 stages through which the homicide situation progressed 10 o The Opening Move: The victim does something that is seen as an affront to the offender.  Most common opening move is a comment that the offender believes if offensive (41%)  The second most common opening move is the victim refuses to do what an offender wants. The offender interprets this refusal as a denial of his ability or right to command obedience (34%)  The third most common opening move is the offender finds a nonverbal gesture made by the victim to be personally offensive (25%) o The Interpretation of the Event: the offender views what the victim has done as offensive. It is not necessary that the victim meant it to be offensive, only the interpretation is important.  In 60% of cases, a witness or the victim helped the offender define the opening move as offensive o Offender has Opportunity to Ignore Insult: having determine the victim insulted him, the offender makes a retaliatory move to save face and not sully their own reputation o Victim’s Reputation is on the Line: the victim now has to stand up to the offender and fight back, thus saving their own reputation o Forging a Working Agreement: both victim and offender seem to be committed to battle. It is during this stage that a weapon of some sort is brought in and the actual homicide occurs o The Final Move: there are three general moves the offender makes  Most often: Flee the scene  Second: Remain until police come  Third: Be held involuntarily by observers until police arrive.  Luckenbill argues that confrontational homicide involves both the victim and offender. It is not a one sided event  It is a situated transaction because each side has an opportunity to stop the progression of the events but both, in an attempt to save face, keep moving forward  Polk: argues that while many cases fit the 6 stages, some do not Importance of an Audience  Luckenbill: noted the importance of an audience, especially in stage 6, for determining the moves made by each party  Felson and Cooney: both have discussed the role of an audience in either escalating or deescalating a violent situation 11  Felson: interviewed 500 individuals about disputes in which they had taken part in the past o Found that most interpersonal aggression was a response to a perceived rule violation as is justified by the aggressor o Determined that third parties affected aggressive interactions:  If the third party prompted the conflicts, the interactions were more severe  If the third party mediated the conflict, the interaction did not escalate as much Confrontational Homicide and Cultures of Honour Subculture of Violence (1 question)  Wolfgang: found that African Americans were overrepresented as both victims and offenders of homicide in Philadelphia o They made up 18% of the population, but 73% of homicide victims and 75% of homicide offenders  Wolfgang: introduced the idea of a subculture of violence o He found that much of the violence he studied was a reaction to some trivial matter and that a young man who did not respond to an affront with violence o He argued the young men grew up and learned that the proper response to an insult is violence  Criticism: some argue that the high rates of homicide among African Americans are not explained by a subculture of violence, instead structural factors are to blame  Steffensmeier: found that inequality was much greater among African Americans, thus their higher rates of violence are not necessarily the result of culture but because of structure  Valez, Krivo, Peterson: studied what they call the black-white gap in killing o Explored how social and economic circumstances influenced the level of homicide among whites and African Americans o These rates are explained not only by greater levels of structural disadvantage among blacks, but are also a reflection of advantages that whites have over them Southern Subculture of Violence  The southern subculture of honour requires Southern White men to act violently to insults that could potentially damage their reputation  Some scholars argue that structural factors such as inequality and poverty explain the higher rates of violence in the south 12  Nisbet and Cohen: explain there is a culture of honour among southern white males o A southern man is obligated to respond with violence to an insult aimed at him or his family o This culture has been passed down through generations of southerners o This is because the southern US was settled by Scott Irish herdsmen, who made their living from their livestock, and there is always a threat someone would steal it. Thus, they are required to always be ready to react violently to protect their livelihood Confrontational Homicide: A Man’s World?  Many of the theories and discussions about homicide generally, and confrontational homicide specifically, focus on men as offenders and men as victims  Late 1970s: women began appearing on the FBI’s most wanted list for the first time, there were also increased in the number of women being arrested.  Before this time, very little was written about women as criminals that did not rely on a biological explanation  Adler: postulated the masculinity theory, which posed that women’s movement encouraged and allowed women to be more like men, and as women became more masculine, their offending increased  Simon: proposed a connection between increases in women’s offending behaviour and the women’s movement as well, but it was not because they were becoming more masculine, but simply that the women’s movement had helped women gain more opportunity (legitimate and illegitimate) o Women who gained employment had greater opportunity for crimes such as embezzlement and fraud  Simon: hypothesized that
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