An Empirical Test of the General Strain Theory Approach to Neighborhoods and Violence

Joanne Kaufman, University of Miami

Researchers have yet to empirically examine Agnew's extension of General Strain Theory (GST) which considers the community context in understanding individual exposure to strain, individual and community levels of anger, and factors that may encourage or mitigate criminal behavior. To begin to address this gap, I analyzed 1990 census block-group data linked with Wave 1 (1995) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, including detailed interviews with a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7-12. I performed descriptive and regression analyses examining how different levels of neighborhood disadvantage impact various strains (e.g., expecting to be killed by 21, witnessing violence and violent victimization), negative emotions, and violent behaviors (e.g., fighting behaviors, weapon-related violence). Also, I considered additional factors that may encourage violent behavior (deviant peers) or mitigate against such behavior (e.g., problem-solving skills). I found that the neighborhood context did impact the levels of some types of strain, the experience of negative emotions, and violent behavior. These results support Agnew's extension of GST.

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Updated 05/20/2006