Age and Homicide: Evidence for Persisting Self-Help "Honor" Institutions Among White Southerners and American Indians

Brian Paciotti, University of California, Davis

Aggregate analyses of homicide conducted by many authors at city, county, and state levels illustrate that both structural variables (e.g., poverty, inequality, and education) and regional variables (that are used as proxies for "subcultures of violence or honor") are significant predictors of interpersonal violence. Other studies have shown that a large proportion of cases involving interpersonal violence are dispute-related (rather than predatory), and thus are related to the types of institutions available for individuals to resolve disputes peacefully. FBI homicide data are used to analyze the relationship of age and dispute-related violence among White and Native American males from different cultural regions of the United States. Poisson regression is used to test the specific hypothesis that regional institutions of social control influence age-specific homicide rates. Results show that dispute-related homicides do vary with age-older males from areas identified by historians as having strong honor institutions relative to peacemaking institutions are more likely to be homicide offenders. The relationship between honor institutions and the emergence of third-party peacemaking institutions is discussed, and competing hypotheses are evaluated for explaining age variation and regional patterns of violence.

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Updated 05/20/2006