Sex Differences in Violent Behavior: Same Predictors, Different Levels?

Manuel Eisner, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
Patrik Manzoni, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

It is well known that female juveniles commit significantly less violent acts than their male counterparts. However, extant research is inconclusive on whether the predictors of violent delinquency are similar or different for both sexes. Answering this question has important implications as regards a sex-neutral or a sex-specific theory of violent behavior. This paper examines a series of important correlates and determinants of violent behavior among male and female juveniles. The study is based on a representative sample of 2700 Swiss students at ages 15-16. We include measurements of five important theoretical constructs: 1) parental support and education during childhood, 2) self-control, 3) routine activities, 4) delinquent peers, and 5) conventional bonds to parents and teachers. Using a logistic regression framework, we first examine bivariate effect sizes including tests for sex-specific effects. In a next step, we estimate multivariate models both including interaction terms to account for possible sex-specific effects. First results suggest that subdimensions of self-control, routine activities, and association with delinquent peers have similar effects on both male and female violent behavior. However, we find some evidence for systematic sex-specific patterns in respect of family related variables. Harsh parental discipline seems to be more strongly associated with female violence, while inconsistent parenting may be a stronger predictor of male violent behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006