Social Learning Theory as a Predictor of Fear of and Worry About Crime

Frank P. Williams III, University of Houston - Downtown
Marilyn McShane, University of Houston - Downtown

Early fear of crime research was predominantly a descriptive endeavor comparing demographic features of groups in search of differeing levels of fear. Following this, attention focused on methodological issues, such as operationalizing fear and the construction of reliable and valid measurements. Even though the constructs are now more sophisticated, there are relatively few attempts at explaining fear and worry as either an attitude or a behavior (excepting the social disorganization approach spawned by the attention of COP programs). This study assumes that fear/worry is an attitude or behavior that might be explained by criminological theory. Thus, we test social control, social learning and anomie theories for their ability to explain fear/worry in a statewide survey of Texas adults. preliminary analyses indicate that social learning produces the best fit and we pursue the mechanisms by which it operates. In this analysis, we further examine the influence of media sources and interpersonal relationships for their effects on levels of fear of and worry about crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006