Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Structural and Cultural Dynamics of Neighborhood Violence

Considerable attention has given to identifying the neighborhood-level structural and social-interactional mechanisms which influence an array of social outcomes such as crime, educational attainment, collective action, mortality, and morbidity. Cultural mechanisms are often overlooked in quantitative studies of neighborhood effects, largely because of outdated notions of culture. This study explores the origins of legal cynicism, as well as the consequences of cynicism for neighborhood violence. Legal cynicism refers to a cultural frame in which people perceive the “law” as illegitimate, unresponsive, and ill-equipped to ensure public safety. Four objectives are addressed: 1) The correlates of legal cynicism. 2) The cross-sectional relationship between neighborhood violence and legal cynicism, as well as the relationship between neighborhood violence and tolerant attitudes toward violence and deviant behavior. 3) If legal cynicism predicts the change in neighborhood violence over time, net of changes to the structural conditions of a given neighborhood. 4) If legal cynicism makes all types of violence more likely or just certain forms, we compare whether the neighborhood predictors of gang versus non-gang homicide are the same. Findings reveal that tolerant attitudes toward deviance and violence have little bearing on neighborhood rates of violence. Legal cynicism, however, has both a near-term and enduring influence on violence, net of neighborhood structural characteristics and social processes such as collective efficacy. Neighborhood culture is a powerful determinant of neighborhood violence, and partially accounts for why rates of violence remained stable (and even increased) in some Chicago neighborhoods during the 1990s despite declines in poverty and drastic declines in violence city-wide. Findings also indicate that cynicism of the law has a general effect on violence, and that collective efficacy substantially mediates the association between legal cynicism and homicide. Legal cynicism undermines the collective efficacy that is vital to the social control of neighborhood violence.

Source: National Criminal Justice Reference Service

Download full pdf publication
| Link to online abstract

No comments: