OUR TASK

Everybody “knows” there is something different about serious violent offenders and offending. Because violent crime poses a great danger for the public, creates an enormous burden on the criminal justice system, and degrades our quality of life to a greater degree than other forms of crime, it would be a worthwhile endeavor to determine the predictors of violent crime per se so we can predict which individuals are at the highest risk for committing the most serious crimes. Nevertheless, criminologists have yet to provide a clear list of correlates and risk factors specific to violence. Assuming that correlates of “crime” are also correlates of serious violence may be misleading and may cause wasted effort and poorly targeted policies.

The purpose of this book, then, is to attempt to more narrowly delineate the causes of violence as they contrast with the causes of criminality more generally. We are not the first to focus on this issue (e.g., Fagan, Hansen, & Jang, 1983; Farrington, 1991). As a first major step, we will simply evaluate the existing literature, to determine whether it already supports or refutes the differential etiology of violence hypothesis. We can then use the findings from our review as a platform for outlining the way forward for better understanding the etiology of violence. There are some important issues that must be addressed before we can proceed further.

 
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