Attachment to School: Violent vs. Nonviolent Ollending

While the associations between violence and school bonding were consistently negative, school bonding was also consistently, negatively associated with nonviolent offending. In 9 out of 12 studies, this was true (see Table 5.2). Numerous authors who tested the same models for violent and nonviolent offending report similar patterns (e.g., Benda, 2005; Friedman & Rosenbaum, 1988; Gottfredson et al., 1991; Johnson, 1979; Peacock et al., 2003; Sprott et al., 2005) providing no support for a differential association between attachment to school and violence. Further, the findings from some studies indicate a possible stronger association between indicators related to school bonding and nonviolent offending. For example, Cusick etal. (2012) found that college aspirations were significantly lower among foster youth with a nonviolent arrest than those without, but there was no association between college aspirations and a violent arrest. Fagan et al. (1983) reported that low “school integration” was not associated with violence, but it was significantly, negatively associated with property crime among subjects in an offender sample. In our own analysis of Add Health data, we saw that school attachment is significantly, negatively associated with both violent and nonviolent criminal behavior in multivariate models, but the coefficient for nonviolent crime is significantly larger (Savage & Ellis, 2014). When we controlled for frequency of nonviolent offending, school attachment was no longer significantly associated with violent behavior.

There have been 3 direct comparisons of offenders. Two studies have reported findings consistent with the hypothesis that violent offenders have lower attachment to school than nonviolent offenders. In Kennedy’s (2006) dissertation, violent offenders had a worse attitude toward school and teachers than nonviolent offenders and Kruttschnitt, Heath, and Ward (1986) found that violent offenders had a significantly lower academic orientation, measured with an index which included questions about importance of doing well in school, overall academic performance, and participation in sports and clubs. Their study is unusual among comparisons of offenders in that they also controlled for factors such as media exposure, parental violence, and a measure of deterrence. In another offender study, violent offenders gave higher ratings of “caring adults at school” than nonviolent offenders (Hart et al., 2007).

Given the evidence, we cannot conclude that school attachment is a differential predictor of violence, compared to nonviolent offending, at this time, but there is a need for further research to test this hypothesis.

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