Comparing Attachment in Violent vs. Nonviolent Offenders

Though significant findings are reported in studies for both nonviolent and violent offending, it could still be the case that attachment problems are more common among violent offenders than strictly nonviolent ones or that attachment problems are more serious. If we combine studies across categories, seven report comparisons of violent to nonviolent offenders. Two studies report effects that are null or in the opposite direction to that expected (for parental sensitivity, Goldstein & Higgins-D’Alessandro, 2001; and for parental loss or separation, Miura, 2009). Three report that scores on measures of attachment are lower for violent than nonviolent offenders, but the difference between them is not statistically significant (these all used measures of bonding or parental attachment; Blaske, Borduin, Henggeler, & Mann, 1989; Nussbaum et al., 2002; Shoham et al., 1986). Tupin et al. (1973) found that habitually violent offenders were more likely than nonviolent offenders to have been raised by someone other than their parents and were more likely to report a poor relationship with their mother and father. In one study, consistent across three indicators of attachment, violent offenders had lower attachment levels than nonviolent offenders (this one used a measure of parental loss, a measure of bonding, and a measure of attachment; Loeber et al., 2005). Although these observations lend support to our hypothesis, we can only say that attachment remains a possible differential predictor of violence, but we cannot affirm it as one with the limited evidence uncovered here.

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