185.6 Psychological traits, routine activities, and activity fields as causes of crime

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 3:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Ronald SIMONS , Sociology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Leslie Gordon SIMONS , Child and Family Development, University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Past research has established that environmental adversity fosters a cluster of psychological traits (low self-control, hostile attribution bias, cynical view of conventional morality) that, in turn, increase the probability of crime. Presumably, these psychological characteristics are criminogenic because they increase the probability that individuals will interpret everyday events and circumstances in a manner that legitimates, justifies, or requires a violent or antisocial line of action. These definitions might involve, for example, a perceived threat, slight, or injustice that requires a forceful reaction.  This hypothesis was tested in the present study.  In addition, we posited that the nature of the activity fields within which individuals conduct their routine activities influences the probability of antisocial situational definitions and crime.  High risk areas characterized by low social control, high deviance, and acceptance of the street code were expected to promote definitions conducive to crime.  These antisocial definitions are viewed as a nature consequence of the routine activities and personal interactions that are part of the culture of such areas.  Finally, we expected that psychological characteristics interact with activity fields to influence the probability of antisocial definitions of the situation and crime.  Psychological traits were expected to be strong predictors of antisocial definitions and crime when routine activities were conducted in high risk neighborhoods whereas these characteristics were expected to show only a small association with deviant definitions and crime when routine activities take place in low risk areas (low crime and street code, high collective efficacy). These predictions were tested using structural equation modeling and longitudinal data from a panel of approximately 700 young African American adults residing in the United States.  The analyses provided strong support for the study hypotheses and suggest that personal traits as well as social environmental strains and opportunities must be taken into account in explaining criminal behavior.