Date of Award

6-16-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Criminology

First Advisor

Jennifer J. Roberts, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jamie S. Martin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Shannon Womer Phaneuf, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Bitna Kim, Ph.D.

Abstract

Research concerning the situational context in which crime occurs has taken a back seat to the study of criminality in criminological research. The purpose of this study was to examine the situational context of robbery, attempted robbery, assault, and avoided violence situations. Offenders from four western Pennsylvania county jail facilities were surveyed June through October 2010 concerning the contextual information in these types of situations in which they had been participants. This study examined situations nested within each respondent and compared these situations across respondents. This type of analysis was used to fully examine the personal (criminality) and situational factors that influence the studied situations. The personal level factors examined in this study were offender demographics, criminal history, hostile attribution bias and anger. The situational factors included decision making, anger and hostile attribution bias (in each situation), motive, victim selection, substance use, intent to harm, weaponry, and injury. The results from this study indicate that the study of the situational context of crime can provide more opportunities for researchers to unveil the complexities of criminal behavior. Utilizing social information processing theory, this study found that there were statistically significant differences in decision making in the studied situations. Additionally, hostile attribution bias and anger did play an important role in these situations, and more attention should be devoted to them. Lastly, past research has focused too narrowly on certain aspects of the situation (e.g., motive or victim selection), giving an incomplete depiction of the criminal situation. This research found that, by focusing on the situation in its entirety, more accurate information can be obtained as to which situational variables have a statistically significant relationship with robbery, attempted robbery, assault, and avoided violence situations.

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