Applying Agnew’s Integrated Theory of Crime and Delinquency to Victimization Risk

Published date01 September 2018
Date01 September 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Applying Agnew’s Integrated
Theory of Crime and
Delinquency to Victimization
Risk: A Contemporaneous
and Longitudinal Examination
Jonathan A. Grubb
and Chad Posick
Stemming from the work of Schreck (1999), criminological frameworks have increasingly been
reframed to explore victimization experiences. Given developmental and situational changes over
time, Agnew’s integrated theory of crime and delinquency provides a potentially profitable frame-
work for explaining victimization that has remained relatively unexplored. To address this gap, the
current study investigated whether contemporaneous and lagged effects of life domains outlined
within the theory were predictive of violent victimization. Using multiple waves of data from the
Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods Longitudinal Cohort Study (PHDCN-
LCS), support was obtained for peer domain factors, involvement in offending, and prior victimi-
zation. Implications for crime prevention in the form of interrupting the cycle of violence and future
directions for testing victimization theory are discussed.
integrated theory, life domains, longitudinal, PHDCN, victimization
Exposure to victimization continues to be a major social problem in the United States and abroad,
with victimological theory still generally ill-equipped to explain the bulk of victimization risk.
Dating back to the 1970s, routine activity theory (Cohen & Felson, 1979) and lifestyle exposure
theory (Hindelang, Gottfredson, & Garofalo, 1978) set the foundation for integrated perspectives
that emerged during the 1990s (e.g., Forde & Kennedy, 1997; Miethe & Meier, 1994; Rountree,
Land, & Miethe, 1994). Development of these new perspectives was based, at least partially, on the
recognition that offending and victimization shared similar etiologies. Arguably, the most prominent
Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Georgia Southern University,
Statesboro, GA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jonathan A. Grubb, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Georgia
Southern University, 1360 Southern Drive, Statesboro, GA 30460, USA.
Criminal Justice Review
2018, Vol. 43(3) 289-308
ª2018 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016818756487
example of this process has been the seminal work of Schreck (1999), which accessed whether low
self-control, conceptualized in A General Theory of Crime (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990) as impul-
sivity and immediately gratifying behavior, could be repurposed to predict victimization. Results
indicated that once offending was controlled for low self-control remained an influential individual
difference that could explain victimization risk. Following in the footsteps of Schreck (1999), low
self-control has been introduced into more complex investigations of victimization with substantial
success (e.g., Childs, Cochran, & Gibson, 2009; Fox & Bouffard, 2015; Schreck, Stewart, & Fisher,
2006; Schreck, Wright, & Miller, 2002). A recent meta-analysis conducted by Pratt, Turanovic, Fox,
and Wright (2014) discovered a positive and relatively consistent increase in the risk of victimiza-
tion that could be linked to deficiencies in self-control. Based upon growing support for low self-
control as a factor for victimization, there is reason to believe that other criminological theories
could be reframed to better understand victimization. Moreover, such examinations can provide a
beneficial step forward for theoretical refinement within victimology.
One criminological theory seemingly ripe to predict victimization is Agnew’s (2005) integrated
theory of crime and delinquency. The integrated theory incorporates empirically supported crimin-
ological variables having exhibited a moderate to strong direct effect on offending into five life
domains (self, family, school, peer, and work domains). Although the theory proposed by Agnew
sought to explain offending, a multifaceted perspective exists as to why the integrated theory could
be predictive of victimization. More specifically, research has indicated that (1) individual life
domain variables have commonly been linked to victimization, (2) the relationship between victi-
mization and offending reg ularly overlaps, and (3) the temporal ordering of vic timization and
offending is dynamic. Importantly, certain domains are likely capable of explaining victimization
risk depending on the timing in the life course (Steinberg, 2014). Stemming from the three afore-
mentioned factors, the current study examines whether victimization can be predicted using
Agnew’s (2005) integrated theory. Prior to outlining specific conditions of this research, a review
is provided of Agnew’s integrated theory and why reframing the theory to explore victimization is
Agnew’s Integrated Theory of Crime and Delinquency
Agnew’s (2005) integrated theory of crime and delinquency represents a recently constructed, yet
minimally explored, theoretical framework in criminology. The theoretical core of the integrated
theory is an age-graded perspective that organizes empirically supported criminological concepts
into five specific life domains (i.e., self, family, school, peer, and work domains) that alter the
likelihood of offending through specific constraints and motivations. A total of more than 30
different factors make up the five li fe domains such as poor social skills and low self-control
(self-domain), criminal family members and negative parental bonding (family domain), low aca-
demic aspirations and negative school bonding (school domain), routine activities and peer delin-
quency (peer domain), and unemployment (work domain).
Although the life domains function as the central component of the theory, Agnew (2005)
outlined a total of eight different propositions, specifically that “(1) crime is most likely when the
constraints against crime are low and the motivations for crime are high; (2) several individual traits
and features of the individual’s immediate social environment directly influence the constraints
against and the motivations for crime. Many of these traits and environmental variables are strongly
associated with one another, and they can be grouped into a smaller number of “clusters” that are
organized by life domain; (3) the life domains have reciprocal effects on one another, although some
effects are stronger than others; (4) crime sometimes affects the life domains in ways that increase
the likelihood of subsequent crime; (5) the life domains interact with one another in affecting crime;
(6) the life domains have largely contemporaneous effects on one another and on crime, although
290 Criminal Justice Review 43(3)

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