Life Domains and Dating Violence Among Latino Youth: A Partial Test of Agnew’s Integrated General Theory

Date01 September 2021
Published date01 September 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Life Domains and Dating
Violence Among Latino Youth:
A Partial Test of Agnew’s
Integrated General Theory
Egbert Zavala
and Caitlyn N. Muniz
In 2005, Agnew presented a new theoretical framework for understanding crime and delinquency.
To date, this theory has not been thoroughly tested among various populations and types of crime.
To address this gap in the research, the present study analyzes data gathered from the Dating
Violence Among Latino Adolescents Study, providing a partial test of Agnew’s integrated general theory
to determine its applicability to dating violence perpetration among Latino youth. Results from 669
Latino respondents showed that the theory’s constructs are modestly associated with perpetrating
dating violence among this study population. Concepts depicting self (anger) and peer (peer bullying)
domains are associated with the dependent variable, while school (school performance) and family
(family support) domains were found to be nonsignificant. Among control and demographic vari-
ables, age, sex, depression, anxiety, and past dating victimization were also significant, while
enculturation was nonsignificant. Overall, results are indicative of partial support for the theory.
Prevention and intervention strategies based on the study’s findings targeted at reducing dating
violence perpetration, such as recognizing signs of anger and reducing peer bullying victimization, are
life domains, Latino youth, dating violence, DAVILA
Risk factors known to increase crime and delinquency have been well established in the crimin-
ological literature. For example, a number of studies have found that low self-control (e.g., Pratt &
Cullen, 2000), holding beliefs favorable toward violence (e.g., McGloin, et al., 2011), associating
with delinquent peers (e.g., Warr, 2002), having weak social bonds (e.g., Stewart, 2003), and the
absence of social support (e.g., Colvin et al., 2002) have all been linked to criminal behavior. It is
perhaps unsurprising that several attempts have been made to create a general theory that integrates
Department of Criminal Justice, The University of Texas at El Paso, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Egbert Zavala, Department of Criminal Justice, The University of Texas at El Paso, 500 W. University Ave., El Paso, TX 79968,
Criminal Justice Review
2021, Vol. 46(3) 341-360
ª2020 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016820966036
all of these known risk factors into one framework. Agnew (2005) made one such attempt when he
introduced his general theory of crime and delinquency. According to Agnew, criminal behavior and
delinquency are more likely to occur when constraints against such behaviors are low and motiva-
tions for them are high. These constraints and motivations are generated by what Agnew labeled life
domains. He identified five life domains pertinent to criminal behavior: self (e.g., low self-control),
family (e.g., family support), peer (e.g., delinquent peers), school (e.g., school commitment), and
work (e.g., work commitment) domains.
While a small number of studies have tested the core propositions of Agnew’s integrated general
theory, there are still several areas in need of research, specifically, the theory’s applicability for
various forms of crime and delinquency across different populations. Undertaking such an endeavor
is important for at least three reasons. First, the theory has not been subjected to substantial empirical
testing. Although it was introduced over a decade ago, there have been only six published studies
explicitly testing this theory. This lack of research prompted Choi and Kruis (2018) to urge scholars
to continue testing the theory with different forms of crimes and study populations. This study aims
to answer that call by testing the theory on a specific type of crime (dating violence perpetration)
among a particular study population (Latino youth). Second, a growing body of literature has begun
to uncover the correlates of dating violence among Latino youth. Studies have generally examined
this issue in the context of cultural aspects such as acculturation, enculturation, gender stereotypes,
machismo, and marianismo (Alvarez et al., 2018; Cuevas et al., 2018; Terrazas-Carrillo & Sabina,
2019; Ulloa et al., 2004). These cultural aspects are important because of their influence on the
relationship dynamics within Latino dating culture (Lopez et al., 2012). However, relying primarily
on cultural aspects without testing other risk markers may prevent scholars and practitioners from
discovering new insights that may help further understand dating violence among Latinos. Finally,
there is the possibility that the life domains described by Agnew may be especially pertinent to
Latinos, and research is needed to determine the applicability of the theory among this population.
Agnew’s Integrated General Theory
Recognizing that either certain factors can act as constraints against criminal behavior or motiva-
tions for it, Agnew formulated his integrated general theory (Agnew, 2005) to organize the corre-
lates of criminal behavior into a single theory. These correlates were then grouped into what Agnew
established as the five life domains. First, Agnew recognized that certain personality traits are
associated with criminal behavior. He points to self-control, anger, and the trait “irritability” as
examples of the self domain. These traits reduce constraints against criminal behavior while also
providing motivation for it. The current study will examine the influence of anger to capture the self
domain, which has been shown to be correlated with interpersonal aggression among couples
(Eckhardt et al., 2002). Thus, it is expected that anger will increase dating violence perpetration.
Second, Agnew acknowledged that the family plays a major role in either supporting or control-
ling criminal behavior, calling this aspect the family domain. He noted that poor family behaviors,
such as child abuse, family violence, and overall poor parenting practices , contribute to crime
(Kruttschnitt & Dornfeld, 1993) including dating violence (Arriaga & Foshee, 2004; Tussey
et al., 2018). He also postulated that children are less likely to engage in delinquency when their
families provide them proper supervision and estab lish strong emotional attachment with them
(Demuth & Brown, 2004). It is, therefore, expected that strong family support will decrease dating
violence perpetration.
Third, Agnew also emphasized a youth’s experience at school and how that can either increase or
decrease crime. He labeled this the school domain. It has been well established that students who are
attached to their teachers and are committed to achieving high grades are more likely to avoid crime
(Zingraff et al., 1994). Yet, students who perform poorly, lack educational goals or aspirations, and
342 Criminal Justice Review 46(3)

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