The Effects of Wars on Postwar Homicide Rates: A Replication and Extension of Archer and Gartner’s Classic Study

Published date01 August 2018
Date01 August 2018
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-170wF6eL0yl205/input 769989CCJXXX10.1177/1043986218769989Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeStamatel and Romans
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2018, Vol. 34(3) 287 –311
The Effects of Wars on
© The Author(s) 2018
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Postwar Homicide Rates:
DOI: 10.1177/1043986218769989
A Replication and Extension
of Archer and Gartner’s
Classic Study
Janet P. Stamatel1 and Samuel H. Romans1
This study replicates and extends Archer and Gartner’s classic work testing whether
wars increase postwar homicide rates because they legitimize the use of violence
as a means of conflict resolution. Using the Comparative Crime Data File (CCDF),
we replicated the original study with data from the two World Wars, as well as 12
smaller wars occurring prior to 1980. Our replication results generally confirmed
the hypothesis that wars increase postwar homicide rates, although there were
differences in results based on the method of analysis. We then examined the validity
of this theory using data on four wars occurring after 1990, but found no support
for the legitimation of violence argument. We argue that the null findings encourage
theoretical expansion, which is an underappreciated aspect of replication that is just
as valuable as empirical validation.
violence, homicide, cross-national, war, social learning
In 1984, Archer and Gartner published Violence and Crime in Cross-National
, an award-winning book analyzing a unique collection of historical and
cross-national data on interpersonal violence. In response to the “lamentably insular”
state of criminology at that time, Archer and Gartner (1984) created the Comparative
Crime Data File (CCDF) of crime and violence indicators for 110 countries and 44
1University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Janet P. Stamatel, Department of Sociology, University of Kentucky, 1571 Patterson Office Tower,
Lexington, KY 40506, USA.

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 34(3)
major cities worldwide from 1900 to 1973. Their book documented how the data set
was constructed, demonstrated how it could be used to answer compelling research
questions about patterns and causes of violence, and outlined a research agenda that
future criminologists could pursue with these data. Following best practices for scien-
tific research, Archer and Gartner published the data as part of this book and also
archived it electronically with the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social
Research (ICPSR) to promote transparency, accountability, and generativity.
This innovative approach to studying violence was an important contribution to the
revitalization of comparative criminology at that time and has been cited in hundreds
of subsequent publications.1 However, there has been very little replication of any of
the analyses from this book, despite the easy access to the data. Although scientists
have debated the pros and cons of data sharing and replication in a number of disci-
plines (e.g., Abbott, 2007; Freese, 2007; Freese & Powell, 2001; King, 1995, 2003;
Pridemore, Makel, & Plucker, 2018), the realities of publication expectations and the
scarcity of outlets provide few rewards for this kind of research, despite the fact that
most researchers will acknowledge the importance of replication in the scientific pro-
duction of knowledge. However, recent failures to replicate research results from
high-profile studies have gained the attention of mainstream media, thereby providing
an external incentive for social science researchers to protect the integrity of their
work through replication, transparency, and accountability (Handwerk, 2015; Meyer
& Chabris, 2014).
Interestingly, the theoretical argument made in this study, that state violence can
encourage interpersonal violence through modeling, has taken a backseat to structural
theories explaining cross-national differences in violence. Yet recent meta-analyses of
empirical tests of these structural theories show many inconsistencies in the results
(Koeppel, Rhineberger-Dunn, & Mack, 2015; Nivette, 2011; Pridemore & Trent,
2010). Although there is modest support for modernization, social disorganization,
and anomie theories in this body of literature, there are still many anomalies and unan-
swered questions about cross-national variations in homicide, begging the question of
whether criminologists should consider other types of explanations, such as social
process theories (Schaible, 2012). Process theories, including the social learning the-
ory adopted by Archer and Gartner (1976, 1984), often require longitudinal data to
allow for social processes to unfold over time, which has not always be available for a
large number of countries. As a result, cross-sectional research has dominated cross-
national studies of violence, which tend to preference social structural over social
process theories. However, more systematic and complete cross-national data collec-
tions and better methods for analyzing longitudinal data can revitalize theoretical
depth in this area.
Renewing attention to neglected theories in cross-national violence research, espe-
cially social process theories, can address some important, yet unanswered criminologi-
cal questions. For example, it has been well established that countries with high levels
of social inequality also tend to have high levels of violence, but it is less clear as to why
that it is the case and how that happens. Schaible and Hughes (2011) applied reintegra-
tive shaming theory to show how communitarianism mediates that relationship. It is

Stamatel and Romans
also well known that the United States has historically had higher violent crime rates
than comparably highly developed democracies, despite the fact that they have been
declining since the 1990s (Lynch & Pridemore, 2011). Social learning theory could
explain both the change over time and the relative stability in ranking, which structural
explanations such as social inequality have not been able to do.
We argue that replicating the classic study of Archer and Gartner (1984) investigat-
ing the influence of wars on postwar homicide rates is important both to enhance sci-
entific integrity and to promote theoretical development. In this article, we aim to
replicate the original study to contribute to the dearth of replicability studies in crimi-
nology (Pridemore et al., 2018), reanalyze the original findings using more advanced
statistical techniques to assess the robustness of the results, and extend the original
analysis to examine the role of social learning in understanding postwar homicide
rates in the 21st century.
The Original Study
In most societies, violence can be justified according to the perceived legitimacy of the
perpetrators. A sovereign state, by definition, is vested with the authority to engage in
legitimate violence, such as the use of force by law enforcement, the application of the
death penalty, or the deployment of the military in the case of wars. One concern about
the widespread use of legitimate violence is that it could serve as a model or justifica-
tion for illegitimate violence. “What all wars have in common is the unmistakable
moral lesson that homicide is an acceptable, even praiseworthy, means to certain ends”
(Archer & Gartner, 1984, p. 66). Drawing on cognitive learning theory, the legitima-
tion of violence model contends that the state’s use of legitimate violence will increase
the likelihood of citizens’ engagement in illegitimate violence, such as homicide
(Bandura, 1973). Increased exposure to violence normalizes the behavior at the mac-
rolevel, which becomes internalized at the microlevel (Akers, 2013).
Archer and Gartner considered the legitimation of violence model alongside six
other theories. First, in the artifacts model, homicide changes are demographic arti-
facts from wartime changes in population characteristics that decrease the pool of
potential offenders (e.g., through conscription and the death of young men). Second,
in the social solidarity model, wars increase social bonds and the rule of law, which
should decrease crime during wartime and at least immediately afterward. Third, in
the social disorganization model, anomie created by war would increase crime rates,
particularly in defeated nations where the economic, political, and social systems com-
pletely break down. Fourth, in the economic factors model, the effects of scarcities
generated by war and postwar unemployment on crime rates could either increase or
decrease postwar crime rates depending on how well the postwar economy was per-
forming compared with the prewar economy. Fifth, the catharsis model views the pub-
lic violence of wars as a substitute for private violence, predicting postwar decreases
in homicide rates. Finally, the violent veterans model suggests that veterans were con-
ditioned to violence during wars and continued to seek it upon returning home, thereby
contributing to postwar homicide increases.

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 34(3)
Archer and Gartner did not conduct a strict test of the seven theoretical propositions
due to data limitations regarding both the dependent and independent variables.
Several of the theories emphasized wartime changes in homicide rates, which Archer

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