Youth Violence in Germany

Published date01 September 2018
Date01 September 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Youth Violence in Germany:
Examining the Victim–Offender
Overlap During the Transition
From Adolescence to Early
Anke Erdmann
and Jost Reinecke
The victim–offender overlap is currently under discussion in criminology. However, the connection
between victimization and offending over the life course still requires further investigation. The
present study examines whether the victim–offender overlap is invariant during the transition from
adolescence to early adulthood using seven consecutive waves of the German Research Founda-
tion–funded self-report study “Crime in the Modern City,” which contain information about
German students from the age of 14 to 20 years. The results indicate that the nature as well as the
strength of the overlap changes over the period from adolescence to early adulthood. The intro-
duced measurement of the relative victim–offender overlap indicates that with growing up, fewer
victims are also offenders whereas the amount of offenders that are also victims remains stable.
Longitudinal analyses based on latent growth and cross-lagged panel models further point out that the
developments of victimization and offending are highly parallel processes that evince similar stability
and mutual influence over the phase of youth and adolescence. However, the association between
both weakens over age. In conclusion, our results suggest variance in the victim–offender overlap
over the life course. This justifies the demand for further research and theory development on this
criminological phenomenon.
victimization, victim–offender overlap, violence, transition, adolescence
At first glance, it seems plausible to consider victims and offenders separately and as two different
groups—the active and the passive part of a crime. But for several decades now, criminologists have
consented that both groups show fundamental similarities and have many characteristics in common.
For example, scholars have noted that victims and offenders often feature a similar sociostructural
Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
Corresponding Author:
Anke Erdmann, Faculty of Sociology, Bielefeld University, Universita
¨tsstraße 25, 33615 Bielefeld, Germany.
Criminal Justice Review
2018, Vol. 43(3) 325-344
ª2018 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016818761529
profile and are influenced by the same risk factors (Broidy, Daday, Crandall, Sklar, & Jost, 2006;
Cohen & Felson, 2014; Fagan, Piper, & Cheng, 1987; Gottfredson, 1986; Lauritsen, Sampson, &
Laub, 1991). Moreover, victims and offenders are not only similar, but the close connection of
victimization and offending often results in a personal union that is called the victim–offender
overlap (Broidy et al., 2006; DeCamp & Zaykowski, 2015; Hindelang, Gottfredson, & Garofalo,
1978; Jennings, Piquero, & Reingle, 2012; Klevens, Duque, & Ramı´rez, 2002; Ousey, Wilcox, &
Fisher, 2011). This relationship between victimization and offending can constantly be found across
time, place, groups, data, and even for many various types of delinquency and victimization (Laur-
itsen & Laub, 2007, p. 60, cited in Ousey et al., 2011, p. 54). Regarding theoretical explanations,
different approaches are suitable to explain this victim–offender overlap. Generally speaking, most
theories that are designed to explain delinquency can also be applied to victimization since both
constructs show so many similarities. Therefore, these theories can also be used to understand why
there is a relationship between victimization and delinquency and how this overlap emerges. Prob-
ably the most popular theories that can be applied to both victimiz ation and delinquency, thus
explaining their relationship, are the lifestyle-routine activity approach (Cohen & Felson, 1979;
Hindelang et al., 1978), the general strain theory (Agnew, 1992), the general theory of crime
(Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990), and subculture of violence (Wolfgang & Ferracuti, 1967).
The works of several authors help us understand the connection between victimization and
offending by not only applying these theories to delinquency or victimization separately but by
putting their focus directly on the connection between victimization and offending (Berg & Loeber,
2011; Berg, Stewart, Schreck, & Simons, 2012; Cudmore, Cuevas, & Sabina, 2015; Cullen, Unn-
ever, Hartman, Turner, & Agnew, 2008; DeCamp & Newby, 2014; Flexon, Meldrum, & Piquero,
2015; Klevens et al., 2002; Mancini & Pickett, 2015; Posick, 2013; Posick & Zimmerman, 2015;
Pyrooz, Moule, & Decker, 2014; Reid & Sullivan, 2012; Taylor, Freng, Esbensen, & Peterson, 2008;
Tillyer & Wright, 2014; Zavala & Spohn, 2013; Zimmerman, Farrell , & Posick, 2017; Zweig,
Yahner, Visher, & Lattimore, 2015; Wiesner & Rab, 2014). Fewer studies examine the victim–
offender overlap from a longitudinal perspective (Barnes & Beaver, 2012; Jennings, Higgins,
Tewksbury, Gover, & Piquero, 2010; Melde & Esbensen, 2009; Muftic´ & Hunt, 2012; Reingle &
Maldonado-Molina, 2012; Schreck, Stewart, & Wayne, 2008; Smith & Ecob, 2007; Turanovic &
Pratt, 2015; van Gelder, Averdijk, Eisner, & Ribaud, 2015; Zweig et al., 2015). Although the victim–
offender overlap is established as a criminological fact, some crucial aspects are still understudied.
This especially concerns the life-course perspective. With regard to the theories mentioned before,
we have every reason to assume that the risk factors that influence the victimization–offending
association change over time. This assumption is plausible for practically each of the theories that
are applicable to the victim–offender overlap. For example, self-control—once developed—is orig-
inally considered a time-stable characteristic. But newer refinements on self-control theory suggest
that it might not be completely stable over age (Burt, Sweeten, & Simons, 2014; Hay & Forrest,
2006). Thus, changes in self-control might cause variation in the victim–offender overlap. Also,
strain theory suggests a change in the association between victimization and offending over the life
course because especially younger persons tend to criminal coping due to lack of legal coping
strategies that adults have: “[ ...] they typically have limited access to non-criminal coping mechan-
isms and also may have less of the conventional social controls that are known to impede criminal
coping” (Ousey et al., 2011, p. 55). This would also justify assuming a transition in causality: While
younger persons tend to cope with victimization by committing crime (i.e., making a victimization
experience the direct cause for delinquency), this causal relationship is less relevant for adults.
Lifestyle-routine activity is also a factor that transforms over the life course. It can be expected
that rather younger persons indulge in risky lifestyles, making themselves vulnerable for victimiza-
tion and putting them at risk of offending while adults rather pract ice a lifestyle that prevents
victimization and offending (e.g., family activities, spending time at work).
326 Criminal Justice Review 43(3)

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