National Academies Press: OpenBook

Understanding and Preventing Violence: Volume 1 (1993)


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Suggested Citation:"PART III HARNESSING UNDERSTANDING TO IMPROVE CONTROL ." National Research Council. 1993. Understanding and Preventing Violence: Volume 1. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1861.
Page 289
Suggested Citation:"PART III HARNESSING UNDERSTANDING TO IMPROVE CONTROL ." National Research Council. 1993. Understanding and Preventing Violence: Volume 1. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1861.
Page 290

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FIREARMS AND VIOLENCE 289 PART III HARNESSING UNDERSTANDING TO IMPROVE CONTROL In Part II we describe what is currently known about certain types of violence. As those chapters show, some useful advances have been made in identifying risk factors—but causal understanding is limited, and there is a shortage of preventive interventions whose effectiveness has been documented through rigorous long-term evaluations. Lacking clear-cut evidence of successful preventive interventions in social and family problems—poverty, unemployment, unstable family life, poor parenting skills, etc.—some people favor greater use of incarceration to reduce violence through the effects of incapacitation and deterrence. In Chapter 7 we examine recent experience with violent crime levels during an unprecedented increase in the prison population. Based on official statistics, a near-tripling of average prison time served per violent crime during the past 15 years appears not to have produced a concomitant decrease in levels of violent crime. Although the results are not definitive, this suggests that the increased use of prison had a limited violence reduction effect, that other criminogenic processes were at work, or both. If that is so, then a broader perspective will help to expand thinking about possibilities for preventive interventions in the processes that culminate in violent events, and a more systematic development strategy for such interventions may, over time, expand the array of useful violence prevention tools.

FIREARMS AND VIOLENCE 290 To help organize our thinking about potential interventions, Chapter 7 presents a matrix that oversimplifies the complexities explored in Part II but that organizes the factors and processes discussed there in a way that highlights promising points for preventive interventions. Because not much is known yet about the interactions between the cells of the matrix, they do not lead immediately to specific policy prescriptions, but do suggest a number of ideas worth testing. Therefore, the chapter concludes with a discussion of the kinds of rigorous evaluations that, by testing promising ideas, can simultaneously improve the capacity to control violence and advance its understanding. In Chapter 8 the panel presents recommendations that, taken together, are designed to fill gaps in knowledge and improve the capacity to diagnose and remedy specific problems. They cover four areas: • initiatives to solve specific violence problems through systematic testing of interventions, • improvements in statistical systems to measure overall violence more completely and specific violence problems more accurately, • neglected areas of violence research, and • a multicommunity longitudinal study of violence and aggression. Chapter 8 concludes by examining the capacity of the current structure of the federal system to support the necessary research. Other important basic research questions have been raised throughout the chapters of Part II.

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By conservative estimates, more than 16,000 violent crimes are committed or attempted every day in the United States. Violence involves many factors and spurs many viewpoints, and this diversity impedes our efforts to make the nation safer.

Now a landmark volume from the National Research Council presents the first comprehensive, readable synthesis of America's experience of violence—offering a fresh, interdisciplinary approach to understanding and preventing interpersonal violence and its consequences. Understanding and Preventing Violence provides the most complete, up-to-date responses available to these fundamental questions:

  • How much violence occurs in America?
  • How do different processes—biological, psychosocial, situational, and social—interact to determine violence levels?
  • What preventive strategies are suggested by our current knowledge of violence?
  • What are the most critical research needs?

Understanding and Preventing Violence explores the complexity of violent behavior in our society and puts forth a new framework for analyzing risk factors for violent events. From this framework the authors identify a number of "triggering" events, situational elements, and predisposing factors to violence—as well as many promising approaches to intervention.

Leading authorities explore such diverse but related topics as crime statistics; biological influences on violent behavior; the prison population explosion; developmental and public health perspectives on violence; violence in families; and the relationship between violence and race, ethnicity, poverty, guns, alcohol, and drugs.

Using four case studies, the volume reports on the role of evaluation in violence prevention policy. It also assesses current federal support for violence research and offers specific science policy recommendations.

This breakthrough book will be a key resource for policymakers in criminal and juvenile justice, law enforcement authorities, criminologists, psychologists, sociologists, public health professionals, researchers, faculty, students, and anyone interested in understanding and preventing violence.

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