This study tested core propositions of Mark Colvin’s (2000) differential coercion theory.
Coercion as a key cause of crime has repeatedly emerged in the criminological literature over the past two decades. Colvin’s (2000) recent book, Crime and Coercion, set forth his “differential coercion theory,” which attempts to connect coercive forces to the development of crime and delinquency. The current study presents the first systematic assessment of the core theoretical propositions that make up Colvin’s differential coercion theory. Data were collected from 2,472 middle school students at 6 different public schools in a metropolitan area of Virginia. Variables included demographic information including gender, measures of economic status, race, and grade level, as well as various measures of coercion, such as parental coercion, peer coercion, school coercion, and neighborhood coercion. Other variables included four measures of social-psychological factors: anger, parental social bonds, school social bonds, and coercive ideation. Results of statistical analyses largely supported Colvin’s general proposition that different types of coercion would be positively associated with delinquent involvement. Parental coercion, including verbal abuse, threats, and physical punishment, were significantly related to delinquency. School and neighborhood coercion were also significantly related to delinquency, although the associations were less strong than parental coercion. Peer coercion was found to be unrelated to delinquency. The final analysis indicates that students exposed to coercive environments develop social-psychological deficits which may lead them to engage in delinquent activities. One central limitation of the current research was that it was unable to measure all the factors identified by Colvin. Future research should focus on explaining the origin of chronic criminality over the life course. Tables, appendix, notes, references
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