How people view crime depends on the politics of when they were growing up

A new study in the British Journal of Criminology indicates that the different political periods in which people ‘came of age’ has an important influence on their perception of crime, even decades later.

For over forty years, researchers have sought to understand the causes and implications of people’s fear of crime. But to date, no studies have been able to take into account whether the political period in which a cohort grew up had a meaningful effect on their emotional responses to crime. The political context the respondents grew up in – during the ages of 15 to 25 – is the time when people form key opinions and are most sensitive to social events.

Researchers from the University of Sheffield, University of Southampton and Sciences Po, Paris, analyzed data on fear of crime and antisocial behavior from the British Crime Survey in England and Wales spanning 30 years. In doing so, they were able to estimate the net effects of individual aging, the historical period in which the survey was conducted and the political generations the respondents belonged to.

The researchers found a strong relationship between a respondent’s current crime fears and their political generation. For example, those who grew up under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990) or John Major (1990-1997) expressed the greatest level of worry about domestic burglary – the same…

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