Situational Factors and Mechanisms in Pathways to Violence

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Abstract

Background: A large body of research has produced vast quantities of empirical data on risk factors for violence in a range of countries and community contexts. Despite the unquestionable successes of this research in cataloguing these risk factors, relatively little is known about the situational factors and mechanisms that translate risks for violence into enactments of violence itself. Without stronger explanations of these situational pathways to violence, understandings of violence remain “fuzzy.” This special issue aims to address this important limitation through a focus on the situational dimensions of violence. Key points: Although directly observing violence is often ethically and methodologically challenging, the studies in this special issue demonstrate the value of better understanding the situational contexts that shape the well-documented affective, interactional, and behavioral variables and processes that constitute violent enactments. Examining these processes and factors as they unfold in situ can advance and deepen theoretical and empirical research on general risks for violence. Implications: Situations in which violence is enacted, and the mechanisms through which it is realized, can and should be systematically studied as part of any attempt to enhance the resolution of existing knowledge with respect to violence. Empirical and theoretical research that attempts to get “closer” to violence offers important and innovative insights and opportunities for understanding violence itself, alongside its causes, correlates, and consequences. Investing in the design of robust studies of the situational dimensions of violence is important for advancing the field of violence scholarship and potentially informing policy and intervention practices.

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