Newsletter Vol 11, No 1
March 2003
Does culture of war abroad cause culture of violence at home? Page 7

Page 1

Is the Statement up to date?
Page 2

Page 3

Yanomamo data - fraudulent?
Page 4

Genetics, men, women and war
Page 5

Do primates make war?
Page 6

War abroad, violence at home
Page 7

This question frequently arises. The Seville Statement talks mostly about war; does a culture of war abroad cause a culture of violence at home? The best evidence to date provide an answer: rates of homicide and other violent crimes are greater in cultures with frequent war, both in the case of nation-states and in the case of non-state societies studied by anthropologists. And the relationship appears to be cause and effect: the cause is the culture of war; the effect is increased domestic violence.

Two sources stand out. The first is the book by Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner, Violence and Crime in Cross-National Perspective (Yale University Press, 1984). The authors develop and publish in detail an unprecedented Comparative Crime Data File, including data on five types of offenses for 110 nations and 44 major international cities between 1900 and 1970. By analyzing this database, they come to the following conclusion on page 96:

"Using homicide data from the CCFF, the homicide rates of fifty "nation-wars" were analyzed to learn (1) whether postwar homicide increases occurred and (2) whether the evidence was consistent with or disconfirmed any of the seven theoretical models."

"Most of the combatant nations in the study experienced substantial postwar increases in their rates of homicide. These increases did not occur among a control group of noncombatant nations. The increases were pervasive and occurred after both large and small wars, with several types of homicide indicators, in victorious as well as defeated nations, in nations with improved postwar economies and nations with worsened economies, among both men and women offenders, and among several age groups. Postwar increases were most frequent among nations with large numbers of combat deaths."

"These findings indicate (1) that postwar homicide increases occur consistently and (2) that several theoretical explanations are either disconfirmed by evidence on postwar changes or are insufficient to explain the changes. The one model that appears to be fully consistent with the evidence is the legitimation of violence model, which suggests that the presence of authorized or sanctioned killing during war has a residual effect on the level of homicide in peacetime society."

When this question was raised at the meetings of the International Society for Research on Aggression in Spain in 2000, participants also pointed out the following references with supporting evidence:

Phillips, D., 1983. The impact of mass media violence on U.S. homicides. American Sociological Review, 48: 560-568.

Landau, S.F. and Rolef, 1998. Intimate Femicide in Israel: Temporal, social and motivational patterns. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 6: 75-90.

A second source of supporting evidence for the relationship between external war and internal violence comes from the cross-cultural studies of Mel and Carol Ember. In the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1994 (volume 38, pages 620-646) under the title, "War, Socialization, and Interpersonal Violence: A Cross-Cultural Study," they show that more war is associated with more homicide and assault. They found correlation coefficients to be especially high for non-state societies (.34, .42 and .78 between frequency of war and individual homicide, individual assault and socially-organized homicide respectively). Evidence indicates that the direction of the relationship is from war to homicide rather than the other direction, and, in particular, the relationship appears to be mediated by the socialization of boys for aggression in preparation for warrior roles. They tested many possible explanations for high homicide and assault rates, but none were as strong as that of socialization for aggression. Further confirmation was found with the fact that if a society became pacified over time, there was a drop in the socialization for aggression, presumably because it was no longer needed for war. Looking at this process over time, it could be seen that the longer a society had been pacified, the lower its socialization for aggression, indicating that the pacification of the society was the causal factor, not vice versa.

In addition to the causal relationship of war -> socialization for aggression -> homicide and assault, the authors also found a separate direct relationship of war -> homicide and assault. This, they suggest, may be due to the legitimization of violence by war, corresponding to the findings in the study of nation-states by Archer and Gartner quoted above.

The authors conclude: "If this theory is correct, war is an important indirect cause of interpersonal violence within a society. War may also be a direct cause of more violence because war legitimizes violence. Our results imply that if we want to reduce the likelihood of interpersonal violence in our society, we may mostly need to reduce the likelihood of war, which would minimize the need to socialize for aggression and possible reduce the likelihood of all violence. War and violence appear to be causally related. If we want to rid the world of violence, we may first have to rid the world of war."

The above studies are important for several reasons.

1. They indicate a probable cause of the escalating rates of violence within certain countries today, for example, in the United States where the rate of homicide is far greater than that of any other country. If countries wish to address their high rates of violence in the family and community, they must address their culture of war.

2. They support the overall thesis of the Seville Statement on Violence, that the key factors in human violence are much more cultural factors rather than biological.

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