Strain and Opportunity: A Theory of Repeat Victimization


General strain theory is often applied to explain the origin of deviant behavior, while the risky lifestyles and opportunities perspective is often used to examine the ongoing risk for victimization. However, given evidence that the delinquent coping mechanisms operationalized by the general strain tests and the risky behaviors measured in the risky lifestyles models are often the same behaviors, the current study argues that these two models can be constructed as a uniform framework to explain the onset and continuity of victimization, including involvement in delinquency, from childhood through adolescence. Experiences of child maltreatment are posited to trigger feelings of negative emotions more likely managed with forms of coping that can foster opportunities for suffering further victimization. Using data from the first three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), the results show that youth who adopt maladaptive forms of coping with childhood abuse and neglect, including engaging in substance abuse, running away from home, and drug selling, are at further risk for subsequent experiences of victimization in adolescence. However, the model provides only one pathway linking child maltreatment to adolescent victimization, and the strength of support varies based on the measures of negative emotions and coping strategies.

Publication Title

Journal of Interpersonal Violence