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A LONGITUDINAL TEST OF SOCIAL DISORGANIZATION THEORY: FEEDBACK EFFECTS AMONG COHESION, SOCIAL CONTROL, AND DISORDER

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Abstract:

Social disorganization theory holds that neighborhoods with greater residential stability, higher socioeconomic status, and more ethnic homogeneity experience less disorder because these neighborhoods have higher social cohesion and exercise more social control. Recent extensions of the theory argue that disorder in turn affects these structural characteristics and mechanisms. Using a data set on 74 neighborhoods in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands spanning 10 years, we tested the extended theory, which to date only a few studies have been able to do because of the unavailability of neighborhood‐level longitudinal data. We also improve on previous studies by distinguishing between the potential for social control (feelings of responsibility) and the actual social control behavior. Cross‐sectional analyses replicate earlier findings, but the results of longitudinal cross‐lagged models suggest that disorder has large consequences for subsequent levels of social control and residential instability, thus leading to more disorder. This is in contrast to most previous studies, which assume disorder to be more a consequence than a cause. This study underlines the importance of longitudinal data, allowing for simultaneously testing the causes and consequences of disorder, as well as the importance of breaking down social control into the two dimensions of the potential for social control and the actual social control behavior.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9125.2011.00241.x

Affiliations: 1: Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) 2: Department of Criminology, Law and Society and Department of SociologyUniversity of California—Irvine

Publication date: August 1, 2011

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