Crime and the Elderly
An Empirical Investigation on the Determinants and Correlates of Criminal Behavior Amongst the Elderly
The project addresses moral-normative attitudes and criminal behavior amongst elderly citizens. The principle goal is to empirically test the validity of general theories of deviance and criminal behavior on those aged 50+. In addition, an attempt will also be made to estimate the number of criminal related incidents that go unreported. A further object of the project is to study the ‘typification’ of older people in terms of their moral-normative attitudes and their criminal behavior. The requisite project information has been acquired through a standardized mail survey of 3555 people aged between 49 and 81 years old in Baden-Wurttemberg. Besides the theoretically important determinants and correlates of crime, additional information concerning experiences of victimization, personality characteristics, health status, biographical events and social integration has also been obtained. Furthermore, 99 survey participants have been interviewed in person to obtain supplementary information. The project is part of the Research School of the Max Planck International Research Network on Aging (MaxNetAging).
|Project category:||Doctoral dissertation|
|Organizational status:||Individual project|
|Project time frame:||Project commences: 2007
Project ends: 2013
|Project status:||In progress|
Due to a variety of social and demographic changes both the absolute number as well as the relative proportion of older people in our society is on the rise. This increase has primarily been fuelled by higher life expectancy rates as a result of improved physical and mental health of older people. As such, knowledge about the living conditions, attitudes and behavior of older people is of increasing social importance. This project concentrates on the moral-normative attitudes and criminal behavior of elderly citizens. In contrast to the quite frequent media attention that the topic has received, little scientific research currently exists on this topic. The few empirical studies that do exist are descriptive only and are limited to the analysis of crime data. This project will complement current research by providing information on unreported criminal as well as relevant contextual factors that will be evaluated both descriptively and theoretically.
Reported cases of old-age crime:
Based on the official statistics about 6% of all suspects are persons aged 60 or over. The number of first time offenders in this group is relatively high (between 70% and 80%). No age-specific offenses exist, though property offenses are common. Atypical offenses for the 60+ group include serious crimes such as rape and robbery. Of note is the relatively high proportion of female offenders, a fact that has traditionally been attributed to demographic factors. Whether current demographic trends will alter this picture is uncertain, though the situation in Japan would suggest that this is possible. Japan has the largest percentage of elderly persons worldwide and statistics have recorded a rapid increase in their criminal behavior. It is therefore most likely that increased longevity will lead to the creation of a new ‘social problem’ that academic research must attempt to react to and prevent.
The study has the following three objectives:
- Complement reported case statistics with information on unreported cases through a) collection of theoretically important determinants and correlates and b) estimation of crime related parameters on the basis of collected samples.
- Review general theories of deviance and criminal behavior in terms of their explanatory power in relation to criminal acts amongst elderly citizens.
- Typification of experiences, attitudes and behavior of elderly citizens to crime.
It is hoped that the results of the project will lead to a better understanding of some of the consequences of (psycho-)social problems in upper adulthood and allow for the development of appropriate prevention strategies. Moreover, the project will contribute to the development of theoretical criminology through an analysis of current theories and the introduction of detailed age-crime specific knowledge.
The project’s target population includes German citizens aged between 49 and 81 years old who are located in the region ‘Südbaden’ around the city of Freiburg in Baden-Wurttemberg. The data collection is to be divided into two separate phases:
|Phase 1:||Standardized mail survey|
In order to test certain criminological concepts, a portion of the survey has taken the form of a ‘factorial survey’. This innovative approach incorporates traditional survey questions with the central characteristics of the experiment and allows for the selective analysis of the isolated effects of combined factors. The factorial survey design is rather complex and requires the individualization of the questionnaires. The project includes 32 different survey versions that has been sent to 111 or 112 participants.
The survey has undergone a ‘two-phase pre-test’. In the first phase, the ‘new’ elements were evaluated using cognitive strategies in personal (face-to-face) interviews (n = 8). The revised questionnaire was then posted to a further 400 randomly selected individuals. This ‘standard pre-test’ involved two methods to test how anonymity and the order of the questions affected the quality and quantity of answers.
|Phase 2:||Face-to-face interviews|
Project status (March 2013):
The data analysis has been completed. The main research report (regarding the mail survey) is finished (Kunz forthcoming 2013c) , another research report (regarding the face-to-face interviews) is in preparation (Kunz 2014).
Prof. Dr. Dr. hc. Hans-Jörg Albrecht (Max Planck Institute Freiburg)
Prof. Dr. Baldo Blinkert (Institute for Sociology, University of Freiburg)
- Kunz, Franziska: Moral und (Un-)Rechtsempfinden im gesellschaftlichen Wandel. Ein empirischer Vergleich von Generationen 50+. Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 2014 (in preparation).
- Kunz, Franziska: Kriminalität älterer Menschen. Beschreibung und Erklärung auf der Basis von Selbstberichtsdaten. Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 2013c (forthcoming). In addition: Dissertation University of Freiburg.
- Kunz, Franziska: Auswirkungen der Erhebungsanonymität auf die Teilnahmebereitschaft und das Antwortverhalten in postalischen Befragungen zu selbst berichteter Kriminalität. Ein Methodenexperiment. In: forschung aktuell - research in brief, Nr. 44, Max-Planck-Institut Freiburg; edition iuscrim, 2013b (forthcoming).
- Kunz, Franziska: Kriminalität älterer Menschen. Ergebnisse einer postalischen Befragung. In: Geriatrie Report, 2013a, Issue⁄Volume 8/1, p. 8 - 14.
- Kunz, Franziska / Grundies, Volker: Zur Messung von Norminternalisierung und Delinquenzbereitschaft in Befragungen: Beeinflusst der Fragekontext das Antwortverhalten der Respondenten? In: Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, 2011, Issue⁄Volume 94/5, p. 345 - 363.
- Kunz, Franziska: Kriminelles Verhalten und polizeiliche Registrierung: Selbstberichte von Menschen im höheren Lebensalter. In: Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie, 2011, Issue⁄Volume 44/1, p. 55 - 65.
- Kunz, Franziska: Wie allgemein sind allgemeine Kriminalitätstheorien? Eine empirische Analyse auf der Basis von Querschnittdaten. In: Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, 2010, Issue⁄Volume 93/1, p. 42 - 68.
- Kunz, Franziska: Mahnaktionen in postalischen Befragungen: empirische Befunde zu Auswirkungen auf den Rücklauf, das Antwortverhalten und die Stichprobenzusammensetzung. In: Methoden Daten Analysen, 2010, Issue⁄Volume 4/2, p. 127 - 155.
Downloads and Links:
"Vom Schummeln und Betrügen. Freiburger Forscherin über zunehmende Kriminalität im Alter"
Interview on the project in "Badische Zeitung", 08.04.2013
"Öfter Täter als Opfer"
Report on the project in "uni`leben" (University of Freiburg magazine, issue 1, February 2013, p. 5)
Press release, 15.12.2010
Interview on the project in "Der Sonntag", 19.07.2009
Report on the results of the mail survey in "Südkurier", 16.04.2010