Sociology ETDs


Dale Willits

Publication Date



Though many criminological perspectives suggest that violence is the result of both individual and situational factors, the majority of criminological research focuses narrowly on individual-level factors. The current study contributes to the literature by utilizing a factorial survey design to examine both the independent and interactive effects of situational and individual predictors of violent behavioral intentions. This factorial survey presented college respondents with randomly generated versions of a hypothetical situation depicting interpersonal conflict and also gathered data about a variety of individual level factors known to predict violence. In order to improve the validity of the factorial survey method, the vignettes utilized in this study were based on those utilized in prior research and were pretested in a series of focus groups. The factorial elements of the vignette were inspired by psychological and qualitative sociological research on violence and aggression. Utilizing a sample size of 751 respondents, I estimate a series of multilevel regression models predicting violent behavioral intentions. Results suggest that both individual level and situational factors are important predictors of violent intentions. Specifically, physical provocation, the attention of an audience, and the presence of aggressive cues all significantly predicted violent intentions. Results also suggest that, in addition to their separate relationships with violent intentions, individual and situational factors interact to predict violent intentions. After demonstrating the importance of situational factors in predicting violent intentions, I then demonstrate the utility of a situational perspective to criminology more broadly by providing situational tests of general strain theory and situational action theory. These situational tests demonstrate general support for both theoretical perspectives and highlight the importance of utilizing the situation as the unit of analysis for studying micro-social processes.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Lyons, Christopher

Second Committee Member

Roberts, John

Third Committee Member

Velez, Maria

Fourth Committee Member

Vigil, Jacob


Violence -- Prediction, Violence -- Psychological aspects, Violence -- Social aspects



Document Type