The Catalytic Situation in the Violence Equation1

Authors

  • Hans Toch

    Corresponding author
    1. State University of New York at Albany
      Requests for reprints should be sent to Hans Toch, School of Criminal Justice, SUNY at Albany, 135 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12222.
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  • 1

    This paper is a modified version of a manuscript prepared for delivery at the invitational conference on “Situational Determinants of Aggression” at Rutgers University, Newark, September 30, 1983.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Hans Toch, School of Criminal Justice, SUNY at Albany, 135 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12222.

Abstract

This paper discusses views of violence that point to situational impingements on the aggressor as precipitants of his or her aggression. The view (situational determinism) is illustrated through excerpts from a trial that was concerned with police responsibility for incidents of police-citizen violence. The excerpts high-light the exonerating and antipsychological corollaries of the situational view and its emphasis on victim-related variables. This deterministic scenario (violence situation) is contrasted with an interpersonal emphasis (violence transaction) and an offender-centered perspective (violence opportunity). In contrast to the latter's emphasis on aggressor motivation, situational determinism implies the generic motivation (“normalcy”) of aggression. As a corollary, the view rejects the possibility of introducing deescalating options into evolving violence transactions.

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