Cultural norms such as spanking children or having the death penalty may contribute to higher rates of violence. That’s one of the potentially surprising findings in Associate Professor Aimée X. Delaney’s new book Norms of Violence: Violent Socialization Processes and the Spillover Effect for Youth Crime, which has received the 2023 Outstanding Book Award (international section) from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, an international association of criminal justice experts that fosters professional and scholarly activities in the field.
“It’s such an unbelievable honor to be recognized by my peers in this way,” Delaney said. She called the win “unexpected” but was pleased not only for the recognition of years of hard work but because the recognition has the potential to increase study in the field by making more people aware of the research. “There’s going to be controversy,” Delaney said. “People are going to disagree with me, and that’s okay, because then they can do a research project. So, it’s an opportunity for my colleagues—even students—to expand their research.”
She also called this a win for Worcester State and its students. “This is a huge opportunity on so many levels.”
The idea for the book started with Delaney’s PhD dissertation at the University of New Hampshire, but the writing of the book started after she joined the faculty at Worcester State in 2013. Delaney analyzed data from 17,000 participants across more than 30 countries collected during the years 2001-06. From this data, she developed her theory of norms of violence. Her book was published in 2022 by Routledge.
“Violence is more than just hitting people,” she said. “Violence can be witnessing it, telling people to engage in violence, raising children where violence is presented as an appropriate form of conflict resolution. It’s more than what we might call the cycle of violence, because it’s not necessarily people repeating it; it’s at the societal level, where we normalize violence in the socialization of children.”
Delaney says she defines violence a bit more broadly than some of her colleagues. It is her hope that her work can help alter societal perceptions on what violence is, with the ultimate goal of reducing violence. To that end, she included a chapter on policy regarding child rearing in Norms of Violence, considering how families and communities can be supported in raising children who won’t engage in violent behaviors in a way that keeps in mind cultural traditions and potentially limited resources.
Currently, Delaney is researching global gender-based violence using the 2001-06 data set. She would like to repeat a study of violence with data from more recent years to see how societal norms and rates of violence have changed, but she acknowledges that such an undertaking would take years and the collaboration of dozens of colleagues. She hopes that ultimately this research will lead to policy changes that reduce violence around the world.
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