Publication Date

March 2015


Despite its status as the most common violent crime committed on college campuses, very little is known about factors that cause students to participate in aggravated assault. In this paper, we offer a theoretical proposal that utilizes Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory to better anticipate factors that may contribute to assault. In general, we propose that students that hold favorable definitions of crime and less conventional attitudes will be more inclined to participate in assault. At the same time, we postulate that students that have deviant peer associations would be more likely to commit an aggravated assault on campus as would students that anticipate that they would not lose respect their closest associates if they personally assaulted another person. Consistent with Sutherland’s theory, we offer a survey instrumentation that measures key concepts related to favorable definitions, conventionality, peer association, and acceptance. Furthermore, we discuss the best strategies for implementing such a survey. Finally, we conclude by discussing potential limitations of our research design.