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Meanings and Measurement of Fear of Crime: A Multi-Method Study
AuthorEtopio, Aubrey Lin
AdvisorBerthelot, Emily R.
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Fear of crime affects far more people than crime itself. Fear of crime can motivate individual behavior, influence changes in neighborhood composition, and impact national policy. Research on fear of crime has been popular since the 1970s, but there are two major gaps in the literature: unclear definition and poor measurement. First, there are many competing conceptualizations and definitions of the construct but very few theoretical or empirical efforts to resolve these differences. Second, fear of crime is a complex construct, but most of the research has only measured a fraction of it. This multi-method study advanced fear of crime research by creating and testing a new measurement scale. The method had five major components: (1) in-depth interviews to understand how fear of crime is experienced followed by qualitative analysis to develop an initial pool of questionnaire items, (2) pretesting initial items with cognitive interviews and review by experts in the field, (3) exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analysis, (4) assessment of convergent and divergent validity, and (5) initial empirical tests to examine predictors of fear of crime using the final questionnaire.I used two emotions theories—the basic emotions perspective and the theory of constructed emotion—to inform analysis. Qualitative interviews (N = 29) revealed that people use words like “fear,” “worry,” and “concern” interchangeably. Qualitative analysis and factor analyses yielded a 10-item, one-factor scale. The scale had standardized factor loadings ranging from .715 to .888, an internal consistency of = .945, and was shown to have convergent and divergent validity. Quantitative analyses (N = 665) revealed that age, gender, victimization, and race predicted fear of crime, whereas belief in a just world and procedural justice did not.