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A psychological perspective on vulnerability in the fear of crime

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This paper examines vulnerability and risk perception in the fear of crime. Past studies have often treated gender and age as proxies for vulnerability, and on the few occasions that vulnerability has been operationalised, there has been little agreement on the mechanisms that underpin perceived susceptibility. To develop a more theoretically-driven approach, the current study examines whether markers of vulnerability are associated with higher levels of fear through mediating assessments of likelihood, control and consequence. Females are found to worry more frequently than males partly because (a) they feel less able to physically defend themselves, (b) they have lower perceived self-efficacy, (c) they have higher perceived negative impact, and (d) they see the likelihood of victimisation as higher for themselves and for their social group. Younger people are also found to worry more frequently than older people, but differential vulnerability does not explain this association. Finally structural equation modelling shows that the effects on worry of physical defence capabilities, self-efficacy and perceived consequence are mostly mediated through judgements of absolute and relative risk. Conclusions focus on the implications of this finding for debates about the rationality of the fear of crime.

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