New Study Suggests There Is Perceived Safety in Marriage

Individuals who live in high-crime communities may experience more fear than those who live in communities with lower crime rates. Fear of crime and victimization can influence overall fear on many levels. People who have highly dysfunctional and violent families may have individual fear, which can increase their fear of their neighborhoods and communities. This type of relationship can also be positive. For instance, if people feel safe within their own homes, perhaps they will have less fear of crime regardless of their social environments. To better understand how perceptions of safety can influence fear of crime on various levels, J.R. Porter of the Brooklyn College and Institute for Demographic Research at City University of New York recently led a study that evaluated national data from 2,610 individuals who were part of the Panel Study of American Religion and Ethnicity (PS-ARE).

Porter discovered that the individuals who felt most socially vulnerable were those who had highly disorganized family units, elevated poverty levels, and racial differences. The higher the level of perceived personal fear, the higher the levels of neighborhood and community fear in the participants. The study also revealed that the participants from racially divided areas reported higher levels of collective fear. Women in highly violent areas were more likely to have the highest levels of individual fear. For all the participants, county-wide violent crime led to higher levels of perceived fear, but high levels of property crime did not increase the participants’ fear. In addition, Porter found strong evidence for the existence of learned fear patterns. In particular, family members, parents, and peers who communicate fear of crime increase the individual fear, whether it is warranted or not.

Porter said, “Perhaps most interesting is our finding that even in the face of high rates of violent crime, being in a union of some sort decreases the likelihood that one is likely to feel unsafe in their neighborhood.” In fact, the protective effect of marriage was most noticeable in the communities with the highest levels of crime and disorganization. This finding was realized across all demographics, neighborhood conditions, and crime levels and provides support for existing research that suggests marriage and relationships provide a protective benefit. Porter believes that policy makers and community leaders should increase efforts to promote healthy relationships to reduce perceived fear in high-crime communities.

Porter, J. R., Rader, N. E., Cossman J. S. (2012). Social disorganization and neighborhood fear: Examining the intersection of individual, community, and county characteristics. American Journal of Criminal Justice 37, 229-245.

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  • Benita


    May 15th, 2012 at 4:12 AM

    The sad thing about this story is that many people who live in these high crime neighborhoods are the ones for whom steady and stable marriages can be the most elusive. They are the ones who have higher rates of births out of wedlock and for whatever reasons, they seem to hold on to single parenthood longer than some other communities would. I don’t say this to sound prejudiced, but I say this as an encouragement for us to promote marriage and lasting marriage. It has been studied many times over, and there is a sense of safety among married families that families without that do not have.

  • Grant Woods

    Grant Woods

    May 15th, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Lack of money does not equal fear, but the lack of stability and high crime sure does. I know that if I lived in an area that was a target for high crime rates, then I sure do want a partner with me that we can talk about this together and maybe work on staging soome kind of event in our community to help the young people deal with some of the issues we are all facing together. get the police involved, get the teens to see that there is a better life out there, amd do this with someone who believes in this just as strongly as you do.

  • roxanne


    May 16th, 2012 at 1:26 PM

    May want to ask yourself if “PERCEIVED” safety is the same as the real thing. In most cases, the answer is probably no.

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