Does violence beget violence? A critical examination of the literature

Psychol Bull. 1989 Jul;106(1):3-28. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.106.1.3.


Critically examines the "violence breeds violence" hypothesis broadly defined. Organized into seven sections, the literature review includes (a) the abuse breeds abuse hypothesis; (b) reports of small numbers of violent/homicidal offenders; (c) studies examining the relationship of abuse and neglect to delinquency, (d) to violent behavior, and (e) to aggressive behavior in infants and young children; (f) abuse, withdrawal, and self-destructive behavior; and (g) studies of the impact of witnessing or observing violent behavior. A detailed discussion of methodological considerations and shortcomings precedes the review. The author concludes that existing knowledge of the long-term consequences of abusive home environments is limited and suggests that conclusions about the strength of the cycle of violence be tempered by the dearth of convincing empirical evidence. Recommendations are made for further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Homicide*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Facilitation*
  • Violence*