Human Violence, Victimization, and Individual Changes
Human Violence, Victimization, and Individual Changes

Human Violence, Victimization, and Individual Changes

Lead Author(s): Alexandrea Park

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A biopsychosocial perspective: Genetic, developmental, interpersonal, and cultural etiologies for violence to transform into individual changes for our greater good.


Chapter One:  Introduction

What is Human Violence?

        Psychological research has contributed to our knowledge base about genetic, developmental, interpersonal, and cultural etiologies (i.e., causes) for human violence.  Once these factors have been integrated into our understanding, how can we transform these data research results into real practical applications for betterment?  Learning about human violence and victimization naturally needs to be accompanied by realizing how individual changes can improve our future society.  Unfortunately, human violence has existed since humankind began. By taking a biological, psychological, and sociological view (i.e., the biopsychosocial approach), research psychologists have examined patterns of human aggressive behaviors to transform into practical applications of controlling violence.  Human violence is legally considered any behavior using physical force or threat of force for the purpose of causing damage or injury physically, emotionally, or financially to another person.  Forms of violence can include child, elderly familial, peer or group, community, hate crimes, sexual, slavery, or trafficking violence.  Genetic research has evidenced at least 15 genetic predispositions and enzymes toward aggression in humans, to date.  Thus, numerous research results have been indicative of inherited tendencies toward hostility. 

Discussion Q1.1

Define human violence.

1.01 Human Violence

What Makes a Person Violent?  Genetic research has evidenced at least 15 enzymes,  peptides (i.e., chain of less than 50 amino acids), proteins (i.e., chain of over 50 amino acids), and genes as predispositions toward aggression, often linked to human antisocial behavior (e.g,. found in imprisoned criminals) to date.  Thus, numerous research results have been indicative of inherited aggressiveness.  Genotypes can, but do not always, express as phenotypes.  Based on the biological, psychological, and social factors and stressors in one's life, genes may or may not express in one's behaviors.  Individuals with these violence genes, who phenotypically express these DNA, behaviorally tend toward antisocial risk-taking and retaliation (e.g., vengeance), which are by normal society considered relatively strange actions (Miczek & Meyer-Lindenberg, 2014).  The identified alleles, genetic factors, and enzymes for aggression are:  

  • Monoamine oxidase A (MAOA-L 'warrior gene'),
  • “High Risk” serotonin transporter (SERT)
  • norepinephrine transporter (NET)
  • Tryptophan hydroxylase 1 and 2 [TPH1,2]
  • Androgen receptor (AR) gene polymorphism
  • diacylglycerol kinase alpha 1 (DAGK1)
  • dopamine beta hydroxylase (DBH)
  • catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT)
  • neuronal nitric oxide (NOS1)
  • cadherin 13 (CDH13)
  • Dopamine receptor S2 (DRS2) as one of 5 genes encoding P-type ATPases in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome 
  • dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2)
  • Arginine-vasopressin (AVP)
  • μ-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1) 
  • plus some allelic variants of GABA, glutamate transmitter systems (Fallon, 2017).
1.02 MAO-A

        As one example, the first candidate for a gene linked to antisocial behavior was the monoamine oxidase A, also known as the MAOA, is a gene which contributes an MAO-A enzyme that in human beings.  Specifically, this genetic allele encodes the mitochondrial enzymes catalyzing the oxidative deamination of amines (i.e., oxygen element cleaves a compound which converts into a keto acid group when the essentially oxygen removes an amine functional group as ammonia and the amine group becomes replaced by the ketone group), essentially breaking down chemicals into their component parts (O'Carroll, Fowler, Phillips, Tobbia, & Tipton, 1983).  Thus, amines such as norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin are produced, which means that less of these specific neurotransmitters (i.e, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) become broken down.  Therefore, higher levels of these particular neurotransmitter appear to equate with higher aggression levels.  To clarify, dopamine helps to regulate emotions and direct bodily movement, control reward and pleasure centers in the brain, such that dopamine is activated whenever we are reward-motivated to take action in movement toward seeking the rewards.  Antisocial personality disordered individuals who have a lower than normal levels of serotonin (which brings about a sense of well-being, which is commonly referred to as happiness) and norepinephrine neurotransmitters (known as a stress hormone triggering fight or flight response).  Sociopaths have an abnormally low level of dopamine in general, but an abnormally high level of dopamine (neurotransmitter involved in reward-motivated behaviors) when seeking rewards.

1.03 Genes and Environment as Factors

Discussion Q1.2

Do you think violence is inherited? Why or why not?

1.04 Self-Reported Serial Killer, Ted Bundy
1.05 Media Portrayal of an Antisocial Personality Disorder by Oscar Academy Award Winner Heath Ledger

        Since 1980, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- 5th Edition defines individuals over the age of 18 years with antisocial personality disorder as having pervasive disregard for and violating of the rights and considerations of others without themselves experiencing remorse.  They tend toward being habitual criminals,  often engaging in behaviors which would be considered grounds for criminal arrest as well as criminal prosecution, regularly acting in ways which skirt the edges of the law, or manipulating and hurting others in non-criminal ways which have been widely regarded by mainstream society as immoral, unethical, irresponsible, or violating social expectations and norms.  An impaired moral conscience leads to decision making driven solely by his or her own desires, with no consideration of the negative effects of their actions on their victims  and no regard for their victims' needs.  Impulsivity is often a key feature of their criminal behaviors.   Put simply, the term, anti-social, means to be against society, rules, regulations, laws, authority figures, norms, and acceptable behavior. 

        Suffering antisocial personality disorder is associated with increase in violent behaviors, often showing signs of resisting authority and aggression earlier in development as children, as lifelong features of the antisocial personality disorder emerging.  For example, for adults with antisocial personality disorder, challenging authority figures often accompanies disregarding one's own safety as well as the safety of others.  People with antisocial personality disorder have difficulty with appreciating that violence harming other individuals is unacceptable, often because the disordered persons tend to report that they do not care about what is right from what is wrong.  Thus, appearing to lack a conscience.  

Discussion Q1.3

Identify three (3) key personality features antisocial personality disorder, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- 5th Edition.

Discussion Q1.4

Do you think that somebody with antisocial personality disorder can feel love? Why or why not?

1.06 BioPsychoSocial View of Psychology Field

        To integrate these conceptualizations of antisocial personality disorder, extant research results have established a pattern of biopsychosocial factors contributing to psychopathology (i.e., the term psychopathology derives from 'psycho' meaning psychology's 'pathology' or diseases).  A genetic predisposition to antisocial personality disorder may result in individual being born without a conscience.  For example, evidence has revealed neuroanatomical differences in individuals with antisociopathic personality disturbance.  A study examined the resting state functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (rs-fMRI) of 480 adjudicated (i.e., criminal adjudication is part of a legal process in which a judge reviews evidence and arguments to decide the rights and obligations of the prosecuting and defense parties) antisocial offenders displayed uncoupled connections in the frontal cerebral cortex and the parietal lobes of the cerebral cortex, which are associated with focusing attention, self-control, and resolving interpersonal conflicts.  That,  in addition to chronically low arousal levels observed in the  frontal/parietal cortices as well as the cerebellum might explain the chronically low arousal level, high impulsivity, absence of a conscience, callousness, and problems with decision-making often displayed by antisocials (Tang, Jiang, Liao, Wang, & Luo, 2013).  

        Cultural sensitivity discerns the difference in classifying aggression which is impulsive (i.e., relatively unplanned and spontaneous) and may be related to a brain injury from the different manifestation of premeditated aggression which is more antisocial. Brain injury to the frontal cerebral cortex brain region, which normally oversees self-control, judgment, higher order organizing, and strategizing, might reduce self-regulation over one's anger and aggression.  With a greater tendency toward dysregulation, brain injured person may suffer a decreased ability to problem solve at stressors, thereby increasing his or her frustration level toward acting out at others.  While individual differences account for a great variation in how any brain injuries are adapted to, cases of frontal lobe injury resulting in behavioral disinhibition are common, referred to as episodic dyscontrol syndrome (Schwarzbold, Diaz, Martins, Rufino, Amante, Thais, Quevedo, Hohl, Linhares, & Walz, 2008).  In other words, impulsivity does not involve the moral and antisocial aspects of antisocial personality disorder.

Discussion 1.5

What is the difference between deviant behaviors stemming from traumatic brain injury versus from antisocial personality disorder?

        These individuals have a history of conduct disorder before age 15, and an adolescent prior to the age of 18 may display features of developing an antisocial personality disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).  Children with conduct disorder display a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior violating the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate social norms including aggression toward animals and people, property destruction, deceitfulness or theft, and a serious violation of rules, such that the disturbed behaviors cause clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).  This problematic behavioral pattern may be accompanied by lack or remorse or guilt, lack of empathy/callousness, lack of concern about poor performance in school, work, or other important activities, and shallow or deficient affect.  Thus, it is common for untreated conduct disorder individuals to develop into antisocial personality disorder.  According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual- 5th Edition, 0.02% to 3.3.% of the adult population meet the diagnostic criteria for annual prevalence of Antisocial Personality Disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

  Alcohol and substance abuse often have a contributing role in violence.  For some, intoxication from abusing substances can interfere with sound judgment or normal behavior because substances such as alcohol decrease functioning of the frontal cortex which is responsible for self-control.  Some other people might try to abuse alcohol or illicit substances such as street drugs to self-medicate their feelings of anger or depression, but instead result in feeling even worse.  Violence toward others or even themselves can result.

        Over-exposure to violence in the home, in our communities, or even on television or digital media can mislead people into believing that violence might be a normal part of life.  When surrounded by violence, people can reach a point of numbing and no longer noticing the violent events or even remember the possibility of peaceful behaviors.  This desensitization can lead to further escalations of violenc.  Anyone who resigns himself or herself to the false belief that violence is an inevitable part of anyone's life often give up trying to avoid or even escape that violence before them, termed learned helplessness.  Becoming passive and unable to create any safety for himself or herself or for one's families is often a sign of repeated victimization.  For example, battered wives might remain in the same domestic residence with battering husbands, because the victimized wrongly believe that any attempt to escape violence is hopeless (Walker, 1977). 

        According to Albert Bandura's theory of social learning, social modeling, that is learning through observation of others, rather than by performing each lesson ourselves, accounts for at least 90% of human learning.  An example might be that speeding while driving an automobile can result in your father receiving a traffic ticket, so you decide not to speed in future.  Since children mostly learn through observation and then imitation, those who observe their role models at  home, school, or in the media behaving violently might develop wrong beliefs that angry feelings should be followed by angry behaviors against others as an acceptable behavioral pattern or falsely consider violence to be the most effective way to solve any problems.  Such children might never learn how to perform peaceful behaviors or cooperate to solve problems.  Furthermore, parents who falsely model violent and abusive behaviors in a home of domestic violence can then be creating a cycle of multi-generational family violence, by teaching children to develop into abusive adults who repeat the violent behavioral patterns onto their own partners and children in the next generation (Mihalic & Elliott, 1997).  Underestimating the dangers and strongly negative effects of negative role models is as risky as undervaluing the lasting benefits of positive role models.

1.07 Aaron Beck's Social Learning Theory on Violence Learned from Role Models
Discussion Q1.6

Do you think that violence can be learned solely from observational learning off of the modeling of parents/guardians, based on Albert Bandura's social learning theory?

What is Crime Victimization?

        The trauma of victimization may entail the aftermath of crime in which victims suffer physical and psychological injuries.  Primary injuries are categorized as physical, financial, and emotional.  Secondary injuries can manifest as emotional harm from not receiving needed support and interventions.  For example, if a victim of violence telephones the police, but law enforcement does not arrive, instead only directing the victim to leave the location of the offender for safety, the victim might suffer secondary injury.  Denial, disbelief, and anger are cognitive processes of victims.  Replaying the criminal incident may include nightmares or fantasies of killing or physically harming the offender.  Some survivors who had been next to homicide victims might even report experiencing anger at loved ones due to believing that the family members should have done something differently to result in no one being killed.  Stressful emotions include fear, despair, self-pity, guilt, and shame for experiencing any anger and hostility about the traumatic incident of violence.  

​ 1.08

Victimization Rates by Year in Individuals Ages 12 and Over

Discussion Q1.7

Define victimization of violence.

1.09 Example of an Attempted Individual Changes Program

What are Individual Changes?

        Individual changes against human violence and victimization effectively alter attitudes as well as prior psychosocial norms.  Preventions and interventions are 2 key components of individual changes.  Some prevention approaches and victim interventions in individual changes are described below. 
Crime prevention can be considered any attempts to deter and reduce crime and criminals.  Governmental efforts to reduce crime have included law enforcement patrols and criminal justice to rectify criminal injustice such as wrongful convictions.  Preventive and punitive legislation for violent offenders and victims of violence aside, individuals and organizations may attempt to protect and advocate for victims of violence.  In pursuing a deeper understanding and broadening our knowledge of violence prevention, we must apply the results of scientific research studies, engage in community anti-violence efforts to maximize human benefit, and instill early prevention strategies with family support involving multi-domain professionals such as social workers, marriage and family therapists, school psychologists, clinical psychologists, law enforcement officers, judges, investigators, attorneys, and forensic experts.  Goals to help individuals engage in less antisocial risky behaviors, lower levels of violence, and prevent any potential trends multi-generational violence facilitate a stronger future community.  Guterman's recent study revealed positive early results from focusing on early home visitation services to improve the relationships of both mothers and fathers with the child, shifting attention more broadly than the prior focus on only the mother-child relationship (2001).  Demonstrated success in home visitation programs have encouraged state agencies to incorporate such programs into their delivery systems as a growing strategy. 

1.10 Roller-Coaster of Emotions and Experiences of Traumatized Victims

        The road to recovery from criminal victimization is best described as a roller-coaster with ups and downs.  Crisis intervention and supportive counseling are important to helping victims recover.  Proper support is critical for recovery from any traumatic criminal event.  During the initial impact stage, immediate crisis intervention by trained crisis intervenors ask victims about welfare, such as feeling safe, and assure safety if possible, as well as determining the need for medical attention ( Bard & Sangrey, 1986; Berglas, 1985).  Primarily, crisis intervention includes assuring the victim that it is not the victim's fault.                          Successful implementation of initial interventions ensure long-term effects on healing and the recovery process.  During the second stage of victim recovery, they begin regaining a sense of control and greater confidence while rebuilding equilibrium.  Each victim's experience is different, depending on the variables which were involved, and the overall recovery process can be difficult, taking a few months, years, or even an entire lifetime.  For example, grieving the loss of a loved family member may be experienced longer than would be a first time victimization in a mugging without any physical injuries or threat of physical injuries.  

1.11 Organized and Trained Crisis Intervention by Psychologists

Discussion Q1.8

What are the initial impact stage and second stage of trauma from victimization from violence?

        Family members, friends, and most often professionals can cause secondary injuries to crime victims who encounter these individuals as a result of the crime.  Examples of professionals at times causing secondary injuries include law enforcement officers, prosecuting attorneys, judges, social service workers, media, clergy, coroners, and even mental health professionals.  Without appropriate skill and training, these professionals may not provide assistance and help in comforting the victims, but instead invalidate, ignore, or even blame the victim for crimes over which the offenders were responsible by acting interpersonally irresponsibly.  For example, "victim blaming" for a crime can be made by defending attorneys, even implying that any woman going into the home of the alleged assailant, necking or petting with the claimed offender, or hitchhiking women tends to get what they deserve, as she is accused of victim precipitating (i.e., brought on) her own later being raped.  In fact, Curtin (1974) reported that 4% of court dismissed/not guilty rape cases and 6% of uncleared rape cases were victim precipitated.  In contrast, recognizing the importance of the crime and expressing empathy can provide support for the victim's self-worth and recovery process.  As professionals in training and licensed professionals, endeavoring to consistently provide guidance and prompts to empathically support victims can prevent further re-traumatizing, neglect, or emotional abandonment of victims.

        With regard to the criminal justice system, a violent crime is legally considered to have been committed against the state, and victims are identified as witnesses to the crime against the state.  Helping the victim understand this logic is critically important.  It can be a difficult procedure for victims to understand and come to terms with because the victim often thinks that he or she suffered the physical, financial, and psychological costs, so the victim can mistakenly assume that he or she is the prosecuting party in a criminal court case.  A sense of loss of control over their lives and even own identity is common in victims of crime who feel detached from the investigations and judicial prosecution process.  To psychologically educate patients to better understand the aftermath of violent criminal victimization, professionals must help victims accept the nature of violent criminal victimization as being random, senseless and a possibility for anyone regardless of precautions taken to prevent victimization.  We must also show compassion by understanding how victims' lives are turned upside down and help them learn to trust society again while regaining a sense of balance and self-worth.  In order to succeed, properly trained professionals must education all those coming into contact with the victims and the survivors.  

1.12 Professionals in Training and Professionals Preventing Secondary Injuries through Instructing and Guiding Empathic Support

Discussion Q1.9

Briefly describe in 3 sentences one real world (from academic or professional experiences or from the news) example of individual changes.

Discussion Q1.10

Please identify one short-term goal that you have related to this class to be achieved within the next 5 weeks or so.

Discussion Q1.11

What is one long-term goal you expect to accomplish related to this class to be gained in about 10 weeks or more into the future?


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Image References

1.01 Image courtesy of cocoparisienne under CC0 1.0 via Pixabay.

1.02 Image courtesy of en:User:Jag123 in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

1.03 Image courtesy of SVG:Beao Raster: Pete.Hurd at English Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

1.04 Image courtesy of Florida Department of Corrections in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

1.05 Image courtesy of Luke M. Schierholz under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

1.06 Image courtesy of MrAnnoying under via CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

1.07 Image courtesy of Republica under CC0 1.0 via Pixabay.

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1.09 Image courtesy of U.S. Navy photo by Interior Communications Electrician 2nd Class David Carter in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

1.10 Image courtesy of Picasa 2.6 under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons.

1.11 Image courtesy of Nick Youngson and Alpha Stock Images under CC BY-SA 3.0 via The Blue Diamond Gallery.

1.12 Image courtesy of Chris Potter under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.