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Causes and Consequences of Fear of Crime: The Impact of Fear of Crime on Behavioral Health Outcomes and Behavioral Health Treatment

  • Author(s): Grinshteyn, Erin Greer
  • Advisor(s): Ettner, Susan L
  • et al.

Fear of crime has been defined in many ways; one definition is that it is an emotional reaction marked by feeling as though danger could result in physical harm. The amount of fear a person feels is dependent on factors that affect actual risk and perception of risk. For adolescents, personal characteristics, neighborhood characteristics, and characteristics of their caregiver contribute how much fear is felt. Potential consequences of fear are behavior changes, physical/ behavioral health outcomes and neighborhood deterioration. The causes and consequences of fear of crime have largely been studied among adult populations (not adolescents) and almost always with respect to associations between variables without addressing causality. This dissertation first assesses the causes of neighborhood fear among adolescents by using data on the adolescent, their primary caregiver, and the neighborhood where they live. Next, econometric techniques were used to assess the causal impact of fear on behavioral health (i.e., mental health and substance use in this dissertation) and behavioral health treatment by attempting to eliminate the endogenous relationship between fear, behavioral health and behavioral health treatment. Determining a causal relationship by addressing endogeneity through instrumental variable methods is imperative to truly understanding these relationships and developing appropriate policy recommendations. Exposure to violence was significantly associated with fear of neighborhood crime. Fear of crime was found to have opposite effects on the behavioral health outcomes that were examined. The instrumental variable model that addressed the issue of endogeneity provided support that fear of neighborhood crime was found to significantly increase adolescent anxiety/depression scores. Alternatively, there was support for the hypothesis that fear significantly decreased substance use. No relationship could be determined between fear and behavioral health treatment. Policy recommendations based on the findings include fear reduction strategies to address unhealthy levels of fear and address fear among those with mental health issues that may be related to fear. In addition, ideas are presented for future research around these topics based on the findings of this dissertation.

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