Criminology Homicide Victimization
Marc Riedel, Gwen Hunnicutt
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0131


Beginning with a legal definition, the 8th edition of Black’s Law Dictionary defines homicide as the killing of one person by another. The killing of another, whether lawful or not lawful, is homicide; there is no crime of homicide, says Brian Garner in Black’s Law Dictionary. Criminal homicide is divided into murder and manslaughter. Justifiable homicide is divided into justifiable homicide by civilians such as self-defense, justifiable homicides by police, and state-sanctioned killings such as executions. What may be confusing is that researchers frequently use the term homicide and do not distinguish between murder and manslaughter. The research does consistently distinguish between criminal homicide and justifiable homicide. As Black’s Law Dictionary goes on to point out, there are a variety of homicide laws that are not given much attention by researchers. The approach used here is meant to explore additional dimensions of homicide in more detail. For example, this article not only examines the expansion of the number of data sets to study homicide but also compares the two major sources: police and medical examiners/coroners. Other sections also examine the context of homicides. In the Juvenile Homicides section, we examine gender differences as well as the success of various treatment programs. In Family Homicides, we not only examine different types of family homicides but also explore the well-known Darwinian hypothesis.

General Overviews

Ruback and Thompson 2001 examines how the consequences of violent victimization can be measured, understood, and prevented, while Finkelhor 2008 presents a comprehensive work that covers prevention, treatment, and study of juvenile victims. Zimring and Hawkins 1999 compares laws associated with violence in the United States to those of other countries.

  • Finkelhor, David. 2008. Childhood victimization: Violence, crime, and abuse in the lives of young people. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    The author presents a comprehensive view that includes prevention, treatment, and study of juvenile victims that brings together specialties such as child molestation and abuse, bullying, and exposure to violence in the community. Finkelhor’s term for this integrated perspective is developmental victimology, which looks across how victimization patterns change as children develop. Finkelhor is particularly concerned about the development of children and youth who have experienced four or more distinct victimizations.

  • Ruback, Richard Barry, and Martie P. Thompson. 2001. Social and psychological consequences of violent victimization. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    The authors discuss the need for multiple research methods and multiple theoretical perspectives for understanding the effects and implications of violent crime. Not only is there a focus on the direct effects of victimization, but the authors also consider the impact of violence on the family, neighborhood, and community.

  • Zimring, Franklin E., and Gordon Hawkins. 1999. Crime is not the problem: Lethal violence in America. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    The authors point out that the United States is similar to other countries with respect to property crimes but differs greatly with respect to lethal violence. Zimring and Hawkins judge violence associated with gun availability to be more important than the attention paid to violence by the media. The authors suggest changes in the law and the development of multifaceted loss-prevention strategies.

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