Fear and Perceived Likelihood of Victimization in Traditional and Cyber Settings

Fear and Perceived Likelihood of Victimization in Traditional and Cyber Settings

Jessica Maddison (Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK) and Debora Jeske (Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2014100103
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This study considers the influence of perceived likelihood, demographics (gender and education) and personality on fear of victimization and cyber-victimization using a survey design (N=159). The results suggest that perceived likelihood of victimization predicts fear of victimization in traditional contexts. Women tend to be more fearful of victimization in traditional and cyber contexts, confirming previous research. No group differences emerged in relation to education. Self-esteem and self-efficacy were not significant predictors of fear or perceived likelihood of victimization. However, perceived likelihood was a significant predictor of fear of victimization in traditional settings. This may suggest that different variables (such as awareness of vulnerability) may play a role in fear of victimization in cyber settings. Further group comparisons revealed that fear of victimization and cyber-victimization dependent on whether or not participants reported high or low perceived likelihood of victimization and internet use. Higher internet use was associated with greater fear of victimization, especially in combination with greater perceived likelihood of victimization. This may suggest an exposure effect, in that being online more frequently may also increase awareness of cyber incidents.
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1. Introduction

Fear of crime is a significant social and political problem (Jackson, 2009). Fear of crime is also referred to as fear of victimization (Addington, 2011). The term therefore refers to the fear of being a victim of crime but not the actual likelihood of being a victim of crime (Ferraro, 1995; Hale, 1996). Nevertheless, fear of crime is also shaped by the nature, severity and frequency of actual crimes. For example, the more serious a crime, the lower the level of perceived likelihood needed to stimulate some level of fear (Warr, 1984, 1987). These findings follow earlier work that suggested both the seriousness of the offence and the perceived likelihood of victimization were the ‘proximate causes’ and necessary conditions for fear (Warr & Stafford, 1983).

Further evidence suggests that fear is linked to who perceives themselves as most at risk (Box, Hale, & Andrews, 1988). Perceived risk of vulnerability, also known as perceived likelihood of victimization (Ferraro, 1995), refers to the perceived likelihood or risk an individual has of becoming a victim or having a crime committed against them. In fact, considerably more people experience fear of crime rather than actual criminal victimization (Addington, 2011; Jackson, 2009). One explanation might be that fear includes a sense of vulnerability, both in terms of perceived likelihood of risk and perceived seriousness of the risk (Hale, 1996). Winkel (1998) also referred to perceived likelihood of risk as ‘subjective victimization risk’ and ‘perceived negative impact’, with the latter influencing fear more so than subjective victimization risk. This indirectly supports the link between fear and vulnerability to risk. Perceived likelihood of victimization has become one well-established explanatory variable of fear of crime (Chadee & Ying, 2013) that is supported throughout the literature (Chadee, Austen & Ditton, 2007; Chadee & Ying, 2013; Cook & Fox, 2011; Gainey, Alper & Chappell, 2011; Hale, 1996; Lee & Hilinski-Rosick, 2012; Ozascilar, 2013; Warr & Stafford, 1983).

The advancement of technology has also led to new crime types, such as cyber-crime, and new forms of victimization including cyber bullying (Pederson, 2013) or identity theft (e.g., Roberts, Indermaur, & Spiranovic, 2013). The role of the internet is of particular importance when considering research into fear of cyber-victimization (Henson, Reyns & Fisher, 2013). This is because both perpetrators and victims are generally heavy internet users (Walrave & Heirman, 2011) and a high prevalence of cyber-victimization exists amongst university students (Radda & Ndubueze. 2013). Cyber-crimes and victimization have therefore also become important in the discussion on fear of victimization (Radda & Ndubueze, 2013). As a result, the impact of the media has also been considered throughout fear of crime literature, particularly in terms of how this shapes fear of crime. For example, Weitzer and Kubrin (2004) found that those who use the internet where less fearful than those who indicated local news television as their primary news source.

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