Recognition Deficits and Careers of 				Violence

Short description
Young males who had committed acts of violence formed the subject of this empirical study. Using qualitative analysis we investigated the significance of an unmet need for recognition for young men becoming violent. The research question was derived from empirical observations showing that violent acts committed by young people may be rooted in experiences of non-recognition in various socialization contexts. We assumed that experiences of non-recognition could have a more or less profound effect and bring about different forms of hurt which those who experienced it needed to deal with in a productive way. The central line of enquiry of our study was whether typical correlations could be identified between different experiences of non-recognition and different forms of violence committed by young males.

The study was based on qualitative interviews with twenty-one young males aged between fifteen and twenty-six conducted between February 2004 and May 2005 in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe region in youth leisure centers, residential facilities, and open and closed juvenile detention centers. The cases were selected according to their theoretical relevance for the process of developing empirically based types.

Our comparisons of contrasting cases allowed us to distinguish three types of youth violence. Defensively oriented perpetrators of violence defined themselves in terms of their willingness and ability to defend themselves but categorically rejected offensive acts of violence. Offensively and socially oriented perpetrators of violence also used violence to acquire social respect and social status. The third category – offensively and materially oriented perpetrators of violence – went beyond these two motives and also used violence to enrich themselves materially.

Our study shows that youth violence can be understood as a productive way of dealing with an unmet need for recognition in various socialization contexts. Whereas acts of violence committed by defensively oriented young males correlated with lack of recognition from their peer group, violence committed by the offensively oriented group was rooted in experiences of violence and an unmet need for recognition within the family and in the experience of failing at school.

Herr Dr. Peter Sitzer
Herr Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Heitmeyer
Cooperation partners
Fakultät für Erziehungswissenschaft
Institut für interdisziplinäre Konflikt- und Gewaltforschung