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Function, Threat and Closure in the Fear of Crime

16 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2012  

Jonathan Jackson

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Methodology

Date Written: March 22, 2012


Purpose: This study makes two contributions to the fear of crime literature. First, the importance of risk perception is examined using new measures of functional and dysfunctional anxieties and worries about crime. Second, emotions about the risk of crime are related to people’s preferences for certainty and aversion to ambiguity.

Method: A national probability sample survey of Italy, Bulgaria and Lithuania builds upon recent advances in the conceptualization and measurement of fear of crime (Gray et al. 2011a). The study fields new indicators of anxiety and worry about crime, as well as measures of victimisation experience, perceptions of likelihood, control and consequences, and need for cognitive closure.

Results: Perceptions of likelihood, control and consequence each explain variation in emotional response to victimisation-risk. Of particular interest is that need for cognitive closure predicts dysfunctional worry about crime over and above people’s perceptions of risk or threat. This new finding suggests that aversion to uncertainty and threat is an important feature of more dysfunctional aspects of everyday emotions about crime: people who are intolerant to ambiguity seem to experience a more damaging and persistent form of emotional response to the threat of crime, net of their actual sense of threat.

Conclusions: Discussion focuses on the development of a psychological account of risk perception, individual differences in the management of uncertainty, and emotional response to victimisation-risk. New directions for research are discussed in the light of Berenbaum’s (2010) initiation–termination two-phase model of worrying.

Keywords: Fear of crime, risk perception, need for cognitive closure, worry process

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Jackson, Jonathan, Function, Threat and Closure in the Fear of Crime (March 22, 2012). Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Jackson (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Methodology ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+0044-207-955-7652 (Phone)

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