Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminology and Criminal Justice


The intergenerational transmission of violence hypothesis has been stated in four general ways: “abuse breeds abuse,” “abuse breeds crime,” “abuse breeds violent crime,” and “abuse breeds a life of crime.” Scholars have disagreed as to whether abuse is a dichotomous concept or not- that is, abuse or no abuse. Some researchers have suggested that abuse is on a continuum of severity and frequency of physical discipline ranging from a slap or a spank to the more violent abusive practices such as beatings and burnings. The current study examines the intergenerational transmission of violence hypotheses using this broader concept. The question of this study is not whether these hypotheses are valid in predicting adult behavior but whether some physical discipline measures are more relevant than others. The current study sampled 719 inmates from a Nebraska intake correctional facility. The data collected were retrospective accounts of past physical discipline experiences measured five different ways: ever physically disciplined, severity of discipline, combination of variety and frequency of discipline, variety and severity of discipline, and variety, frequency, and severity of discipline. The results indicate that the “ever physically disciplined” measure is more relevant than the combination measures in their relationship to the respondent’s likelihood of ever disciplining his child. However, the more complex measures are more relevant in their relationship to the likelihood of committing violent crime and the likelihood of early onset. This result suggests that when a respondent experiences chronic severe physical discipline, he is more likely to commit a violent crime and begin a life of crime early.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Criminal Justice and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts University of Nebraska. Copyright Jeremy D. Ball January 2001