Causes of Reactive Violence

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Barry Kort:

"Lonnie Athens is a criminologist who was among the first to interview convicted felons who had committed violent acts. He compiled his research into a classic text, Why they Kill: The Process of Violentization. In a nutshell, he found that shaming and blaming were the primary causes of reactive violence in criminals who committed acts of violence on strangers.

James Gilligan, M.D. was, for many years, the Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at the Harvard University Medical School. He continued the line of research started by Lonnie Athens and obtained similar results, which he published in several books and papers.

Suzanne Retzinger was a psychotherapist who became interested in violence in relationships. She independently discovered the same finding as Athens and Gilligan — namely that shaming and blaming was the most salient cause of breakdowns in relationships, including violence in relationships. Together with Thomas Sheff, she published extensively on the subject.

Their work is among the best scientifically grounded and peer-reviewed modern research establishing the role of shaming and blaming as a causal nexus of reactive violence.

Partly as a result of studies like theirs, the notion of Retributive Justice has given way to a more enlightened notion of Restorative Justice in some of the more progressive societies which seek to establish best practices for dealing with breaches of social norms." (