The victim-offender overlap is a widely accepted empirical fact in criminology. While many methodological strategies have been used to study overlap, prior studies have assumed that it is uniform, taking little consideration into the potential differences within the overlap. The larger body of criminological research on pathways to crime suggests that victim-offenders also have variability in their victimization experiences and offending patterns. Not accounting for variation within the overlap has produced inconsistent findings in terms of establishing theoretical explanations for the victimization and offending relationship.
Several general theories of crime have merit in their assumptions about the relationship between victimization and offending. Routine activity/lifestyle theory, low self-control theory, and general strain theory offer insight into the overlap. Variables derived from these three general theories are assessed to test their ability to explain a more complex conceptualization of the victim-offender overlap.
Using data on 3,341 individuals drawn from four waves of the publically available National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), a latent class analysis establishes unique victim-offender overlap taxonomies. A multinomial logistic regression is conducted to test how well theoretically derived variables from three general theories (e.g., routine activity theory, low self-control theory, and general strain theory) predict membership in the unique victim-offender overlap taxonomies. Additional multinomial logistic regressions are run using a split sample analyses to test the invariance of the findings across different social groupings (e.g., gender and race/ethnicity).
Comparing the more complex operationalization of the victim-offender overlap with the baseline regression models shows notable differences. For example, depression significantly predicts membership in the general victim-offender overlap group, but when taking into consideration variation within the overlap, depression does not consistently predict membership in all taxonomies. Similar results are found for routine activity/lifestyle theory and low self-control theory. Tests of invariance across gender and race/ethnicity highlight the need to consider how theoretical explanations of the victim-offender overlap differ based on social groupings. Males and females have unique risks and needs and these should be reflected in how routines and negative emotions are measured. The findings underscore the need to consider overlap when studying the relationship between victims and offenders. Implications for theory, future research, and policy are also discussed.