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Routine Activity Theory: Insights from College Students’ Lifestyles and Self-Protective Behaviors

A Literature Review of a Research on Routine Activity Theory

This is a literature review of a study entitled “College Student’ Lifestyles and Self-Protective Behaviors – Further Considerations of the Guardianship Concept in Routine Activity Theory” (Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2003). The study was conducted by Richard Tewksbury from the University of Louisville and Elizabeth Ehrhardt Mustaine from the University of Central Florida. 

The research aims to look into two elements of the routine activity theories. One is the guardianship, the second is the individual characteristics such as lifestyle. This study’s data came from self-administered surveys collected during the first three weeks of the 1996 fall academic term. A total of 1,513 college and university students in nine postsecondary institutions in eight states completed the survey. 

The dependent variable in this study was the possession and carrying of self-protective measures. The independent variables are discussed in the results. 

Previous research suggests that persons who are more fearful of crime or those who perceive their surroundings as unsafe are more likely to use self-protection (Ferraro, 1995). However, in this study, they found that only a few community disorder measures, fear, and safety perceptions were essential predictors of guardianship usage. Therefore, this research suggests that fear of crime, safety concerns, and situational proximity are not strongly related to the employment of self-protective measures. 

The research also found one demographic characteristic, employment status contributes significantly to the probability of a college student using protective behaviors. Students who are employed are 40% less likely to use self-protection than those who are unemployed. 

Neighborhood structures and characteristics show that three measures of social disorganization of communities are essential among these students:
  • Living near police stations
  • Living near fast-food restaurants
  • Living in neighborhoods with unsupervised youth

Students who live near police stations have 66% greater odds of using self-protection than those who do not live near police stations. These findings are contrary to some previous research (Wycoff, Skogan, Pate, & Sherman, 1985). However, persons who live near police stations have a relatively constant reminder of crime and may, therefore, be more likely to take precautions. Besides, police stations are likely to be located in disordered or lower-class communities. It might be that crime rates are higher in these areas, and residents objectively perceive themselves to be less safe. 

Living near fast-food restaurants, students near them have 27% lower odds of using guardianship to percent crime. Persons living in communities with unsupervised youth are 23% more likely to use self-protection forms than persons in communities without these characteristics. 

Lifestyle characteristics show that drug use is a significant predictor of self-protective measures among these college students. Students who used crack experienced 236% greater odds of using self-protective behaviors. 

The research also found that students who spend more time with strangers have higher odds of using self-protection. The ones who go out frequently on foot have 19% greater odds of using self-protection measures than do students who use other forms of transportation. 

The research concluded that the analysis found that students’ use of self-protective devices is dependent on:
  • Their employment status
  • Transportation activities 
  • The frequency of associating with strangers
  • Living in disordered neighborhoods
  • Use of crack
  • Perception of the safety of their homes

Previous research has examined individual characteristics and how they relate to the use of self-protection. However, this research has focused on demographic characteristics. 

Works Cited

  • Tewksbury, R., & Mustaine, E. (2003). College Student’ Lifestyles and Self-Protective Behaviors. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 302-327.
  • Wycoff, M. A., Skogan, W. G., Pate, A. M., & Sherman, L. W. (1985). Police community stations: The Houston field test, executive summary. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.
  • Ferraro, K. F. (1995). Fear of crime: Interpreting victimization risk. Albany: State University of New York Press.

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