Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Essay

Science has attained a high degree of credibility in Western societies. Society appeals to science to settle all kinds of dilemmas—including moral ones—that confront human beings. Issues of punishment, especially the death penalty, are some of the biggest moral dilemmas confronting society. What used to be the domain of philosophers and social scientists using moral and statistical arguments has been largely co-opted by geneticists and neuroscientists. According to some, this co-optation has challenged the foundations upon which the legal system rests—the assumption that individual agency underlies the capacity to make moral choices. It is also argued that the “hard” scientific evidence accepted uncritically by the courts for mitigation purposes will weaken traditional ideas of justice by undermining human responsibility.

A number of brain imaging techniques are used in neuroscience research and in clinical situations, but the one used most frequently in court proceeding in support of mitigation is functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). FMRI allows insight into the functioning of the brain in real time. These scans use a large cylinder-shaped tube, which produces powerful magnetic fields and radio frequency pulses, all of which are connected to computers that generate colored pictures of a person’s brain in action. Subjects in the fMRI tube respond to questions by pressing buttons on a response box. As the person performs these tasks or emotionally responds to the stimuli, a computer picks up and stores information about the regions of the brain being used. Like the muscles of the body, the harder the brain works the more oxygen it requires, so when a particular region is activated, more blood containing oxygen is routed to that region. The basic fMRI procedure uses what is known as the blood-oxygen-level-dependent (BOLD) contrast.

Data from fMRI testing are based on aggregating the BOLD responses (the contrast between the magnetic resonance of oxygenated to deoxygenated blood) of a number of individuals. FMRI results emerge from data averaged over a group of subjects and are thus problematic when applied to specific individuals. Defense attorneys typically use fMRI data to mitigate responsibility, but because a particular pattern of neural activity is associated with some impairment of judgment on average it does not necessarily mean that the defendant has the same impairment even if his brain shows roughly the same pattern.

There are many issues with the use of fMRIs in court. Neuroimaging evidence relating to which parts of the brain are activated under what conditions, and what parts are associated with what behaviors, is both consistent and strong. However, neuroimages are maps of the terrain, not the terrain itself. The color images of the brain produced are not direct images like X-rays; they are pictures generated by mathematical algorithms. They are indirect rather than direct evidence of increased neural activity derived from data based on a statistical aggregate that form a correlation between a particular trait or behavior and BOLD responses in a particular brain area. A correlation is a trend in a given direction, and that correlational trend is not true of all brains tested, and certainly not in terms of the wide variations in strength of brain responses of different people to identical stimuli. FMRI data are very useful, but the data are still statistical, and statistical data are probabilistic by definition.

It is a big jump from talking about “impaired judgment” inferred from errors noncriminal subjects make on tasks they perform in the laboratory and a brutal murder performed in the real world. Just how impaired is the defendant’s brain relative to the average level of impairment found in research subjects, and how many of these subjects similarly impaired have committed murder? For instance, in Roper v. Simmons, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy cited a blizzard of scientific evidence on the immaturity of the juvenile brain in support of the court’s ruling that the death penalty for juveniles was unconstitutional. Opponents of the use of fMRI data for purposes of mitigation (regardless of their stance on the death penalty) would ask if Christopher Simmons’s brain is any more or any less immature than millions of other adolescents who did not plan, execute, and brag about a horrendous murder.

Another matter is that defendants’ brains are typically imaged long after—often years after— the crime was committed. Today’s brain is not yesterday’s brain, and the images judges and jurors may see in court may be vastly different from what they may have seen shortly after the crime for which the defendant is seeking mitigation. A scan of a serial killer’s brain, for example, may unequivocally show that he is a psychopath, but it reveals nothing about his state of mind when he committed his brutal acts, nor in any way does it show that he was incapable of controlling his behavior. Brain scans have tremendous importance in medicine and neuroscience research, but they cannot read minds, particularly mind states that occurred years prior to scanning. Scanning records the probable state of the subject’s mind at the time of the scan; it cannot settle matters of legal responsibility. Thus, the principal concern regarding brain scans in court is that the aura of “hard” science and the impressive colorized maps of brains they produce will unduly undermine the traditional legal concerns of responsibility.



  1. Jones, Owen, Joshua Buckholtz, Jeffrey Schall, and Rene Marois. “Brain Imagining for Legal Thinkers: A Guide for the Perplexed.” Stanford Law Review, v.5 (2009).
  2. Logothetis, N. and J. Pfeuffer. “On the Nature of BOLD fMRI Contrast Mechanism.” Magnetic Resonance Imaging, v.22 (2004).
  3. Morse, Stephen. “Brain Overclaim Syndrome and Criminal Responsibility: A Diagnostic Note.” Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, v.3 (2006).

Prevention Programs Definition Essay

Prevention is the act or process of reducing or eliminating a problem. The development, evaluation, and dissemination of effective prevention programs are critical to ongoing efforts to address the causes and correlates of interpersonal violence, particularly those with origins in childhood and adolescence. Prevention programs or strategies to prevent or reduce interpersonal violence include those targeting intimate partner violence, child maltreatment, bullying, gang violence, the impact of witnessing violence on children, and violence-related problems (e.g., drug and alcohol use, delinquency).


Universal prevention (also known as primary prevention) refers to population-directed activities or strategies to address a problem that has been defined as a concern to an entire population (e.g., a public health problem). Universal prevention efforts to address interpersonal violence have included public service advertisements, general violence prevention, and ant bullying programs in schools. Selective, or secondary, prevention refers to programs or efforts directed at preventing or ameliorating difficulties among a subgroup of the population that is defined as high-risk on a selected characteristic. Programs to prevent child maltreatment have often focused on the selective level of intervention by targeting parents identified as at risk for child abuse and neglect (e.g., teen parents, parents aging out of foster placement, or those who had formerly been victims or witnesses to abuse). Indicated, or tertiary, prevention, sometimes referred to as early intervention, encompasses programs or strategies that aim to ameliorate difficulties or prevent the growth of problems among those already defined as exhibiting the target problem. Examples of indicated prevention programs include advocacy interventions for battered women, programs or strategies to prevent further escalation of aggressive behavior among children identified as aggressive by teachers or parents, or family preservation programs to improve caregiving and parent–child relationships in families with histories of child maltreatment and foster placement.

The Context Of Prevention

Attention to prevention dates back thousands of years to Hippocrates, who asserted that “the function of protecting and developing health must rank even above that of restoring it when it is impaired.” The field of prevention, and violence prevention in particular, has been informed by developmental research revealing the childhood or adolescent roots of later problem behavior. For this reason, many prevention efforts are directed at children and youth and are implemented in school or afterschool contexts. Workplace prevention programs for adults have also increasingly been used to address issues related to interpersonal violence, such as sexual harassment and intimate partner violence.

There is increasing interest, partially created through interdisciplinary dialog among those engaging in prevention (e.g., social work, psychology, public health, and medicine), in the weaving of health promotion, resilience, strengths-based, and empowerment concepts into prevention programming. This interest has resulted in a shift away from deficit or disease-based models of prevention and toward positive goals (e.g., promoting healthy development), outcomes (e.g., measurement of adaptive behaviors to supplement symptom-based measurement), and methods (e.g., focusing on nurturing positive skills in addition to reducing negative behaviors).

Characteristics Of Effective Prevention Programs

Research has enabled the delineation of core characteristics of program content, structure, and delivery in effective prevention programs. Such programs have a theory of etiology and/or change (i.e., a theoretical perspective on the causes of the problem and how the intervention is expected to change participants’ behavior, attitudes, and/or norms). They specify clear goals, and target problems for change (e.g., behaviors, attitudes, and norms related to dating violence) but use multicomponent interventions that cross contexts (e.g., school, home) and implement different intervention strategies or teaching methods (e.g., role-play, media, mentoring) to build skills to address the target behavior or problem. Successful prevention programs are of sufficient duration and intensity to produce change and may include booster or follow-up session(s) to maintain and consolidate change. These programs meet the developmental and sociocultural needs of participants by their appropriate developmental timing and their tailoring to the cultural and contextual needs of the target community. An emerging literature documents the ways in which programs can effectively be adapted to meet the needs of different cultural groups, although many research-based prevention programs remain to be validated with diverse, particularly immigrant, populations. Program participants and representatives of the community are involved in the program planning and implementation of effective interventions. Prevention program staffs are appropriately trained, supported, and supervised so that the intervention can be delivered as intended. Finally, effective prevention programs build on developmental assets (factors that promote competence in all individuals) by promoting self-regulation (e.g., managing emotions, behavior) and healthy, supportive relationships within and among program participants and facilitators.

Evidence-Based Prevention

Prevention programs are considered evidence-based when there is clear empirical evidence for their effectiveness in reducing or eliminating the target problem behavior or risk factor (e.g., incidents of bullying or episodes of intimate partner violence) or in strengthening the target positive behavior or protective factor (e.g., nonviolent conflict resolution, positive parenting). There is an increasing literature on the effectiveness of prevention programs, and several national databases operate to evaluate and provide information on those prevention programs considered effective, model, or promising with regard to reducing interpersonal violence and related risk behaviors. Databases include the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Blueprints for Violence Prevention project. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on prevention strategies with regard to intimate partner violence specifically.

Prevention Research Concepts

In recent years, applications of prevention within the social sciences have resulted in the emerging field of prevention science, which studies the development, evaluation, implementation, and widespread dissemination of research-based prevention programs to address psychosocial problems. There is increasing consensus within and beyond the field of prevention science that the gold standard for proof of the efficacy or effectiveness of a program is the randomized controlled trial (RCT). In RCTs, participants in the program or “treatment condition” are randomly assigned to either the prevention program or a control group (usually an existing standard of care and sometimes a delayed intervention group). However, some interventions may not be amenable to a randomized control trial for either ethical or practical considerations. In these cases, quasiexperimental evaluations of the intervention’s effectiveness (comparing participants in a prevention program with a comparable, nonrandom sample not receiving the intervention) may be implemented. The stringent criteria for proof of effectiveness have resulted in a relatively small number of prevention programs deemed effective or model programs, but the process of evaluation has proven to be extremely important in understanding what prevention strategies are key to changing behaviors such as interpersonal violence and to understanding the mechanisms of change.

Longitudinal research on prevention is necessary to understand factors that may mediate or moderate the effectiveness of an intervention (e.g., age, gender, context) and to understand how the effects of a prevention program may wax or wane over time. In some cases, prevention programs have been shown to have cascade effects over time, that is, the reduction in the target problem behavior subsequently improves related positive outcomes and/or reduces the occurrence of other negative outcomes. For example, in the Nurse–Family Partnership program—an effective home-visiting program developed by David Olds and colleagues, aimed at reducing child abuse among young mothers—those who participated in the intervention during their pregnancy and first 2 years of motherhood were significantly less likely to abuse their children. In addition, over the 15 to 20 years following the families’ involvement in the program, their children were more likely to complete high school and were engaged in fewer risk behaviors, including interpersonal violence, drugs, and risky sexual behaviors. Interestingly, however, in a 2002 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Olds and his colleagues reported that domestic violence was a negative moderator of the intervention effects (i.e., that the intervention was less effective in families with ongoing domestic violence).

Challenges And Emerging Issues

Although an increasing number of effective universal violence prevention programs are available and utilized in school and community settings, there is a dearth of evidence-based selective or indicated prevention programs for victims and witnesses of interpersonal violence. Various federal initiatives, such as the U.S. Department of Justice’s Safe Start and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Child Traumatic Stress Network, aim to raise the standard of care for children exposed to violence and related traumatic stressors by developing and disseminating such programs.

A key set of challenges for evidence-based prevention programs is their implementation and widespread dissemination in community settings (particularly in nontraditional care systems serving those exposed to interpersonal violence, such as shelters). Taking an efficacious program from the controlled research environment in which it has been developed to a broader scale requires an adequate infrastructure for its delivery (i.e., interested stakeholder organizations, rigorous staff training and supervision, implementation of the prevention program with fidelity to the model, and the ability of program staff to engage and retain participants and to attract sustainable funding). Prevention     researchers are increasingly attempting to answer questions about the factors involved in taking programs to statewide and nationwide scale. Other emerging questions in prevention relate to increasing client engagement in prevention programming and tailoring programs to meet the unique needs and preferences of participants of diverse groups of participants.


  1. Aos, S., Lieb, R., Mayfield, J., Miller, M., & Pennucci, A. (2004, July). Benefits and costs of prevention and early intervention programs for youth (Document ID: 04-07- 3901). Available at
  2. Flay, B., Biglan, A., Boruch, R. F., Castro, F. G., Gottfredson, D., Kellam, S., et al. (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness, and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151–172.
  3. Mihalic, S., Fagan, A., Irwin, K., Ballard, D., & Elliott, D. (2004, July). Blueprints for violence prevention (No. NCJ 204274). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved from
  4. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention. (2007). Intimate Partner Violence: Prevention Strategies. Available at
  5. Perry, C. L. (1999). Creating health behavior change: How to develop community-wide programs for youth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  6. National Institute of Drug Abuse. Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents.

Social Engineering Essay

In a broad sense, any social change brought through deliberate efforts by government (i.e., all laws and policies) that have the effect of changing behavior and characteristics of a society can be labeled social engineering. In its standard usages, the term has rather a negative connotation. The development of modern communications technology, administration, technical and managerial resources, and the media provided the tools through which social engineering could be carried out. Relevant for the modern history of the concept is Karl Popper’s distinction between piecemeal and utopian or holistic social engineering, or what we would call the difference between reformist and revolutionary solutions. For Popper (1971), the former is the only form of social engineering that can be rationally justified—one that is small-scale, incremental, and continuously amended in the light of experience and aimed at reducing human suffering. In political discourse, the term is generally used in three different contexts.

  1. Ideologically based policies and techniques aimed at a radical change in the makeup of a society. Typical examples are totalitarian political systems, which usually engage in visions and pursuit of grandiose social engineering schemes that more often than not involve the thorough remaking of the population, with the goal of creating the desired or “perfect” society. In the 1930s, in Nazi Germany, the idea of the pure Aryan bermench was to be achieved by using selective methods of human reproduction and eugenics. In the 1920s, the revolutionary government of the Soviet Union embarked on a project aimed at remaking class structure to obtain the so-called classless society by eliminating the “exploiting classes” and to create the New Soviet man. Other similar examples are the Chinese Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution programs (in the 1950s and 1960s) and the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal plan of deurbanization of Cambodia (1970s).
  2. Accusation against any policy or theory that advocates changes from above in the characteristics of a society. It is employed often by the political right as a charge against those who propose to use legislation and policy to change existing social relationships (e.g., between genders or ethnic groups), even if no violence and brainwashing are involved. (Also, political conservatives in the United States have accused their opponents of social engineering because of their promotion of political correctness, insofar as it may change social attitudes by defining “acceptable” and “unacceptable” behavior or language.)
  3. A practical approach or science to solve various problems in the society. Interestingly, social engineering has been an official field of study at the Tokyo Institute of Technology since 1966. According to the institute’s official website, the discipline has the goal “to solve various problems in the society through practical approaches.”

At the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries, the idea of social engineering influenced the political thinking and policies in many countries. In the United Kingdom, the Fabian Society tried to establish an association for social engineering, especially to reform social conditions of the working class. In the United States, the idea for a time attracted many intellectuals, including Charles Beard, John Dewey, and Walter Lippmann, and inspired the establishment of such institutions as the Institute for Governmental Research (1916) later the Brookings Institution; the New School for Social Research (1919); and others.

Many critics of social engineering argue that in a democratic polity, it is assumed that society, and especially its founding elements, the citizens, are already evolving independently. They direct and determine government and politics through elective representatives and would resist attempts for radical programs for societal change.


  1. McClymer, John F. War and Welfare: Social Engineering in America 1890–1925. Westport: Greenwood, 1980.
  2. Podgorecki, Adam, John Alexander, and Rob Shields, eds. Social Engineering. Ottawa, Ont.: Carleton University Press, 1996.
  3. Popper, Karl. The Open Society and Its Enemies. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1971.

Full Faith and Credit Mandate Essay

The Full Faith and Credit (FF&C) mandate requires states to honor and enforce (or give FF&C to) the orders of protection and to stop stalking issued by other states. The FF&C clause of the U.S. Constitution (article IV, § 1) and the statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1738, require every state to honor and enforce the public records and judicial decisions of other states as if they had issued them themselves. Thus a marriage certificate, driver’s license, or divorce decree granted in one state will be honored by every other state unless the responding party was not afforded due process, particularly if the party was not notified of the action or given the right to contest it in court. States also need not give FF;C when the official action or court decision is against public policy, which is why states refused to give FF;C to polygamous marriages when they were legal in Utah.

A state may also opt through the principle of comity to enforce judgments of another state or country, even when it is not required to do so by the FF;C mandate. Comity is based on the same need for finality of legal proceedings as is FF;C, and also the legal principles of res judicata and issue preclusion, which prevent the same parties from relit gating the same case or claim previously decided by a court.

Need for FF;C

Some of the most violent and coercive batterers and stalkers drive their victims away, often forcing them to seek safety in other states. Many other battered victims travel temporarily across state lines for work or health care or to see family, shop, or vacation. Since abusers generally escalate their violence when their victims leave them or show any independence, victims of domestic violence need immediate police protection in the new state if their abusers threaten them. Yet most cannot obtain new orders of protection in a new state unless there is abuse in that state, and even then there are often long delays and difficulties in serving the abusers with court papers, assuming the victim has access to the courts in the new state. Furthermore, states may not be able to order sufficient protection when the abuser does not reside in the new state. Some abusers keep forcing their victims to flee to ever new states. The clear solution for victims who already have an order of protection from one state is for other states to honor and enforce the previously enacted order, without requiring them to go to court to register the order.


Traditionally U.S. court decisions held that because judicial determinations (such as injunctions and child custody or support orders) were not final judgments and could be modified, they were not entitled to FF;C. Orders of protection and restraining orders to stop domestic violence and stalking are injunctions, which were seen to fall under this exception. Ex parte orders (those that courts give in an emergency before the respondent is given notice or a chance to contest the order) were particularly seen as not entitled to FF;C because they gave the respondent no due process.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed this train of decisions in Baker v. General Motors Corporation, which held that equitable decrees (which include injunctions such as protective orders) are entitled to FF;C, even though they may not be final and may be modified in the state that issued them. Also supporting this new trend, orders of protection are not concerned with competing orders and are not against public policy.

New Hampshire, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon voluntarily chose to provide comity to some protective orders of other states, but they were the exception and the procedures were generally cumbersome, were little known, and did not cover all orders.

Model for Custody Cases

Until recently child custody orders were not given FF;C because (a) they could always be modified and (b) two or more states could issue conflicting orders. Moving the child to another state was usually grounds for modifying a custody order. This actually encouraged someone who lost custody to abduct the child and shop for a more favorable forum in a new state in the hope of winning custody there. To prevent child abductions and forum shopping, the National Conference of Commissioners of State Laws (NCCUSL), which drafts model legislation for states to adopt, drafted an act to determine when a state must (a) decline custody cases and (b) agree to honor and enforce the custody orders of other states. Because some states were slow in adopting the model legislation or changed it, Congress enacted a law to accomplish the same goals. The federal law was slightly different, and, as federal law, it preempted inconsistent parts of any state’s law. It also spurred the remaining states to enact consistent legislation. Congress took a similar approach so that states would have to give FF&C to the child support orders of other states.

Knowing that FF&C for preexisting protective orders would solve many of these problems, Congress provided language in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) I requiring states to give FF&C for orders of protection and/or to stop stalking that were issued by other states, similar to what it did for child custody and child support orders. The FF&C mandate for protective orders was enacted in 1994 and codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 2265–2266, and covers protective provisions issued as part of other types of actions, such as divorce, paternity, and custody and juvenile cases.

The mandate also includes orders issued to Native Americans by tribal courts. Few tribes had domestic violence and stalking laws when VAWA was first enacted, but many have since enacted such laws.

Another part of VAWA also provided that no state may charge for a protective order if the state receives federal money under that part of the act. Every state accepts this money and certifies that it does not charge for orders of protection. Some states or counties still charge for orders, or order the respondent to pay on the theory that the orders are free to victims.

Police in some states are supposed to give FF&C to any order of protection or to stop stalking that is in effect if the respondent was given notice and an opportunity to be heard, and to honor and enforce it without requiring that the victim first have the order registered in the new state. This is true for ex parte orders as well.


VAWA I included language for FF&C for all protective orders except those that violated due process, namely (a) orders when no notice or opportunity to be heard had been afforded to the respondent, including ex parte orders, and (b) mutual orders unless the respondent had filed a pleading, the original petitioner had been given notice and opportunity to be heard, and the court had made findings that both parties were legally entitled to be given orders. The exception for mutual orders given to respondents is because many courts automatically enter them or encourage the parties to agree to them, even though they usually deny the petitioning party’s due process rights and are more dangerous to victims than no order at all. Congress made clear it did not mean to exempt the part of mutual orders given to the petitioner if notice and opportunity had been given to the respondent, but only the part of such orders given to the respondent without due process.

Many states in their domestic violence statutes prohibit mutual orders or strongly discourage their use, often including similar due process guarantees. Some also require the court to decide if one party was the primary aggressor, the one who caused most of the domestic terror (but not necessarily the one who started the abuse), and not issue an order to that party even if some abuse had been mutual.

Although VAWA I excluded coverage for child custody and child support provisions in protective orders, VAWA II and III made clear that the FF;C mandate included child custody and child support provisions in protective orders.


In 2002 NCCUSL issued another model act for states to give FF;C to other states’ protective orders. Although federal law makes clear that protective provisions in other types of civil and criminal cases are covered by law, and that child custody and child support provisions in protective orders are covered, NCCUSL’s Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic-Violence Protection Orders Act is inconsistent with many of these federal provisions. Almost a third of states have enacted this act, thwarting some domestic violence and stalking victims from receiving the full protection in other states that Congress intended them to get.


  1. Baker v. General Motors Corporation, 522 U.S. 222 (1998). Goelman, D. M. (2004). Shelter from the storm: Using jurisdictional statutes to protect victims of domestic violence after the Violence Against Women Act of 2000. Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 13, 101–168.
  2. Klein, C. F. (1995). Full faith and credit: Interstate enforcement of protection orders under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Family Law Quarterly, 29, 253–271.
  3. Sack, E. J. (2004). Domestic violence across state lines: The Full Faith and Credit clause, congressional power, and interstate enforcement of protection orders. Northwestern University Law Review, 98, 827–906.
  4. Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic-Violence Protection Orders Act. Retrieved from
  5. VAWA I, eventually enacted in 1994 as part of the Crime Bill, Pub. L. No. 103-322108 Stat. 1796. 18 U.S.C. §§ 2265–2266.

Prevention Programs and Community Mobilization Essay

Community mobilization engages all sectors of the population in a communitywide effort to address a health, social, or environmental issue. The process involves bringing together policymakers and opinion leaders; local, state, and federal governments; professional groups; religious groups; businesses; and individual community members. The goal of community mobilization is to empower individuals and groups to take some kind of action to facilitate change. The desired action can be generated as a part of the community process or may represent a predetermined policy or program. Part of the process includes mobilizing necessary resources, disseminating information, generating support, and fostering cooperation across public and private sectors in the community.

Community mobilization involves the following: working through coalitions, ensuring that community assessments drive policy and program support, engaging community representatives to ensure research and researchers are responsive to community needs and utilize methods that develop community capacity, engaging the media in effectively positioning a topic and presenting a forum for discussion of related issues, and evaluating outcomes to ensure community needs are met. Organizing is described in many ways, but typically it includes identifying, recruiting, and developing leadership; creating partnerships to enable action that is coordinated; working with community members to interpret why and how they should act to change their world; motivating action and challenging people to take the responsibility to act; and working through campaigns.

Community mobilization is based on empowerment theory and uses strategies to develop and sustain multilevel approaches. These approaches help the community understand the relationship between individuals, an organized group process, and social change outcomes. Models of community mobilizations may reflect community empowerment, defined as a shift toward greater equality in the social relations of power (who has resources, authority, legitimacy, or influence), or may be more specific to advancing specific policy or program objectives. These models can simply be described as bottom-up or top-down. Bottom-up represents strategies that are designed and implemented by community members; bottom-down represents approaches in which experts or self-selected community leaders establish goals and parameters for a policy or program and engage the community in achieving those.

Each approach has strengths and weaknesses. The assumption made in a bottom-up approach is that community-initiated action is essential for any prevention program to succeed. Thus, this approach involves the community in prevention efforts to more accurately reflect community needs, priorities, and cultural diversity. This approach, when involving a wide spectrum of community members and institutions in prevention, can increase the feeling of powerfulness and ownership. However, there can also be a lot of tension and competition for resources between members who ultimately can undermine the effort. The limitations, however, can be that those strategies prioritized by the community may not result in the desired outcome. For though community members are well aware of their problems, they may be less familiar with the evidence-based practices, policies, or programs available to address them (and may be unwilling to substitute evidence-based practices, policies, or programs for ones they have developed or that they have already committed to).

Top-down prevention efforts are often funded and directed to a particular concern (e.g., interpersonal violence) and are developed and controlled by an organization or institution external to the community. It is common to find that prevention programs and strategies last only as long as the funding exists and that once the funding is removed the community returns to its prior state. Thus, top-down approaches that attempt to generate community commitment and build leadership for prevention programs do not necessarily translate into community commitment or leadership. Thus, though a top-down approach may be used in promoting evidence-based strategies, they may be less sustainable because they may not reflect the communities’ true concerns, interests, and social and/or cultural structure.

Community Mobilization In Preventing Interpersonal Violence

Recognizing that violence is the result of a complex interplay of individual, relationship, social, cultural, and environmental factors, an ecological framework often represents the foundation for planning and advancing community-level violence prevention. An ecological framework when effectively applied to community mobilization efforts influences every aspect, from the process of identifying and recruiting coalition members to determining the factors to include when conducting the community assessment, determining the decision-making processes that will guide priorities and strategies, and finally, determining the identification and articulation of outcomes that are deemed priorities within the community and are specific enough to assess success.

However, community mobilization and addressing community-level factors through an ecological framework are not the same thing. The Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has adopted Communities That Care (CTC) as a primary vehicle for promoting and supporting community mobilization. Described as a complete prevention planning system for healthy communities, CTC provides a framework to develop an integrated approach to positive youth development and the prevention of problem behaviors including substance abuse, academic failure, unplanned pregnancy, school dropout, and violence.

Addressing the community level of the ecological framework involves risk assessments and prioritizes strategies directed to influence broader community factors and social processes (e.g., concentrated poverty, social capital, social isolation). Violence prevention strategies have consistently been found to focus on the individual level with some efforts aimed at peer groups or families. More recent efforts within the field of violence prevention recognize the importance of influencing community factors, utilizing broad-based community-level approaches.

The skills required for effective community mobilization include developing consistent, cohesive messages; creating action plans; building coalitions and increasing partnerships; influencing and engaging stakeholders and decision makers; and developing community leadership from the bottom up. The resources listed at the end of this essay provide tools, tips, and assistance in building and supporting the skills necessary to mobilize communities to prevent interpersonal violence.


Effective community mobilization can infuse new energy into preventing interpersonal violence through community buy-in and support, can expand the base of community support for preventing interpersonal violence, and can help a community overcome denial of interpersonal violence. It can also promote local ownership and decision making about preventing interpersonal violence, encourage collaboration between individuals and organizations, and limit competition and redundancy of services and outreach efforts. In addition, effective community mobilization can provide a focus for prevention planning and implementation efforts and can create public presence and pressure to change laws, policies, and practices— progress that could not be made by just one individual or organization. It can also bring new community volunteers together (because of increased visibility); increase cross-sector collaboration, shared resources, and access to funding opportunities for organizations; and promote long-term, organizational commitment to the prevention of interpersonal violence.


  1. Krug, E. G., Dahlberg, L. L., Mercy, J. A., Zwi, A. B., ; Lozano, R. (Eds.). (2002). World report on violence and health. Geneva: World Health Organization. Retrieved from
  2. Laverack, G., ; Labonte, R. (2000). A planning framework for community empowerment goals within health promotion. Health Policy and Planning, 15(3), 255–262.
  3. Reppucci, N. D., Woolard, J. L., ; Fried, C. S. (1999). Social, community, and preventive interventions. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 387–418.
  4. Treno, A. J., ; Holder, H. D. (1997). Community mobilization: Evaluation of an environmental approach to local action. Addiction, 92(s2), S173–S187.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Injury Prevention and Control:

Social Democracy Essay

Social democracy as a political movement is intimately connected to the rise of modern industrial capitalism and the emergence of the industrial proletariat. This new social class of wage earners stood free from earlier forms of feudal allegiances and responsibilities, and social democracy can be seen as a response to the social needs and the political ambitions of this new industrial working class. In comparison to the earlier feudal and guild-based economic system, industrial capitalism implied that most workers faced a number of risks for which there were no organized remedies.

One of the first major organizational forms of social democracy was the First International, which was formed by British and French workers in London in 1864. One prominent reason behind the establishment of the First International was to hinder British employers in importing French labor to break strikes and thereby lower wages. Already here we see one of the major themes of social democratic ideology and politics, namely to protect the rights of trade unions by promoting solidarity among workers. The First International, in which Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels played important roles, organized several conferences, but it was formally dissolved in 1876 due to internal divisions between factions such as anarchists and revolutionary Marxists. It was followed by the Second International, which was created by European socialist parties in 1899 and dissolved in 1916 due to its failure to prevent national member parties, especially the Austrian and German social democratic parties, from taking a stand in the First World War (1914–1918). The outbreak of World War I was generally seen as a major defeat for the social democratic movement. By arguing that class solidarity was more important than nationalism, leading social democrats in Europe had tried to cool down nationalist fevers, and they made promises at various conferences to do whatever they could to stop the war. This came to an end in 1914 when the Austrian Social Democratic Party, then the strongest party in the Austrian Parliament, and a majority of the Social Democratic members of parliament (MPs) in the German parliament decided to support their governments’ war efforts.

The Revisionist Debate

The date and place of the birth of modern social democracy as a political ideology can be set to the years between 1896 and 1898 and took place within the German Social Democratic Party. The initiator was Eduard Bernstein, a leading member of the party and one of its foremost theorists. Bernstein had been collaborating with both Karl Marx and especially Friedrich Engels in London and was the editor of one of the German Social Democratic Party’s main publications. In a series of articles published in 1896 (later published as a book titled The Preconditions for Socialism), Bernstein came to question a number of the central canonical ideas of Marx and Engels and this created an intense debate (i.e., the revisionist debate) within the German Social Democratic Party. Bernstein denied the absolute (zero-sum) character of the conflict between the industrial proletariat and the capitalist class. He criticized Marx’s theory about the increasing concentration of capital and the prediction of a rapid collapse of capitalism. He also argued against the scientific nature of the Marxist theory and instead introduced a more idealistic notion of politics based on Immanuel Kant’s theories. As a result, Bernstein argued that the party should abandon its revolutionary “all-or-nothing” strategy and pursue a more pragmatic, piecemeal reformist type of politics to improve the situation for the working class. Most importantly, Bernstein was opposed to all forms of violent insurgency, and he argued that the party should work through parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, and union-led bargaining with the various employers’ federations.

Bernstein’s new ideas sparked an intense debate. He had spent a number of years in exile in London and had come to appreciate the liberal character of the British society. Consequently, he reconceptualized socialist theory as the logical extension of the principles of liberal democracy. His opponents were mostly orthodox Marxists such as Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, and Clara Zetkin. It must be emphasized that the German Social Democratic Party at this time was seen as the strongest and theoretically most advanced socialist party. In an election held in 1890, it won a stunning victory and become the largest political party in Germany.

What is of special importance in this debate is the character of the arguments. Bernstein’s line of reasoning was not only grounded in ideological terms but also rested on a number of empirical observations that he backed up with a wealth of statistics and other data. The main thrust of his argument was that because there had been no sign of a breakdown of the capitalist economy, no tendency of the proletariat to become the majority of the population, no pauperization of the working class, and not many indications of an increasing revolutionary class consciousness within the labor movement, the Social Democrats should abandon their revolutionary strategy and instead opt for negotiations and compromises with the power holders in the capitalist society. Moreover, Bernstein argued that in its political practice, the German Social Democratic Party had already commenced on this strategy, not least in local politics and in the strategy used by the labour unions. According to Bernstein, what he asked for was merely that the official Marxist revolutionary party ideology should be adjusted to the party’s political practice. The way forward, according to Bernstein, was not to strive for the establishment of a socialist state through a political revolution, but to strengthen the working-class movements’ organizational resources in order to gradually improve workers’ living and working conditions.

The counter arguments produced primarily by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Kautsky were very different from Bernstein’s empiricist reasoning. Instead of challenging Bernstein’s description of the political and social situation in Germany by presenting a different set of facts, they chose to rely almost entirely on Marx’s general theory. Luxemburg did recognize that especially the trade unions had to use a piecemeal strategy to get workers to join and economically support the unions and the party. However, the main motive for supporting the gradualist strategy that the unions advocated was, according to Luxemburg, not to improve workers’ living conditions. Instead, Luxemburg argued that the very nature of the capitalist society would prove that such a reformist strategy was doomed to fail and that the result would be that “the proletariat becomes convinced of the impossibility of accomplishing a fundamental social change through such activity and arrives at the understanding that the conquest of power is unavoidable” (Luxemburg 1972). The question Luxemburg could not deal with was, of course, what would happen if the piecemeal strategy pursued by the unions succeeded. The problem she and the other orthodox Marxists could not answer was why workers should continue to support the unions if these could not produce results that would improve workers’ conditions. This is the point at which we find the logic of modern social democracy. The piecemeal strategy implies that it has to produce results and that the leaders who produce such results have to defend them in front of their members. Otherwise workers have no incentive to support the labor unions, which traditionally have been the organizational backbone of social democratic parties. This has created a self-referential political logic in which the constant production of piecemeal results confirms the ongoing success of the reformist strategy.

Social Democracy Versus Orthodox Marxism

The departure from orthodox Marxism was based on four ideas that later became the defining principles for modern social democracy. The first is the support for parliamentary democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law not only as (in Marxism) a means to reach the socialist goal, but also as political ideals in their own right. The second is the gradualist approach to political change that implies a focus on negotiations, coalitions, and social compromises. The third is the willingness to adjust the political means to new realities instead of relying on a “grand theory.” The fourth is the abandonment of seeing the socialist society as a fixed goal in favor of strengthening the labor movements’ organizational capacity. “The final goal is nothing, the movement is everything” is a statement often attributed to Bernstein. In some European countries (e.g., Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden), the focus on such organizational measures in the years following World War II (1939–1945) eventually resulted in a huge set of social democratic organizations that covered most needs in life, including activities for young children, sport, leisure, culture, and funeral societies.

While formally staying within the Marxist orthodoxy, the German Social Democratic Party accepted Bernstein’s “revisionism” as a legitimate minority view and in practice came to act much according to Bernstein’s ideas. The outbreak of the 1917 revolution in Russia and the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power by nondemocratic means created an unbridgeable gulf in the socialist movement between social democracy and communism. From the late 1920s, the communist parties in Europe (on Stalin’s order) chose the class-against-class strategy and accused the social democratic parties in western Europe of collaborating with the class enemy and labelled them social fascists. This split in the socialist movement was one of the reasons for the successes of fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany, because it made it impossible to form a broad democratic alliance by center-left forces. In addition, as Sheri Berman has argued (1998, 2006), the relative strength of Marxist orthodoxy in the German Social Democratic Party hindered it from developing a politically viable strategy against the economic depression in the 1930s. The situation was the opposite for the Scandinavian Social Democratic parties, and they were able to develop Keynesian types of strategies that became the source for electoral success during the 1930s and led them to become dominant political parties in their respective countries.

Contemporary Social Democracy

On a global scale, social democracy of today is a major international political force. The Socialist International has about 150 member (or associated) parties in 110 countries, of which many are electorally successful and quite a few control the government. Currently social democrats rule in, for example, Australia, Brazil, Greece, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Longer periods of social democratic government power have taken place in Sweden between 1932 and 1976, in West Germany from 1969 to 1982, in Norway between 1945 and 1965, in Australia from 1983 to 1996, and in the United Kingdom from 1997 to the present. In addition, several social democratic parties have produced a number of political leaders with an international standing; for instance, Tony Blair, Willy Brandt, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Francois Mitterand, and Olof Palme. The ideology of such a broad movement is by nature diffuse. At a very general level, contemporary social democratic ideology can be understood as a combination of “negative” and “positive” rights. On the one hand, social democracy is liberal in the sense that the respect for individual freedom, parliamentary democracy, and the rule of law is central. On the other hand, social democracy strongly favors governments’ obligation to provide citizens with a number of “positive rights” in the form of social services and social insurance systems that either have a very broad coverage or are mandatory. In this focus on social rights, social democracy differs not only from free-market liberal ideology, but also from various forms of conservatism in this emphasis on equality. Individuals should be entitled to resources that make it possible for them to, if they so wish, break away from traditionally established forms of life, regardless if they are based on social class, gender roles, religion, ethnicity, or culture.

The main thrust of social democracy today is that market-based economic prosperity and international economic competitiveness are fully compatible with an encompassing, publicly provided system of social insurances and social services, the latter often including huge investments in education and health care. Social democracy has therefore during the last decades been in conflict with the neoliberal economic agenda that argues that public spending hampers economic growth and individual responsibility. In addition, many social democratic parties, especially those in the Nordic countries, have been pushing for increased gender equality through policies such as subsidized day care, equal pay, and generous publicly funded support for parental leave. Lately, issues concerning environmental protection and minority or immigrant rights have been added to the social democratic agenda.

Concerning the market economy (or capitalism), European social democracy came to abandon its ant capitalist rhetoric during the 1940s and 1950s. Keynesianism had provided social democracy with policy measures to intervene in the capitalist economic system so as to avoid the type of dramatic crisis that hit the world economy in the early 1930s. However, following the idea of positive rights, social democratic ideology does not embrace an unregulated market economy. On the contrary, the view of markets is pragmatic, which often has resulted in an extensive set of policies for regulating markets and for ameliorating class-based economic and social inequalities. In political economy research, such systems have been labelled social market economies, and they have been contrasted to liberal market economies. The impact of social democratic parties during the post–World War II period has been particularly strong in Austria, the Nordic countries, and the United Kingdom and to some extent also in Australia, Germany (i.e., the former West Germany), the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

The Socialist International and many national social democratic parties have been important in promoting democratization; for example, in southern Europe (Greece, Portugal, and Spain) in the 1970s, as well as in many third world countries. The Party of European Socialists is today the second strongest party group in the European Parliament, with 217 MPs (out of a total of 785). From a global perspective, it seems as if the center of social democracy during the past fifteen years has shifted from northern Europe to Latin America, where a number of countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Costa Rica) are led by social democratic governments.


Social democracy is closely connected to the establishment of encompassing systems of social insurance and social services also known as the welfare state. The general idea is that such systems should not be limited to the poor, but that they should be either universal or cover broad segments of the population, including the middle class. The idea is an outcome of the principle of social solidarity and based on an ideology that governments should provide citizens with a number of “basic resources.” Such policies have become widely popular and often are supported by other political parties as well. In many ways, modern social democracy can be understood as an ideology that is tuned to the notion of finding a middle way between neoliberal capitalism and heavy-handed statism. While its neoliberal opponents often have warned that such a system may require taxes at such high levels that the economy would suffer, this has generally not been-born out by the facts. Empirical research about the relation between high levels of taxation and public spending on social services and social insurance systems, on the one hand, and international economic competitiveness, on the other hand, tend to speak in favor of the social democratic project. There are various reasons for this counterintuitive outcome. One is probably the investment in human capital. Another reason is that, because of problems with asymmetric information, markets are usually less efficient than governments in terms of handling the demand for social insurances. Recent research tends to indicate that this holds not only for developed Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries but also for developing countries.

Unsolved Problems And The Future Of Social Democracy

The main unresolved problem for the social democratic project is that Bernstein’s idea that socialism could be reached by a gradualist parliamentary approach is nowhere to be seen. The Socialist International recognizes this in its current program and states that it has no blueprint or clear vision of what socialism (or economic democracy) may look like. Nationalization of major industries, which was high on the agenda in many European countries during the 1950s and 1960s, did not produce the results many had hoped for. Even though social democratic parties have been supporting increased union rights such as systems of codetermination within companies, few would say that this can be seen as economic democracy. Moreover, labor unions have not been supportive of systems wherein workers would be the owners of companies because this would minimize the need for unions. One of the most ambitious plans for economic democracy was launched by the Swedish Social Democrats during the 1980s. The system, known as wage-earner funds, forced companies to pay a certain amount of their profits into union-controlled funds that would then be invested in companies and thus, through such a system of ownership, wield economic power. After an unusually intense political debate that lasted for more than a decade, the system was, in a scaled down version, introduced by the Swedish Social Democrats in 1983, but it was abolished by a center-right government in 1992. This ideological defeat led the Swedish Social Democrats to abandon this version of economic democracy during their twelve years of rule from 1994 to 2006. Interestingly enough, one reason behind this ideological defeat was that the unions could not muster political support among its own members for this variant of economic democracy.

Another problem for the future is the development of main political cleavages. Social democracy has been closely connected to the traditional left-right class-based political division that follows the logic of industrial capitalism. It is not clear how the social democratic ideology will handle new types of cleavage structures based on, for example, problems related to immigration, globalization, environmental protection, and various forms of identity politics.


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  13. Luxemburg, Rose. Selected Political Writings, edited by Robert Looker. London: Jonathan Cape, 1972.
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  23. Tudor, Henry, and J. M.Tudor. Marxism and Social Democracy:The Revisionist Debate 1896–1898. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  24. Whyman, Philip. Sweden and the “Third Way”: A Macroeconomic Evaluation. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2003.

Friedrich Nietzsche Essay

In the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), justice is understood in a most generous and ethically compelling way. Nietzsche, the creator of genealogical analysis, returns to the origins of sociopolitical phenomena to understand them in the context of their arising in specific historical contexts in response to specific, often localized, socioeconomic conditions. He thus understands the mechanisms of justice in any society to assume the forms that they do in accordance with the society’s sense of its own strength. A society’s capacity for mercy and its ability to deal generously with both internal enemies (criminals) and external enemies varies directly with the existential health of the group, ranging from a “noble” fullness of nature to the ignoble, resentment-driven, weak-natured “man of ressentiment.”

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, and classical philologist. His works targeted religion, culture, philosophy, and science, challenging accepted values through the use of metaphor, irony, and aphorism for undermining life energies and fostering unhealthy, reactive, “resentment-riddled” natures, rather than “life-affirmation,” a recurrent theme in his work. Nietzsche challenged many sacred traditions and doctrines for draining life’s expansive energies. His influence remains substantial within philosophy and many consider Nietzsche to be the father of postmodern philosophical method. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has stimulated extensive commentary by philosophers in the continental tradition.

The Roots of Justice

In On the Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche tracks the ideas that ground the formation of mechanisms of justice to their roots in a people’s nature. In the First Essay, he characterizes “strong, full natures” by their great capacity to shake off insults and affronts, and he contrasts the noble, generous-natured to the “ignoble, resentful natures” who at the slightest offense are driven to hatred and venomous forms of revenge against their enemies, whom they perceive to be evil. The Second Essay goes on to trace the origins of state systems of justice to the most primitive personal relationship, the relationship between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor. From the practices of setting prices, determining values, and measuring equivalencies, the human world and all its relationships came to be modeled on this primitive association. From this primal market relationship, and in accord with the simplest logic that everything has its price and all things can be paid for, derives the oldest and most fundamental moral canon of justice as good-natured, fair, and objective behavior among parties of approximately equal power as they come to terms with each other and carve out their equitable settlements.

Institutional history evolves from this simple vital relation of creditor to debtor. Since communal life offers marked advantages over the life of exile (in German, Elund, meaning “misery”), including protection, mutual trust, and a peaceful context for carrying on affairs, Nietzsche understands citizenship to imply the pledge to keep faith with standards of fairness and goodwill and to refrain from injuries and hostile acts toward other citizens. This pledge between the individual and the community (encoded as the law) guarantees a certain quality of life for all; thus, the lawbreaker is a debtor who has accepted the bond of the community and reaped the advantages of citizenship but failed to keep the promise of goodwill and fairness to the others. Therefore, henceforth the criminal must be denied the communal advantages and through that deprivation, reminded of their worth. Like a cheated creditor, the community withholds the advantages of citizenship from the unfaithful debtor, now seen as an enemy of the state, and returns the culprit to a “savage and outlaw state,” applying punishments whose forms derive from acts of war, directed to external enemies.

However, Nietzsche sees the savagery to which internal enemies are submitted softening and growing increasingly lenient and penal law becoming progressively moderate as the community grows more powerful and its self-confidence increases. With amplified communal vigor, malefactors cease to be viewed as extreme threats, and thus, posits Nietzsche, the focus of the law evolves and shifts from a punitive response to the malefactor toward the protection of the transgressor, with the purpose of moderating the excesses of anger that resentful victims may harbor toward transgressors. Just as creditors become more humane to the extent that their wealth increases, so for Nietzsche states become more humane to the extent that they are stable, strong states.

Nietzsche’s genealogy of justice thus acts as an indictment of cruel penal practices, since societies that practice harsh forms of penal law are construed as weak, ignoble, and savage, while societies that pass more generous laws and practice more lenient punitive forms are construed as noble, strong, and more humane. This movement toward generosity Nietzsche names “the self-overcoming of justice.” Countering the proposition posited by contemporary theorist Eugene Duhring that justice derives from reactive feelings, Nietzsche insists instead that the last sphere to be conquered by the spirit of justice is the sphere of reactive feelings. Justice may arise from primal relations of exchange but its inclinations are more noble than venomous “ressentiment,” which is the mark of lesser, weaker natures. Justice is always positive for Nietzsche, arising from the will of noble men to put limits upon the reactive excesses of lesser men and to move the focus from grudge and rancor to impersonal, objective valuation of deeds.

In this understanding of justice, as evolving from a declaration of war against an internal enemy to a compromise with, and ultimately protection from, the vengeful rage of offended parties, the meanings of punishment evolve in step with this changing conceptual territory: to render harmless, isolate a disturbance, inspire fear of a ruler, secure repayment of a debt, expel a degenerate element to maintain communal purity, festival rape and public mockery of an enemy, and the making of memories for the punished and for witnesses.


  1. Engels, Frederick. Anti-Duhring: Herr Eugen in Revolution in Science. Charleston, SC: Forgotten Books, 2012.
  2. Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Alan Sheridan, trans. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.
  3. Govier, Trudy. Forgiveness and Revenge. London: Routledge, 2002.
  4. Murphy, Jeffrie G. and Jean Hampton. Forgiveness and Mercy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
  5. Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Walter Kaufman, trans. New York: Vintage Books, 1966.
  6. Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Walter Kaufman, trans. New York: Vintage Books, 1967.

Prevalence Essay

Prevalence is the proportion of individuals within a population who have experienced a phenomenon. It is typically expressed as a percentage. For example, in the first study of its kind, Russell found that 38% of women reported that they had experienced contact sexual abuse prior to the age of 18. Prevalence must be distinguished from incidence, which is the rate of individuals per thousand who have been exposed to some phenomenon over a given time period. In the violence literature, incidence is often expressed as the number of individuals per 1,000 exposed to a particular type of violence. For example, approximately two female children per 1,000 experience sexual abuse each year.

Prevalence is the better figure for defining the scope of a particular problem (e.g., underage drinking), whereas incidence is better for understanding the impact of a problem during a given time period. The best estimates of prevalence often come from methodologically rigorous national prevalence studies of the given problem. These studies often construct a prevalence estimate from the individuals’ lifetime exposure to the problem.

Issues With Prevalence

Although prevalence can provide an approximation of the scope of a problem, it has limitations based upon the rigor of the studies gathering the information. An issue of great concern is the number and types of screen questions used to assess for the type of violence. Especially with sexual violence against females, behaviorally specific questions are better at soliciting disclosures. More numerous questions also tend to be better at soliciting disclosures. There are mixed findings regarding the type of survey that elicits better disclosures, although it is generally assumed that multiple responding formats are better (e.g., faceto-face and self-administered questionnaire).

Another issue of concern in prevalence studies is the accuracy of retrospective recall when adults are asked to report whether they experienced specific violence in childhood. Although findings are mixed, the issue of underreporting appears to be of much greater concern than the issue of over reporting. For example, Williams found that adults with known histories of childhood sexual abuse did not always recount the known history of abuse to researchers, even though they sometimes recalled other incidents of abuse. Although much research remains to be done in this area, researchers tentatively conclude that retrospective prevalence studies provide relatively valid estimates of a problem, although they may underestimate that problem somewhat if the violence is recalled retrospectively.


  1. Russell, D. E. H. (1983). The incidence and prevalence of intrafamilial and extrafamilial sexual abuse of female children. Child Abuse ; Neglect, 7, 133–146.
  2. Russell, D. E. H., ; Bolen, R. M. (2000). The epidemic of rape and child sexual abuse in the United States. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  3. Williams, L. M. (1994). Recall of childhood trauma: A prospective study of women’s memories of child sexual abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 1167–1176.

Social Darwinism Essay

Social Darwinism is the theory that human societies obey the same process of natural selection that Charles Darwin identified in the natural world. Applying the idea of “the survival of the fittest” to society, politics, and economics, social Darwinists argue that the wealthy or strong succeed under conditions of fair competition because they are better adapted to their environments, and that the poor or weak therefore have no legitimate claim to government protection. Social Darwinism was especially popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, although the term itself was typically used by its opponents rather than its advocates. While it had strong proponents on both sides of the Atlantic—most notably, Herbert Spencer and Walter Bagehot in England and Edward L. Youmans and William Graham Sumner in America—it was particularly influential in America where it was used to justify laissez-faire economics during the Gilded Age.

Despite the name, social Darwinism is most closely associated with the work of Herbert Spencer, who coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” nine years before the publication of Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859). Charles Darwin’s own remarks on the application of his theory to human society are infrequent and tentative, although he was influenced by Thomas Malthus’s argument that population growth was ultimately limited by food supply and that a struggle for existence naturally resulted whenever the former outstripped the latter. Herbert Spencer developed the social implications that many assumed were implicit in evolutionary biology and attempted to build the principles of evolution into coherent theory encompassing biology, psychology, sociology, and ethics. The popular association of this theory with Charles Darwin, however, gave it a veneer of scientific validity that masked its significant diversions from Darwin’s theory. While Darwin’s theory of natural selection was based on empirical observation, the social Darwinism of Spencer and others was largely deductive and unquestioningly grounded its ethical and normative conclusions in claims about nature. Thus, although Darwinian evolution suggests that a particular characteristic or species flourishes simply because it is better adapted to a particular environment, social Darwinists understood fittest to mean best in a sense that reflected their preexisting normative commitments.

Social Darwinism was most commonly linked to conservative arguments justifying laissez-faire capitalism and minimal conceptions of the state. Social Darwinists argued that the accumulation of wealth demonstrated successful adaptation to the laws of economic competition and that assistance to the poor only preserved those who lacked the industriousness, intelligence, and self-control to succeed on their own. Therefore, efforts at social reform and state intervention in the economy (through poor laws, social reform programs, business regulation, and the like) violated natural economic laws and interfered with the progress of society by protecting its least successful members. Drawing on Darwin’s observations, thinkers like Francis Galton argued that intelligence and mental qualities were heritable in the same way as physical characteristics; laws and institutions that preserved “inferior” individuals, he cautioned, ran the risk of degrading human populations. Applied to the genetic makeup of human populations, social Darwinist arguments could thus be used to justify eugenics and “social hygiene” programs. Similar arguments explaining competition between, rather than within, societies and wedded to assumptions of western cultural and biological supremacy were used to justify imperialism and colonialism.

Despite its initial appeal, critiques of social Darwinism developed early. One line of criticism questioned its scientific basis and emphasized its non-Darwinian features. Social Darwinists, for example, tended to conflate individuals and species as the primary unit of analysis, overlooked Darwin’s insistence that adaptation could occur through cooperation as well as competition, and wrongly equated evolution with progress. Another line of criticism questioned the conclusions that social Darwinists drew from the “struggle for existence” in human society. Reform Darwinists like Henry George and Lester Ward insisted that the laws discovered through the social sciences, like the laws discovered through the physical sciences, allowed humans to shape rather than be mastered by their conditions. Because natural selection made no normative assumptions about the particular environment within which the process of adaptation occurred, Reform Darwinists argued that social and political institutions could restructure environments in ways that would facilitate human happiness.

The popularity of social Darwinism declined throughout the twentieth century as new conceptions of the scope and responsibilities of the state developed, and as knowledge of biology and culture increased. However, many see a revival of social Darwinist thought in the development of sociobiology since the mid-1970s.


  1. Bannister, Robert C. Social Darwinism: Science and Myth in Anglo-American Social Thought. Philadelphia:Temple University Press, 1979.
  2. Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species. New York: Penguin, 1982.
  3. Hofstadter, Richard. Social Darwinism in American Thought. Boston: Beacon, 1992.
  4. Spencer, Herbert. The Man versus the State. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton, 2003.
  5. Social Statics: Or,The Conditions Essential to Human Happiness Specified, and the First of Them Developed. New York: A. M. Kelley, 1969.
  6. Sumner,William Graham. What Social Classes Owe to Each Other. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton, 2003.

Free Will Essay

As commonly understood, free will is the capacity of rational human beings to choose a course of action from among a variety of alternatives. The opposite of free will is determinism whereby claims are made that any action “chosen” could not have been otherwise given the chain of events leading to it and the nature of the choosing agent. Free will and determinism are both embraced and disdained by social scientists depending on the semantic issue of how those terms are defined. Some support the “hard” determinism of B. F. Skinner, who insisted that individuals don’t have free will but keep pretending that they do, and others support the libertarian version of free will championed by Jean-Paul Sartre, who insisted that people have free will but keep pretending that they don’t. There are many intermediary positions, including the belief that free will and determinism are absolutely incompatible, and the contrary position that they are completely compatible.

The Enlightenment founders of criminology held that free will enabled humans to purposely and deliberately calculate a course of action that they were free to follow absent external restraints, and that if people choose to engage in illegal activities society has a perfectly legitimate right to punish them. The act of holding criminals responsible for their actions affirms their humanity by treating them as free agents rather than mindless automatons blown hither and thither by capricious circumstances. This classical assumption of rational free-willed individuals underlies all modern legal systems.

The notion of libertarian free will originated with the Greek philosopher Epicurus, who based it on Democritus’s atomic theory within which the “swerve” of an atom can occur without cause. Werner Heisenberg’s principle of uncertainty (unpredictability) is invoked by modern free will libertarians as affirming the unfettered freedom of the will. This is the kind of unpredictability that Max Weber called the privilege of the insane (the random, unstructured firing of neurons is one of the defining features of schizophrenia). If free will means action without a cause, all actions would be unpredictable and chaos would reign, and the apparent indeterminacy of quantum phenomena is hardly relevant to human actions.

Judging by the content of their textbooks and journals, most social scientists are determinist. Yet, at the same time they often rail against it. They are not against determinism in general, but rather against “biological determinism”; environmental determinism appears to be acceptable. Biological determinism implies that human behavior is a direct outcome of genetic programming absent any influence from the environment, but geneticist are well aware that genes are in constant dialogue with their environments, with the needs of the organism, and with other genes. They are well aware that without an environment, genes have no place to go because they depend on the environment for their expression.

There are philosophers and scientists who, ironically, see genes as the foundation of free will. This position is seen in terms of free will being the evolving freedom to follow the inclinations of individuals’ reason-guided natures. Genes are not puppet masters moving people unerringly to do their bidding; rather they are at people’s beck and call. Genes are constantly responding to individual needs by making the hormones, neurotransmitter, and cell-structure proteins needed by people to meet the many challenges of their environments. If genes incline humans in one direction rather than another, the nudge is internal, not caused by something wholly outside of their beings. After all, people’s genes are their genes.

Some criminology theories such as rational choice and age-graded life course theories are compatibilist in that they deny neither free will nor determinism. These theories assume rational free-willed individuals, but also that rationality and free will are bounded by each individual’s temperament, upbringing, knowledge, conscience, physical and cognitive abilities and disabilities, and the size of their bank account, as well as the formal and informal constraints imposed by others. Free will or agency within the meaning of these theories means that people are free to make choices within the confines of these constraints. Compatibilism is consistent with the notion expressed by Aristotle that one is free to wish what one wants, but not free to want what they wish. In other words, people are free to wish for that which is compatible with their nature, a nature that is the product of a configuration of their genes and developmental history. People are not free to wish for wants that run contrary to their natures. An introverted, fearful man, for instance, may wish for a career in accounting or computer science, but never for a career in the police or the marines. In this view, even if people have two options congenial to their natures, they will follow the strongest inclination.

For some, this is determinism pure and simple; for others it is determinism fully compatible with free will. An individual’s strongest inclination is his or her strongest inclination, and no one else’s. One is one’s nature, and a person’s will is his or her own; therefore, if people follow the direction in which their natures nudge them, they are following their own will. To ask for freedom beyond that is meaningless; how can one be free of one’s nature?

A hard determinist might respond that animals also engage in goal-directed behavior dictated by their natures, and no one invests them with free will. A compatibilist reply is that animals are instinctively driven to pursue their goals and do not form reasoned judgments regarding whether or not to respond to a natural urge. In other words, humans take ownership of their natural urges and control them via their ability to weigh the pros and cons of possible future outcomes for responding or not responding to their immediate urges.

It might well be that determinism is necessary for human agency. If people did not think that the things they do produce (determine) meaningful consequences, why would they do anything? One knows that one is a free agent and that living according to that position is necessary, for without a belief in agency—the ability to shape one’s own world—human beings would be imprisoned by a deadly que sera, sera fatalism that would destroy the ability to act for the greater good.

Although compatibilism is the stance held by most philosophers today, others see it as unwarranted fence-sitting that relieves its adherents of taking a firm stand. Yet there is adequate evidence from science that certain things formerly seen as contradictory turn out not to be. Niels Bohr’s principle of complementarity, that is, the wave-particle dual nature of light, is perhaps the most famous example. There was a great deal of initial resistance to this counterintuitive wave-particle duality, but as it became more and more empirically endorsed it led to modern quantum theory. It turned out that neither the wave nor particle models alone could explain light, but together they could. If one substitutes human action for light, and free will and determinism for waves and particles, one can also conclude that neither free will nor determinism alone is sufficient to understand human action; both are needed to do so. Just as there is no longer any paradox in the wave-particle duality of light in physics, there should be no paradox about humans being both agenic and determined. Determinism gives people the only kind of free will worth having. It is a free will that follows the reasoned dictates of their natures (albeit, natures “caused” by the interaction of genetic inheritance and developmental experiences) and lays on individuals the responsibility of owning their actions.

Hard determinism challenges the very foundations upon which civilization rests, and libertarian free will is deemed impossibly incoherent by most philosophers. What is thus left is compatibilism, a position the law itself holds. The law holds people responsible for their conduct, and at the same time allows circumstances that mitigate their responsibility. It commands people to behave responsibly, which implies the assumption of free will to do so, and it is deterministic in that it assumes that punishment or the threat of punishment is effective in determining the extent to which people will behave responsibly.

According to neuroscientist Bjorn Brembs, free will is quantitative (how much free will do individuals have?) rather than qualitative (people either have free will or they don’t). Conceptualizing free will as a quantitative thing, it is logical to think that most individuals tend to become freer as they become more self-assured by the sum of life experiences and bank accounts. Becoming increasingly freer of external constraints as people move from childhood to old age means being able to live progressively more in accordance with their natural proclivities leavened by the wisdom of age. Behavioral genetic studies consistently find that as people age the influences of shared environments (environments in which individuals are under the considerable control of others) on personalities and cognitive abilities fade to almost nothing, while the influence of genes and non-shared environments become stronger. The wise old adage, “The older I get, the more I become myself,” sums up this quantitative/developmental argument for free will.


  1. Balaguer, Mark. Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.
  2. Brembs, Bjorn. “Toward a Scientific Concept of Free Will as a Biological Trait: Spontaneous Actions and Decision-Making in Invertebrates.” Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, v.278 (2011).
  3. Dennett, Daniel C. Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.
  4. Kane, Robert. A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.