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Fear drop and fear change. Perceptions of security in the 21st century: their formation, trends, and impact in society

Eysink Smeets, Marnix 2021. Fear drop and fear change. Perceptions of security in the 21st century: their formation, trends, and impact in society. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis is an exploratory study of perceptions of security in the 21st century, the way they form and have developed in recent decades, as well as their impact in society. The study is rooted in the criminological sub-discipline of fear of crime studies, a research tradition that developed in the second half of the last century. At that time, the level of violent (street) and property crimes was rising in western societies, while public fear of this crime was thought to form a social problem in itself. The research tradition that developed yielded an extensive body of knowledge on, for instance, the operationalisation, measurement, and determinants of fear of crime, but remained less developed in theory formation and aspects such as development of fear of crime over time and its impact in society. From the last decade of the 20th century, in western societies the prevalence of ‘traditional’ crime decreased substantially (the ‘crime drop’), while the new millennium confronted these societies with new types of crime and related threats that shook the public (the ‘crime change’). The research tradition of fear of crime studies has not shown great agility in accommodating these changes, while these have made the need for a more thorough theoretical foundation even greater. Therefore, an exploratory exercise was undertaken that, based on a mix of empirical and conceptual studies and reviews of the literature, resulted in a process-oriented perspective on perceptions of security. This perspective is founded on an interdisciplinary theoretical base, in which notions from social-psychology (and stress-studies in particular) and complexity science form a major part. The study makes plausible that ‘new fears’ (such as fear of terrorism, cybercrime or even the corona pandemic) form in similar ways as ‘traditional’ fear of crime and yield similar ‘stone in the pond’ effects in society. These effects feed back into the process in which perceptions of security form, making this process circular by definition. The study also shows that, similar to what has been observed in the prevalence of crime, both a fear drop and a fear change can be observed in western societies: the prevalence of ‘traditional’ fear of crime decreased, while ‘new fears’ emerged and increased in prevalence.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 December 2021
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2023 02:32

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