Professor Manuel Eisner

Professor of Comparative & Developmental Criminology

Director of Violence Research Centre

B.A., Ph.D.

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Macro-level Comparative Violence Research

My macro-level research on interpersonal violence comprises, amongst others, an innovative study on levels of homicide across Europe over a period of over 800 years (see, e.g. "Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime", Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Vol. 30). This study has become a landmark in our knowledge on historical patterns of interpersonal violence. More particularly, I was first to conclusively demonstrate a long-term pattern of declining homicide across Europe and to empirically show geographic variations in these patterns. This research has had a profound impact on how sociologists and criminologists think about long-term trends in interpersonal violence and their relationship to the evolution of modern society. A recent study (From Swords to Words, 2014, Crime and Justice - A Review of Research) has put several hypotheses about the causes of the decline to more formal empirical tests. Studies with Prof Nivette (University of Utrecht) have examined the extent to which the legitimacy of the state is associated, at the macro level, with cross-national variation in homicide rates. This research is part of a larger research programme on the political and social determinants of cooperation and conflict in complex societies.

Developmental Research on the Causes of Aggression

I also work on researching the developmental causes of aggressive behavior, crime and delinquency. I am one of the principal investigators (with Dr Denis Ribaud, University of Zurich) of the Zurich Project on the Social Development of Children, z-proso, which is hosted by the Jacobs Centre for Productive Youth Development, University of Zurich. Z-proso is a longitudinal study that examines the social development of 1675 children who entered primary school in the City of Zurich in 2004. The study currently comprises seven main data collections at ages 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, and 17. Its focus is on the dynamics of aggressive behavior, violent victimization, and attitudes and perceptions related to violence and aggression. The study population is highly ethnically mixed with over 65% of participants coming from families with a migration background.

The study pursues several research strands: Recent work with Murray (Journal of Child Psychology, 2016) has examined, for example, the comorbidity of aggressive behavior with other manifestations of psychopathology such as ADHD and depressive symptoms over the life course. Z-proso also specifically focuses on the dynamics of legal socialization during adolescence. Thus, work with Nivette, Ribeaud and Malti examined the developmental processes leading to legal cynicism as an important mechanism that facilitates violence and delinquency (a sense that one can take the law into one's own hands) during adolescence (Crime and Delinquency, 2015). Another research direction examines the mechanisms and events that affect change and stability in aggressive behavior over time. Our research with Averdijk, van Gelder and Ribeaud (Violence begets Violence, but how? Criminology, 2016, Vol 54:2), for example, has examined how change in decision-making processes due to victimization may account for the relationship between victimization and offending over time. Similarly, work led by Obsuth and published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence (2016, with Murray, Malti, Sulger and Ribeaud) showed the strong influence of a supportive teacher-child relationship on subsequent declines in problem behavior including aggression.

Research on Violence Prevention

My academic work on violence prevention comprises primary experimental studies, meta-analyses that synthesize current knowledge in a given area, and work on policy factors that influence population-level reductions in interpersonal violence. Two universal prevention programmes were implemented as part of the z-proso study, and effects were assessed for up to seven years after the intervention. In the London Education and Inclusion Project (LEIP, 2013-2015) we evaluated an intervention aimed at promoting the social and communication skills of adolescents at a high risk of school exclusion. An ongoing meta-analysis (with Sara Valdebenito, Dr Maria Ttofi, Dr Alex Sutherland and Prof David Farrington) conducted for the Campbell collaboration examines the state of knowledge about interventions that can reduce school exclusions. A recent study, finally, in the Journal of Public Health Policy examines, at a cross-national level, what can be learned from international crime drop in recent time for the programming of prevention strategies at the national level.