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Published in: Homicide Studies, Vol. 5 No. 1, February 2001. p. 5-29


A survey of the literature suggests that victim-offender relationship and motive are two primary characteristics that have traditionally been used to disaggregate homicide events. Previous research has clearly identified normative homicide characteristics as expressive motives between intimates and instrumental motives between strangers. However, the present research examines the prevalence of deviant homicides, or homicides with nonnormative characteristics, in Chicago. The authors test the hypothesis that deviant homicides are more likely among individuals with weak ties to social institutions. Results of a logistic regression analysis support the hypothesis that the likelihood of deviant circumstances is significantly greater when homicides involve Hispanics, African Americans, and males. In addition, deviant homicides were significantly more likely when they involved gang circumstances and, on the national level, after the appearance of crack cocaine. These findings have important implications to the explanatory power of criminological theory.