Ranking of crime seriousness in Papua New Guinea: The Effects of Urbanization

Dianne Wuillemin, Barry Richardson, Dennis Moore

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Subjects, 46 male and 41 female Papua New Guineans who resided in Port Moresby and its suburbs, ranked 19 crimes according to relative seriousness. These ranks were compared with a ranking of the same crimes according to the penalties prescribed by the Papua New Guinean legal system and with data previously obtained from rural subjects. The overall urban mean ranks correlated significantly with legal ranks as did the male and female urban ranks separately. Urban subjects more closely approximated the legal ranks than did rural subjects, and these two sets of ranks were also more in agreement than were rural and legal ranks when the crimes were considered in 4 categories-against people, against property, sexual crimes, and victimless crimes. The ranking of crimes changed with increased exposure to urban culture, most particularly for victimless and sexual crimes which were ranked less disparately in relation to the law as a function of longer residence in an urban area. The greatest mean differences in ranks between the law and rural subjects occurred for adultery and indecent exposure. These differences were maintained for subjects with minimal exposure to urban culture (1-5 years), but were not found for urban dwellers of longer standing. Those who had resided in an urban area for more than 10 years provided ranks which differed most from the legal ranks for shoplifting and drunk driving. Factors that may have contributed to this shift in attitude towards relative crime with urbanization are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-44
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1986
Externally publishedYes

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