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Violence Begets Violence … But How? A Decision‐Making Perspective On The Victim–Offender Overlap*

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This study applied a decision‐making perspective to examine the causal mechanisms underlying the relation between violent victimization and offending. We theorized that having been victimized affects an individual's appraisal of subsequent potentially conflictive situations in such a way that victims become more attuned toward the benefits of violence perpetration than toward its costs. Furthermore, we argued that this altered appraisal mediates the relation between violent victimization and violent offending. We tested these hypotheses by using data from the Zurich Project on the Social Development of Children and Youths, a longitudinal study of Swiss youth (N = 1,013; 11–15 years of age). In line with expectations, path analysis results showed that prior victimization influenced the appraisal of decision‐making situations that, in turn, predicted subsequent self‐reported violent offending. Importantly, these mediation effects held when controlling for a variety of time‐stable factors, such as self‐control and risky activities, as well as prior victimization and delinquency. Implications for research and theorizing on the victim–offender overlap are elaborated in the discussion.