Sir: Given the public concern about levels of violence in our cities, politicians should take notice of some recent studies of societal differences in the incidence of violence. Professor Rosemary Gartner (University of Toronto) has shown that: (a) There is substantial evidence that societies that tolerate or extol the aggressive behaviour of individuals (eg violent sports, corporal punishment) and violent propensities by the state (capital punishment, militarism) tend to be those in which illicit personal violence is more common; (b) In nations in which income and wealth are more unequally distributed, homicide rates tend to be higher; and (c) Shorter-term increases in violence tend to occur in periods when large birth cohorts reach their late teen and early adult years, but this is ameliorated in nations that ease the entry of youth cohorts into the adult work force and minimise the importance of age boundaries for social behaviour (eg Japan).
The data indicate that we should be wary of encouraging young people to bear arms in cadet corps (report, 23 January; letters, 24, 25, 28 January), and of policies that unduly promote wealth differentials.
They also imply the necessity to ensure that school-leavers do not start adult life with the impression that they have no niche.
Professor ROBERT A HINDE
St John's College