Category Archives: Juvenile offending

Why English youths are more violent than Swedish youths

mylifeincrimeOne article in particular from the latest issue of European Journal of Criminology (Vol. 5, No. 3) caught my eye. Per-Olof H. Wikström and Robert Svensson report findings of a study to uncover why English youths are more violent than Swedish youths. At first glance it seems as if Wikstrom and Svensson are engaged in a circular argument:

… we use data from the English Peterborough Youth Study and the Swedish Eskilstuna Youth Study. The findings show that in both cities (1) young people’s self-reported violent behaviour is predicted by crime propensity and lifestyle, and their interaction, and (2) a substantial proportion (40 percent) of the difference in the level of violence vanishes when taking into account national differences in young people’s crime propensity and lifestyles. We conclude that the findings support the notion that one major cause of the difference in the level of violence among young people in England and Sweden is that more young people in England have a higher crime propensity and are living criminogenic lifestyles than in Sweden [from the abstract].

In other words, it looks as if they’re arguing that youths in England are criminals because they live a criminal lifestyle (a bit like this study reported in Improbable Research). In fact, it’s rather more interesting than that.

Here’s the theoretical framework Wikstrom and Svensson use to explore the data:

Two central ideas in criminology are that crime involvement is a consequence of (1) individual crime propensity and (2) criminogenic features of the environments to which an individual is exposed… One recent theory that takes into account the role of the individual–environment interaction in the explanation of crime is the situational action theory of crime causation … The cornerstone of the situational action theory is the assertion that human actions (including acts of crime and violence) are an outcome of how individuals perceive their ‘action alternatives’ and make their choices as a result of the interaction between their individual characteristics and experiences (propensities) and the features of the behaviour setting in which they take part (environmental inducements) [p.311].

Wikstrom and Svensson’s analysis indicates that not only are there more youths with higher levels of crime propensity in Peterborough compared to Eskilstuna but they also have lifestyles that are more ‘criminogenic’, i.e., they do things that put them into risky settings, which are more likely to prompt or facilitate criminal behaviour. Interesting stuff.


Other articles in this issue include:

  • The Greek Connection(s): The Social Organization of the Cigarette-Smuggling Business in Greece – Georgios A. Antonopoulos
  • How Serious Is the Problem of Item Nonresponse in Delinquency Scales and Aetiological Variables?: A Cross-National Inquiry into Two Classroom PAPI
  • Self-Report Studies in Antwerp and Halmstad – Lieven Pauwels and Robert Svensson
  • Self-Control in Global Perspective: An Empirical Assessment of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory Within and Across 32 National Settings – Cesar J. Rebellon, Murray A. Straus, and Rose Medeiros
  • Reassessing the Fear of Crime – Emily Gray, Jonathan Jackson, and Stephen Farrall

Photo credit: Marxchivist, Creative Commons License

New issue: Psychology, Crime & Law


The latest issue of Psychology, Crime & Law (Volume 14 Issue 3) is one of those issues where almost all the articles look tempting. Given my particular interest in deception I’ll be starting with Granhag and Hartwig’s intriguing offering on mind-reading and deception detection, but the articles on how TV affects legal decision making and linking crimes in serial homicide will be next on the list.

Here’s the line-up:

  • What judges know about eyewitness testimony: A comparison of Norwegian and US judges (Svein Magnussen; Richard A. Wise; Abid Q. Raja; Martin A. Safer; Nell Pawlenko; Ulf Stridbeck)
  • A new theoretical perspective on deception detection: On the psychology of instrumental mind-reading (Pär Anders Granhag; Maria Hartwig)
  • Perceptions of children during a police interrogation: Guilt, confessions, and interview fairness (Allison D. Redlich; Jodi A. Quas; Simona Ghetti)
  • ‘Objection, Your Honor! Television is not the relevant authority.’ Crime drama portrayals of eyewitness issues (Sarah L. Desmarais; Heather L. Price; J. Don Read)
  • Behavioural crime linking in serial homicide (Pekka Santtila; Tom Pakkanen; Angelo Zappalà; Dario Bosco; Maria Valkama; Andreas Mokros)
  • What do prisoners want? Current concerns of adult male prisoners (Mary McMurran; Eleni Theodosi; Anna Sweeney; Joselyn Sellen)

Research reports round-up

ex libris gul law reports collectionSome of the criminal justice-related reports that have caught my eye in the last few weeks:


Crime and Communities Review (UK, published 18 June, Cabinet Office): A major review examining how to better engage communities in the fight against crime and raise public confidence in the Criminal Justice System – link to pdf downloads.

Gangs at the Grassroots: Community solutions to street violence (UK, published 17 July 2008, New Local Government Network) – pdf


Witness and victim experience survey: early findings (UK, published 3 July 200, Ministry of Justice) – pdf

Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Victims: A 21st Century Strategy (US, International Association of Chiefs of Police) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

First Response to Victims of Crime (US, published April 2008, National Sheriffs Association) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Police Enforcement Strategies to Prevent Crime in Hot Spot Areas (US, Department of Justice) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators (US, FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)


International profile of women’s prisons (UK, published April 2008, Kings College London for HM Prison Service) – pdf (Hat tip Intute)

Prosecuting Sexual Violence in Correctional Settings: Examining Prosecutors’ Perceptions (US, published May 2008, American University, WCL Research Paper, via SSRN)


Violence by Teenage Girls: Trends and Context (US, published May 2008, US Department of Justice) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Differential Response to Reports of Child Abuse and Neglect (US, published February 2008, Child Welfare Information Gateway) – pdf (Hat tip Docuticker)

Photo credit: ex_libris_gul, Creative Commons License

New issue: International Journal of Law and Psychiatry International Journal of Law and Psychiatry


The June/July issue of the International Journal of Law and Psychiatry International Journal of Law and Psychiatry (Volume 31, Issue 3) is a special issue on psychopathic traits and risk assessment in children and adolescents, edited by Theo Doreleijers and Robert Vermeiren. A range of articles deals with identifying psychopathic traits, prediction of violence and risk assessment.

An Investigation of Psychopathic Features Among Delinquent Girls

An article that caught my eye in the latest issue of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice:

Although there has been intense interest in the application of the construct of psychopathy among juveniles, few studies have investigated psychopathic traits among adolescent females. To redress this, this study examines psychopathic features and tests their utility in predicting violent behavior, theft, and drug abuse in a statewide survey of 94 female juvenile offenders. Results indicate that interpersonal and affective facets of psychopathy, specifically narcissism and carefree nonplanfulness were significantly associated with violence and theft. Psychopathy features were not significantly associated with drug abuse. Study limitations and implications for future research are delineated.

I do like the term “carefree nonplanfulness”. It’s part of the Psychopathic Personality Inventory, which “is one of several self-report psychopathy measures available for research purposes” (Long & Titone, 2007, p.124). Carefree nonplanfulness “measures the tendency to live in the moment and ignore the future”. But I do wonder what “careful nonplanfulness” might measure. Or “carefree planfulness”.

You can access the article on psychopathy among female juveniles via this link (subscription required for full text). Other articles in the same issue cover predictors of police contact among Midwestern homeless and runaway youth; implementing effective community-based prevention programs; classification of offenders; and the impact of reentry services on juvenile offenders’ recidivism .


Quick links – investigations, courtroom, punishment, profiling and more


Quick links from around the web and blogosphere:

Investigations and courtroom :

The Sunday Times (25 Nov) reports on a new facial morphing technique called EvoFIT “that transforms the Photofit faces of criminal suspects into animated caricatures up to seven times more likely to be recognised than standard likenesses”. The system was developed by UK psychologists, one of whom commented that using the new system leads to “…a massive jump in the level of recognition [which] is really reliable”. Lots more information including plenty of downloadable papers on the EvoFIT webpages .

The Eyewitness Identification Reform blog highlights scholarly commentary on the effectiveness of cross-examination for getting at the truth of eyewitness evidence.

Following a detailed and extensively researched analysis, Prof. Epstein [the author of the commentary] concludes that the highly revered truth-seeking tool of cross-examination, while perhaps effective at rooting out liars, is utterly ineffective at uncovering the truth when faced with a witness who is confident, but honestly mistaken about what he or she remembers – which accounts for the majority of cases in which mistaken identification has led to wrongful conviction.

Mo over at Neurophilosophy (a great blog that doesn’t often post on forensic issues) discusses research on creating false memories by doctoring photographs. Participants who saw altered images had different memories of the events in the photographs:

For example, those participants shown the doctored photograph of [a] protest in Rome…in which figures placed in the foreground give the impression of violence, rated the event as being significantly more violent and negative than it actually was. In their comments, they also provided false details, such as conflicts, damages, injuries and casualties that did not appear in the photos and were not documented at the event.

The whole issue of Applied Cognitive Psychology is about ‘cognition and the media’ and includes other papers on the fallability of memory, which will be of use to anyone interested in eyewitness memory.

Anne Reed at the fabulous Deliberations blog reports on research into the Grim Power of Grim Evidence. Apparently “jurors presented with gruesome evidence, such as descriptions or images of torture and mutilation, are up to five times more likely to convict a defendant than jurors not privy to such evidence.”


The ever-interesting Karen Franklin comments on juvenile detention, and starts by posing some simple questions with disturbing answers. Did you know, for instance, that only two nations sentence children to life in prison? According to Karen, they are Israel, with 7 child lifers, and the USA, with an astonishing 2,387 child lifers.

Michael Connolly at Corrections Sentencing offers a detailed discussion of an article which “calls for broad application of empirical psychology to the study of the motive behind punishments”. The article is in press and due to appear in 2008.

  • Reference: Carlsmith, K.M., & Darley, J.M. (in press). Psychological aspects of retributive justice. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, M. Zanna, Ed. (Elsevier, NY, 2008) vol. 41.


The criminal psychopath is the topic of a post at Top Two Inches, and over at the Deception Blog, a comment on research on whether psychopathic liars give themselves away through their verbal behaviour.


Crimson Shadows posts (with permission) the full text of ex-FBI profiler John Douglas’s response to Malcolm Gladwell’s article on profiling that appeared in the New Yorker last month. Douglas argues that Gladwell’s article misrepresents the science and practice of profiling.


Terrific analysis of an fMRI study linking paedophilia to differences in the brain over at the Brain Ethics blog,  critiquing both the method and the interpretation of the results of this study.  In sum “at the least, just because the brain shows a difference, one cannot conclude anything beyond this about causation.”

The BPS Research Digest has also included a couple of forensically relevant posts recently: detecting feigned mental retardation and inter-ethnic violence.

As well as the post on juvenile detention mentioned above, Karen Franklin’s posted a lot of other good stuff recently too, including pointing us towards a Canadian news article on false confessions, commenting on how the UK is considering stricter controls on the use of expert scientific evidence, and a great piece on tracking serial killers in South Africa.

Romeo Vitelli’s Providentia blog reports on an intervention program for young victims of violence, child abuse and brain development, and an usual case of car fetishism.

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

Essays on social justice and criminal justice

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at Kings College London has published a set of essays based on contributions and papers from a two day conference held by the Centre earlier this year.

This collection of essays from more than 20 researchers and academics highlights how the government has failed to tackle deep-rooted social injustice. Published as part of our Harm and Society project, the collection explores themes such as the impact of historically high levels of inequality, endemic violence against women and the increasing reliance on criminal justice measures to manage social problems.

Table of contents below the fold.


Continue reading Essays on social justice and criminal justice

An ethnographic account of violent careers

historyofviolenceAn article by Ferdinand Sutterlüty in the Sage journal Ethnography explores the concept of ‘violent careers’, in particular the precursors to a violent life, and the ‘tipping points’: events that might precipitate a vulnerable young person into a criminal lifestyle.

The author points out that although the word ‘career’ suggests a purposeful trajectory, in actuality:

… the developmental stages through which young violent criminals pass cannot be grasped using a ‘career’ concept that presumes set opportunities and structures within which they methodically and strategically move forward. Although their violent careers are characterized by phases of goal-oriented action, the young people also go through phases in which they feel they are ‘buffeted about’ by circumstances and lose control over their lives. At the same time, biographical ruptures play an important role in their life stories. If it is to be applied to the formation and progression patterns of youth violence, the career concept must take into account discontinuities and contingencies as well as the individuals’ temporary inability to control the course of their lives (pp267-268).

Sutterlüty argues that the narratives that young repeat offenders tell indicate that their violent acts “are interconnected and integrated into a recognizable developmental process as opposed to being isolated events. This type of developmental process… is not dominated by causal necessity. Rather, violent careers depend on contingent events and consequences of action, which function as direction-setters and social barriers in an individual’s life” (p.271).

Sutterlüty tells some powerful stories, and explains the lasting impact of early experiences. For instance:

Kilian, a 21-year-old skinhead, recounted how, as a child, he was beaten again and again by his mother for incidents that were beyond his control – for coming home with dirty clothes, for a broken toy, for not immediately understanding his homework, and so on. In response to the hopelessness caused by these situations, the children develop adaptive strategies: in many cases they adopt the perspective of the abuser and conclude, with their childlike logic, that they are beaten because they deserve punishment.

Early experiences can also lead to profound feelings of powerlessness:

[16 year old] Murat … describes his response to his stepfather’s violent treatment of his mother: ‘I always saw it, and I always thought that if I was older, I would hit him right off, but I couldn’t do anything because I was too small. And sometimes I hated myself for not doing anything and for him hitting my mother.’ This remark not only reveals the deep self-hatred that can result from witnessing family violence without the power to act. It also calls attention to the fact that the thoughts of children who have no power to end family violence are quickened by the fantasy of striking back (p.272)

Because Sage Journals is kindly offering open access to all journals at the moment, you can read the article for free. But hurry, their offer ends on 30 November.


Photo credit: Phil Gyford, Creative Commons License

Abstract beneath the fold:

Continue reading An ethnographic account of violent careers

New issues: Journal of Criminal Justice


Journal of Criminal Justice 35(4), July-August 2007 and Journal of Criminal Justice 35(5), September-October 2007 are now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.


Journal of Criminal Justice 35(4):

  • Predicting crime story salience: A replication – Steven Chermak and Nicole M. Chapman
  • Duration of the time to reconviction: Evidence from UK prisoner discharge data – Roger Arthur Bowles and Chrisostomos Florackis
  • Convicting and incarcerating felony offenders of intimate assault and the odds of new assault charges – John Wooldredge
  • Roles of neighborhood race and status in the middle stages of juror selection – Ralph B. Taylor, Jerry H. Ratcliffe, Lillian Dote and Brian A. Lawton
  • Race and repeats: The impact of officer performance on racially biased policing – Lisa Growette Bostaph
  • Interpersonal violent crime in Ghana: The case of assault in Accra – Joseph Appiahene-Gyamfi
  • The long-term impact of restorative justice programming for juvenile offenders – Kathleen J. Bergseth and Jeffrey A. Bouffard
  • How does reactivity affect police behavior? Describing and quantifying the impact of reactivity as behavioral change in a large-scale observational study of police – Richard Spano

Journal of Criminal Justice 35(5):

  • Differentiating among racial/ethnic groups and its implications for understanding juvenile justice decision making – Michael J. Leiber, Joseph Johnson, Kristan Fox and Robyn Lacks
  • Prisonization and accounts of gun carrying – Paul B. Stretesky, Mark Pogrebin, N. Prabha Unnithan and Gerry Venor
  • Victims’ perceptions of police response to domestic violence incidents – Ida M. Johnson
  • Considering the efficacy of situational crime prevention in schools – Lauren O’Neill and Jean Marie McGloin
  • Citizen assessment of local criminal courts: Does fairness matter? – Kevin Buckler, Francis T. Cullen and James D. Unnever
  • Investigating the impact of extended bar closing times on police stops for DUI – Leana Allen Bouffard, Lindsey Ellen Bergeron and Jeffrey A. Bouffard
  • Operationalizing risk: The influence of measurement choice on the prevalence and correlates of prison violence among incarcerated murderers – Jon R. Sorensen and Mark D. Cunningham
  • Stalking acknowledgement and reporting among college women experiencing intrusive behaviors: Implications for the emergence of a “classic stalking case” – Carol E. Jordan, Pamela Wilcox and Adam J. Pritchard
  • A note on the status of discretion in police research – Ernest L. Nickels

New issue: The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 46(4)


The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice 46(4), September 2007 is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Contents include:

  • Evaluating the Effectiveness of Professionally-Facilitated Volunteerism in the Community-Based Management of High-Risk Sexual Offenders: Part Two – A Comparison of Recidivism Rates – ROBIN J. WILSON, JANICE E. PICHECA, MICHELLE PRINZO
  • Individual Differences in Public Opinion about Youth Crime and Justice in Swansea – KEVIN HAINES, STEPHEN CASE
  • Improving the Civil-Criminal Interface for Victims of Domestic Violence – AMANDA L. ROBINSON
  • Deciding Upon Mode of Trial – STEVEN CAMMISS
  • Policing Anti-Social Behaviour: Constraints, Dilemmas and Opportunities – SARAH HODGKINSON, NICK TILLEY
  • Youth Justice, Social Exclusion and the Demise of Social Justice – PATRICIA GRAY
  • The Judiciary as a Primary Definer on Anti-Social Behaviour Orders – JANE DONOGHUE