Narrative roles in criminal action: An integrative framework for differentiating offenders
Article first published online: 11 APR 2011
©2011 The British Psychological Society
Legal and Criminological Psychology
Volume 17, Issue 2, pages 233–249, September 2012
How to Cite
Youngs, D. and Canter, D. V. (2012), Narrative roles in criminal action: An integrative framework for differentiating offenders. Legal and Criminological Psychology, 17: 233–249. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8333.2011.02011.x
- Issue published online: 23 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 11 APR 2011
- Received 19 December 2010; revised version received 11 February 2011
Purpose. The proposal that offenders’ narratives help to shape criminal action raises the possibility of a finite set of narrative themes for distinguishing offenders. The present paper seeks to articulate narrative themes that may be active within the roles offenders adopt during offending events. Possible themes may be derived from studies of fundamental narratives in literary criticism, notably Frye (1957). Within personality psychology, McAdams (1993) has also argued for a restricted set of personal narratives in any given culture produced by the dominant dimensions of Potency and Intimacy.
Methods. The sub-set of narratives on which offenders’ draw can be explored through the roles criminals see themselves as playing during offending episodes. Case study interviews were therefore content analysed to illustrate offence roles based in narrative themes and their cognitive, affective, and identity components.
Results. These considerations suggest that four thematic narrative roles can be distinguished: Professional, Victim, Tragic Hero, and a Revengeful Mission. Distinct patterns of cognitive distortion, affective, and identity components are proposed within these four narrative roles.
Conclusion. The Narrative Offence Roles specified and illustrated in the present paper offer hypotheses for empirical study and the possibility of a new aetiological perspective in criminology.