A sense of entitlement and criminal behaviour
Assessment of risk offending behaviour - Part 1
A very common theme that arises whenever I speak of crime and the factors that might influence criminal behaviour, is
a ‘sense of entitlement’.
There seems to be a commonly held belief that much crime these days results from the presence of a:
‘you owe me’ attitude.
Which, many suggest, is frequently found in our younger generation.
So, is a sense of entitlement really a factor influencing criminal behaviour?
Before answering this question directly, it’s important to examine a few issues related to the prediction of crime...
First, the prediction of crime, or what we refer to as the assessment of risk, is not an easy or straight-forward process – humans are immensely complex beings, with many, many factors affecting our behaviour.
Second, the risk assessment processes or tools that we have are not 100% full-proof... There are currently two broad areas of risk assessment:
Assessment of risk frequently takes into account the presence (or absence) of both the static and dynamic risk factors. For the purpose here, examining a sense of entitlement, we will look further at the dynamic risk factors, or criminogenic treatment needs.
So, what is a recognised dynamic risk factor:
Researchers, Andrews and Bonta in their fascinating book, The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (1998), suggest three determinants needed for identification of a criminogenic need (risk factor):
As an example of the above, here are some of the recognised and well- accepted dynamic treatment needs for general offending behaviour, as determined from extensive research and proposed by Andrews and Bonta:
Further lists of criminogenic treatment needs (risk factors), have been found for more specific types of offending, including violence, sexual, spousal assault, and stalking.
But, at this stage, a ‘sense of entitlement’ does not make any of the lists determining static or dynamic risk factors.
... research in 2011, has shown some promise: in a paper entitled: An examination of a sense of entitlement in violent men: Violence towards others and the self, Dr Sofia Fisher found that a sense of entitlement differentiated between violent offenders (who reported higher levels of entitlement) and non-violent offenders.
This difference however, was only found in those who committed violence offences, NOT non-violence offences.
But...in a later study in 2013, Narcissism and Empathy in Young Offenders and Non-Offenders, the researchers found that feelings of entitlement, a strong factor found in
Narcissism, together with the resulting lack of empathy, is likely to have accounted for a greater likelihood of general criminal behaviour.
So, the bottom line?
…it does seem from this research, that a sense of entitlement may indeed be found to be a criminogenic risk factor – at this stage, it seems to meet the first two of the three criteria suggested by Andrews and Bonta.
But, the problem is, it does not yet meet the third factor, that of ‘the ability to change’.
You see, it is not yet known whether an inflated sense of entitlement, or the self-belief of deserving more than others, can be altered either over time, or through appropriate intervention. If it is a reflection of a true personality disorder, then chances are, it cannot be changed…managed yes…but changed, no.
As the saying goes...the jury is still out on this one...
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