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Journal cover: Journal of Criminal Psychology

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Online from: 2011

Subject Area: Health and Social Care

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Attributions for youth crime, accountability and legal competence

Document Information:
Title:Attributions for youth crime, accountability and legal competence
Author(s):Karen Pfeffer, (Based in the School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK), Maureen Maxwell, (Based in the School of Social Sciences, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK), Amie Briggs, (Based in the School of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK)
Citation:Karen Pfeffer, Maureen Maxwell, Amie Briggs, (2012) "Attributions for youth crime, accountability and legal competence", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 2 Iss: 2, pp.127 - 139
Keywords:Attitudes, Attributions, Criminals, Legal competence, Punishment, United Kingdom, Young adults, Young offenders, Youth crime
Article type:Research paper
DOI:10.1108/20093821211264441 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Purpose – The aims of this study are to examine the influence of offender age, offender abuse history, crime outcome and attributions for crime on judgments about young offenders.

Design/methodology/approach – A sample of 240 British undergraduates was asked to respond to a scenario about a young person who committed a crime, recommend a sentence, and rate the young offender's criminal accountability and legal understandings. Their attributions for crime were measured using the CDS-II, adapted for observer attributions. The age of the young offender (ten years, 14 years, or 17 years), abuse history (abused or not abused) and crime outcome (victim death or injury) were varied systematically.

Findings – Internal attributions predicted participants' beliefs about punishment and sentencing recommendations. Although participants considered the youngest offenders to be less criminally accountable and unlikely to understand the legal process, this did not affect recommended punishment. Attributions of personal control were influenced by abuse history; the behavior of offenders with a history of abuse was considered less within the offender's personal control.

Originality/value – The results demonstrate the types of attributions and information that influence the opinions of jury-eligible British adults when asked to make decisions about serious offences committed by young offenders.

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