Attributions for youth crime, accountability and legal competence

Pfeffer, Karen and Maxwell, Maureen and Amie, Briggs (2012) Attributions for youth crime, accountability and legal competence. Journal of Criminal Psychology, 2 (2). pp. 127-139. ISSN 2009-3829

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Abstract

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.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information: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.
Keywords:Attributions, Youth crime, Young offenders, Legal competence, Criminals, United Kingdom, Young adults, Punishment, Attitudes
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
L Social studies > L400 Social Policy
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:6280
Deposited By: Alison Wilson
Deposited On:27 Sep 2012 10:37
Last Modified:11 Aug 2014 17:34

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