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Offender Profiling Series: Vol 3
The Social Psychology of Crime

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The Social Psychology of Crime: Groups, Teams and Networks

Shadd Maruna
Criminology, Desistance and the Psychology of the Stranger

Research on personality and crime has concentrated on distinguishing the dispositional traits that separate offenders from non-offenders. Since, by definition, such traits are largely constant over time and social context, this emphasis implies that the "criminal personality" is a stable and permanent "thing" to be measured. In fact, considerable longitudinal and ethnographic research on crime over the life course indicates that "criminal careers" are sporadic, short-lived and largely shaped by social and developmental contexts. Therefore, criminologists need to use a richer, more dynamic framework for understanding the personalities of those involved in crime. Narrative psychology offers an ideal theoretical backdrop for understanding socially contingent and developmentally contextual behaviour over time. Self-narratives are shaped by experience, and then reflected in behaviour. An understanding of why individuals commit crimes requires an analysis and understanding of these internal stories.

Shadd Maruna completed his Ph.D. at Northwestern University in Chicago, USA, and is now an Associate Professor in the School of Criminal Justice at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship and a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has recently been published in 'The Narrative Study of Lives'. His current research, with Professor David Canter at the University of Liverpool, involves a three-year study of how and why serious offenders desist from crime.

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