You Have to Hit Some People! Why Problem-Solving Skills are More Criminogenic than Hostile Attributional Biases for Adult Male Violent Offenders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Downloads (Pure)


Is it what adult violent offenders think or how they think that discriminates them from non-offenders? This study investigated whether attributional biases and aggressive dispute-resolution strategies represent criminogenic variables. The participants were 530 adults comprising 87 violent offenders, 235 university students and 208 men and women from a random community sample. Using interview narrative from violent offenders, a scale was specifically developed to measure differences in attributional biases and problem-solving. The surprising finding was that male offenders did not demonstrate more pronounced hostile attributional biases than men and women students or men and women from the community. Furthermore, most adults in this large sample demonstrated high levels of hostile attributional biases, suggesting this is not as criminogenic for adult offenders as previously as assumed. By contrast, the results on problem-solving showed that believing violence is acceptable and being prepared to use violence is more problematic for offenders. Two specific findings were observed. Compared with non-offenders, male offenders were less likely to be assertive and more likely to use verbal or physical aggression, especially in problematic situations involving significant others and family. The results combined suggest that it is not how offenders interpret the ambiguous behaviour of others, but rather what they will do to solve social problems that matters. In essence it is what offenders think not how they think that should be targeted in programmes. These findings have implications for effective intervention programmes. These implications and areas for further research will be discussed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)713-734
Number of pages22
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


Cite this