Criminals’ Narrative Identity

Donna Youngs, David Rowlands, David Canter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Procedures for exploring criminals’ identities as embedded in their episodic and life trajectory narratives are the focus of this chapter. The identity of a person is regarded as being embedded in an unfolding account that the individual gives of themself. Recent studies have explored the identities revealed in these personal narratives at the larger scale of the life trajectory and at the smaller scale of the experience of actual crimes. The former has used the Life as a Film (LAAF) procedure, whereby offenders describe what a film of their life would be like. This has allowed the recognition of inherent identity conflicts as characteristic of criminals. The narrative and related identity implicit in the experience of actions in a crime has been explored using the Narrative Role Questionnaire (NRQ). Together the LAAF and NRQ give a dynamic, unfolding perspective on criminal identity. Identity here is not regarded as a static characteristic of a person, but is expected to change in the light of the individual’s interpretation of their experience of criminality. This allows for interventions with offenders by helping them to reassess who they are by reconstructing their understanding of their personal narrative. Research with those who abuse drugs and with people with mental illness have demonstrated the power of this approach and the many opportunities for future development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Identity
EditorsMichael Bamberg, Carolin Demuth, Meike Watzlawik
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781108755146
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes

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