Narratives roles of criminal actions

David Canter*, Donna Youngs

*Corresponding author for this work

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


This chapter challenges the view that, for those offenders with a psychiatric diagnosis, their mental illness or personality disorder is the cause of their antisocial behaviour. It is argued that even forensic, clinical patients have agency. Considered within this narrative framework, reference to enduring aspects of individuals, such as personality or cognitive distortions are limited by undervaluing the decisions criminals make, derived from their view of themselves embedded in their personal narratives. Thus, despite any influence their mental illness may have on their actions, it is appropriate to focus more clearly on their agency. An empirical application of this approach, drawing on the implicit narratives, distilled from the roles offenders see themselves as carrying out during a crime, has established a fourfold model of personal storylines: victim, professional, hero and revenger. The replicability of this model across different samples is presented, and the relationships that these narratives have to diagnostic criteria are explored.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationClinical Forensic Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationIntroductory Perspectives on Offending
EditorsCarlo Garofalo, Jelle J. Sijtsema
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030808822
ISBN (Print)9783030808815
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes

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