Narratives of criminal action and forensic psychology

David Canter, Donna Youngs

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose. In commenting on Youngs and Canter's (2011) study, Ward (2011) raises concerns about offenders' personal narratives and their link to self-concepts and identity. His comments relate to explorations of personal life stories rather than the narratives of actual crimes that are the focus of Youngs and Canter's (2011) study. The elaboration of this different focus helps to allay many of Ward's (2011) concerns and reveals further possibilities for developing the narrative approach within forensic psychology. Methods. The focus on offenders' accounts of a particular crime allows the development of a standard pro forma, the Narrative Role Questionnaire (NRQ), which deals with the roles a person thinks they played when committing a crime. These roles act as a summary of the criminal's offence narrative. Multivariate analysis of the NRQ clarifies the specific narrative themes explored by Youngs and Canter (2011). Results. The examination of the components of the NRQ indicates that offence narratives encapsulate many psychological processes including thinking styles, self-concepts, and affective components. This allows the four narrative themes identified by Youngs and Canter to provide the basis for rich hypotheses about the interaction between the dynamics of personal stories and identity. The four narratives of criminal action also offer a foundation for understanding the particular, detailed styles of offending action and the immediate, direct processes that act to instigate and shape these. Conclusion. These developments in our understanding of offence narratives generate fruitful research questions that bridge the concerns of investigative and correctional applications of narrative theory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-272
Number of pages11
JournalLegal and Criminological Psychology
Issue number2
Early online date23 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Narratives of criminal action and forensic psychology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this