PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to address individual factors predicting punitive attitudes towards sexual and domestic offences and offenders have received little attention.Design/methodology/approachIn Study 1,137 participants completed a 25-item online questionnaire exploring individual factors hypothesised to predict punitive attitudes towards four sexual crimes: rape, paedophilia, incest and bestiality. In Study 2,100 participants completed a similar questionnaire exploring individual factors hypothesised to predict punitive attitudes towards male and female emotional, physical and sexual abusers.FindingsThe standard multiple regression models of Study 1 found that age (i.e. being older), belief in a just world and gender (i.e. being female) were predictors of harsher punitive attitudes. The models of Study 2 found that the low score on the social dominance scale was the most common predictor.Research limitations/implicationsThis survey-based project presents a nuanced picture that could be complemented by the inclusion of a wider range of more complex factors and follow-on qualitative studies.Practical implicationsThe key message from this study is to inform the public on the role of personality factors in developing punitive attitudes.Social implicationsIt is vital to increase the legislators’ and the people’ awareness of the factors shaping the public impressions of criminal justice processes and evidence-based treatment effectiveness.Originality/valueThis relatively modest paper offers insight of personality factors into people’s punitive attitudes shaping actual legislation.
Safer Communities – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jul 11, 2016