Deterrence studies have shown that perceived sanction risk is related to delinquent behaviour, independent of other variables, and that this relation may be conditioned by individual propensity towards crime. The principal goal of this study is to assess these findings with data from a sample of 843 Dutch adolescents. First, we analysed whether perceived sanction risk (perceived apprehension risk and perceived consequences if one is caught offending) has a relationship with offending, independent of one's morality and self-control. Second, we examined possible interactions between perceived sanction risk and self-control, and between perceived sanction risk and morality. We also explored associations between specific offences (burglary, vandalism and assault), offence-specific measures of low morality (how right or wrong are burglary, vandalism and assault) and specific measures of perceived sanction risks. The findings demonstrate that perceived sanction risk is related to lower offending and that self-control is related to less offending, whereas low levels of morality are related to higher levels of offending. When offence-specific measures are used, the relation between perceived sanctions and offending seems to be dependent on one's level of morality. Our results suggest that the less a person morally supports specific types of offending, the more strongly that person is affected by perceived sanctions. The implications of these findings for future studies of deterrence are discussed.
- perceived sanction risk