Predicting individual differences in criminal attitudes from offender characteristics: a study among Dutch prisoners

Veroni I. Eichelsheim*, Paul Nieuwbeerta, Anja J.E. Dirkzwager, Joni Reef, Ruben De Cuyper

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The link between criminal attitudes and behavior is well established throughout the literature. We know, for example, that offenders have higher levels of criminal attitudes than non-offenders. However, it is also likely that individual differences in criminal attitudes exist among offenders. The aim of the study is to explore the unique contribution of (1) individual, (2) criminal career, and (3) social characteristics to individual differences in criminal attitudes. Data were used from the Prison Project, a large-scale study among prisoners in all Dutch remand centers (N = 1612). Hierarchical linear regression models were used to identify factors associated with two types of inmates' attitudes. Among the most salient relationships with criminal attitudes were having more agreeable personality traits, having a criminogenic social network, and having experienced more prior incarcerations. Criminal history and social characteristics had the most salient links with criminal attitudes. The results seem to support the idea that criminal behavior is learned in interaction with criminal others, which is in line with the ideas of differential association and reinforcement. The current study might serve as a starting point for individually oriented prison intervention strategies and rehabilitation efforts based on specific offender characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-550
Number of pages20
JournalPsychology, Crime and Law
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • criminal attitudes
  • criminal thinking
  • imprisonment
  • offenders
  • prison


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