To marry a thief? Crime type as a deterrent to cohabitation

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Objectives: Using a vignette study, we investigated the relative attractiveness as cohabitation partners of five different types of offenders, male as well as female. Methods: Respondents advised a hypothetical person whether he or she should start cohabiting with his or her partner who had offended once. Gender and type of offence were systematically varied. Results: Our findings suggest that violent offenders are equally attractive as serious property offenders. Against expectation, perpetrators of relational violence are not rated as less attractive than other violent offenders, even if they are male, and also when females are the raters. Male violent offenders are rated as less attractive cohabitation partners than female violent offenders. Sex offenders are the least attractive cohabitation partners, particularly those who had offended against a child. Conclusions: Crime type matters: sex offending impacted consistently negatively on cohabitation advice. This effect may be partly due to the fact that many regard sex offenders as incurable and ‘deviant.’ Violent offending did not elicit markedly negative advice. Perhaps it was considered less of a risk because of the message in the vignette that the prospective cohabitants had a good relationship. It may also be that many young people have been in a fight or have slapped someone in their lives, and, therefore, downplay the seriousness of this offence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-165
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Attractiveness
  • Cohabitation
  • Gender
  • Offenders
  • Romantic partners
  • Vignette


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