Personality-based Drivers of Offending Behaviour: Trait Profiles and Beyond


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


While personality is an important predictor of criminality, this thesis argues that a more holistic understanding of the personality-based drivers of OB is required. Using the guiding framework of interpersonal theory and building upon previous work in this area, it examines personality features that extend beyond traits, representing cognitive, emotional, and relational components. It also takes a ‘profile approach’ to its investigation of personality traits, whereby configurations of multiple traits are used to examine interactions between variables. Patterns that emerge from these profiles may be used to strengthen our understanding of the personality-based drivers of OB.
This thesis was the first to systematically review associations between personality traits and OB. Results of this critical engagement with the extant literature indicate that subclinical psychopathy is positively related to OB; high levels of neuroticism and low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness may also be implicated, although the evidence for these associations was more mixed.
Study 1 established configurations of all the Five-Factor Model and Dark Triad traits together. Using a predominantly UK-based community sample (n = 343), results indicated that three distinct personality profiles emerged.
Study 2 assessed whether the same profiles emerged in a US-based community sample (n = 210); whether these profiles were associated with OB; and if other personality features mediated these relationships. The profiles were largely the same as in Study 1, and interpersonal functioning and vindictive interpersonal style emerged as mediators between profiles and some types of OB.
Study 3 explored whether the results of Study 2 replicated in an ex-offender sample (n = 292). Again, highly similar personality profiles were observed; however, unlike Study 2, irritability and domineering interpersonal style mediated relationships between profiles and some types of OB.
This thesis is the first empirical research to establish personality profiles encompassing the Five-Factor Model and Dark Triad traits together, thereby advancing our knowledge of how personality traits from these two models interact and providing a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of personality. It is also the first to wed personality profiles with other key personality features in an investigation of the drivers of OB. By including other aspects of relational, cognitive, and affective differences, it affords a more nuanced account of the personality-based drivers of OB that extends beyond individual traits or trait profiles alone.
Date of Award20 Apr 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorHELEN WALL (Director of Studies), JOYCE HUMPHRIES (Supervisor) & Derek Heim (Supervisor)


  • Five-Factor Model
  • Dark Triad
  • personality
  • offending behaviour
  • level of personality functioning
  • criminal attitudes
  • irritability
  • empathy
  • personality profiles
  • Latent Profile Analysis

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