Julia Kleinewiese
Group morality affects crime: Empirical evidence from the perspective of Situational Action Theory

22nd Annual Conference of the European Society of Criminology (Eurocrim 2022), Malaga, 21. bis 24. September 2022

Previous research shows that crimes become more extreme (e.g., violent) when offenders commit them in groups. This suggests a close connection between groups and criminal actions. Taking such findings as a point of departure, it is expedient to examine the role of groups on crime from the perspective of a comprehensive theory of crime – such as Situational Action Theory. SAT posits that the personal crime propensity and the setting’s criminogenic features are direct causes of crime. This perspective places an emphasis on the moral factors involved. The current study applies SAT, in an innovative way, to the particular case of a setting including a group – assuming that the setting includes general moral norms and moral group norms. The data are gathered by means of a factorial survey experiment (N=1,679), using a scenario in which there is a university student group with experimentally varied levels of moral norms. The scenario also varies the typical moral elements of SAT (moral norms and morality) to assess their effect on the likelihood of an actor committing the criminal action. The study’s hypotheses are: The higher the morality of the person and the general moral norms of the setting, the lower the likelihood of committing the deviant action. In particular, for settings including a group: The higher the moral group norms of the setting, the lower the likelihood of committing the deviant action. In order to test these hypotheses, multilevel fixed-effects restricted maximum likelihood linear regressions are applied to the factorial survey data.