Incorporating context in linking crimes: An exploratory study of the relationship between behavioural consistency and situational similarity

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Personality psychologists have suggested that the context of a behaviour should be considered in studying behavioural consistency. They have operationalised this as studying ‘if (situation)–then (behaviour)’ contingencies and have demonstrated an association between situational similarity and behavioural consistency. Previous research of behavioural consistency in the forensic setting has tended to focus exclusively on the ‘then (behaviour)’ part of the contingency—the offender’s behaviour. This paper considers methodological approaches that might be used to investigate whether situational similarity
is associated with behavioural consistency, and to develop if–then contingencies.
Seventy-eight offences by stranger sex offenders were subjected to constant comparison framework analysis to develop an offender behaviour checklist and a victim behaviour checklist, and a combination of constant comparison framework analysis and hierarchical cluster analysis were used to develop victim behavioural themes. Consistency in offender behaviour and similarity in victim behavioural themes (representing situational similarity) were measured using Jaccard’s coeffi cient for offence pairs within 13 solved series of
stranger sexual assaults. Correlational analyses were used to assess the relationship between situational similarity and behavioural consistency. Contrary to expectations, no relationship was found. The utility of linguistic computational programs in creating if (victim behaviour)–then(offender behaviour) contingencies was tested with encouraging results. However, little evidence of consistency in if(victim behaviour)–then(offender behaviour) contingencies was found within the offence series. Explanations are proposed
for these novel fi ndings and avenues for future research are suggested.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
JournalJournal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling
Publication statusPublished - 2008