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Criminal Minds: Narcissism Predicts Offending
Behavior in a Non-Forensic Sample
Victoria Blinkhorn, Minna Lyons & Louise Almond
To cite this article: Victoria Blinkhorn, Minna Lyons & Louise Almond (2018): Criminal Minds:
Narcissism Predicts Offending Behavior in a Non-Forensic Sample, Deviant Behavior, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2017.1422458
Published online: 16 Jan 2018.
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Criminal Minds: Narcissism Predicts Offending Behavior in a
Victoria Blinkhorn, Minna Lyons, and Louise Almond
University of Liverpool, UK
Narcissism has been associated with various offending behaviors; however,
the majority of research has concentrated on men using forensic samples.
This study (n= 632) investigated narcissism and how it relates to offending
behaviors, including both sexes. Significant differences were found when
comparing the relationship between narcissism and offending behavior,
demonstrating that narcissism influences offending behavior differently in
the two sexes. These new findings contribute to the very little we know
about narcissism in women, suggesting that both sexes should be included
in future research on narcissism and offending.
Received 2 August 2017
Accepted 18 December 2017
It has been estimated that approximately two thirds of offenders meet the criteria for at least one
personality disorder (PD) (Singleton et al. 1998) and that a number of these have narcissistic
personality disorder (NPD) (Wulach 1988). Within offender populations in England, NPD has
been diagnosed in 6% of women, 7% of men, and 8% of men on remand (Singleton et al. 1998).
However, a higher prevalence of 25% of men has been detected in a sample of English mentally
disordered offenders (Blackburn et al. 2003). Despite the prevalence of PD’s and NPD in offenders,
very little research has been undertaken examining whether trait narcissism within a community
sample is also related to offending.
The majority of research on narcissism and anti-social behavior has focused on men and
behaviors of a sexual nature. This may be due to the consistent findings demonstrating higher levels
of narcissism (e.g., Grijalva et al. 2015; Paulhus and Williams 2002; Tschanz, Morf, and Turner 1998)
and inter-personal violence (Conradi and Geffner 2012) in men. Further, according to “the narcis-
sistic reactance theory of rape and sexual coercion”(Baumeister, Catanese and Wallace 2002), sexual
coercion may stem from a combination of narcissistic tendencies and reactance to refusal of sex,
especially in men (Baumeister et al. 2002; Bushman et al. 2003). Probably due to these factors, there
is a serious lack of focus on narcissism and sexual coercion in women (although see Blinkhorn,
Lyons, and Almond 2015).
To date, the few studies that have investigated narcissism and offending in both sexes have
included different facets of narcissism (Blinkhorn, Lyons, and Almond 2015; Ryan, Weikel, and
Sprechini 2008; Simmons et al. 2005,2016). According to Ackerman et al. (2011), the narcissistic
personality inventory (NPI; Raskin and Terry 1988) consists of maladaptive, or socially toxic, (i.e.,
entitlement/exploitativeness) and adaptive (leadership/authority) components. Further, they identi-
fied a third component, grandiose/exhibitionism, which was not particularly maladaptive or adaptive
in nature. Most research has found that maladaptive facets of narcissism have an association with
elevated sexual coercion and violence in women (Blinkhorn, Lyons, and Almond 2015; Ryan,
CONTACT Victoria Blinkhorn Victoria.Blinkhorn@liverpool.ac.uk Department of Psychological Sciences, University of
Liverpool Eleanor Rathbone Building (Room 1.60), Bedford Street South, Liverpool, L69 7ZA
© 2018 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
Weikel, and Sprechini 2008; Simmons et al. 2005), and that more adaptive facets of narcissism
predict sexual coercion in men (Blinkhorn, Lyons, and Almond 2015). As such, it is clear that more
research is needed to investigate whether there is a relationship between narcissism and other types
of offending behaviors in women, other than those of a sexual nature.
As per previous research, this study utilized Ackerman et al.’s(2011) three-factor structure of the
NPI (Raskin and Terry 1988) and considered the entitlement/exploitativeness subscale to be mala-
daptive, and the leadership/authority and grandiose/exhibitionism subscales relatively adaptive. We
aim to elucidate whether trait narcissism in a nonclinical population relates to a range of offending
behaviors. Further, the different sub-facets of narcissism will be examined in order to explore any
potential gender differences.
In summary, no previous research has investigated the relationship between, narcissism and
offending behavior using the three-factor structure of the NPI (Raskin and Terry 1988) developed
by Ackerman et al. (2011). We predict that the higher the narcissism, the higher the levels of
offending behavior an individual will report. More specifically, based on previous findings
(Blinkhorn, Lyons, and Almond 2015; Ryan, Weikel, and Sprechini 2008; Simmons et al. 2005,
2016), we predict that more relationships between offending behavior and the entitlement/exploita-
tiveness (maladaptive) constructs of narcissism will be found in women.
The sample consisted of 632 participants (Mage = 24.72, SD = 11.44, 131 (20.70%) men). An online
survey was advertised at a University in the North-West of England to undergraduate students who could
participate in exchange for course credit (n= 315). In addition, the survey was advertised to the wider
community via the authors’social networks, and also on psychology research participation websites.
Narcissism was measured using the 40-item forced-choice (NPI; Raskin and Terry 1988).
Participants chose between two statements, one of which indicated high narcissism (e.g., I have a
natural talent for influencing people) and one indicated low narcissism (e.g., I am not good at
influencing people). A score of 1 was given for each high narcissism choice (0 for a low narcissism
choice) and these points were totaled to create an overall narcissism score (range = 1–36)
(Cronbach’sa= .89). In the present paper we used the three-factor structure (Ackerman et al.
2011) where the NPI is split into leadership/authority (a= .80), grandiose exhibitionism (a= .78),
and entitlement/exploitativeness (a= .55). The low level of internal consistency for entitlement/
exploitativeness is not unusual for this particular subscale (Ackerman et al. 2011) and is consistent
with other research (e.g., Blinkhorn, Lyons, and Almond 2015; Cater, Zeigler-Hill, and Vonk 2011;
Jones and Figueredo 2013,2016; Vonk et al. 2013).
Offending behavior was measured by an adapted version of the 33-item self-report Non-Violent
and Violent Offending Behavior Scale (NVOBS; Thornton, Graham-Kevan, and Archer 2013). The
NVOBS is separated into subcategories that assess different types of offending behavior: (1) general
violence (e.g., slapped someone), (2) drugs (e.g., used cannabis), (3) interpersonal violence (e.g.,
kicked partner), (4) criminal damage (e.g., broke windows of empty building), and (5) theft (e.g.,
possessed stolen property). We adapted this measure in three ways. First, because we did not require
detailed information about drug taking behaviors, the four items relating to drugs (ecstasy, cocaine,
cannabis, and amphetamine) were condensed into two items: class A drugs, and cannabis and
amphetamine. Second, we added a question before each original item, which read, “Have you
ever…? (offending behaviour)”to which participants had to select “yes”or “no”. Only if they
selected “yes”were they directed to the original item from the measure that asked “How often did
2V. BLINKHORN ET AL.
this happen in the past year?”This was answered using a 7-point Likert scale (0 = None;1=Once;
2=Twice;3=3–5 times;4=6–10 times;5=11–20 times;6=More than 20 times). We added this
question before the original, as we were interested to know whether participants had ever committed
the offending behaviors, not just within the last 12 months. Third, we omitted the question about the
number of times the participant has been a victim of inter-personal violence, as we were only
interested in the acts committed by the participant him/herself. All responses were totaled to create
two sets of scores, overall offending (i.e., whether they have ever committed the crime; a= .85;
range = 0–29) and current offending (i.e., how many times they had committed the crime in the
past year; a= .86; range = 0–124). We also calculated five individual subscale scores for both,
respectively; general violence (a= .78; a= .82), drugs (a= .57; a= .58), interpersonal violence
(a= .68; a= .83), criminal damage (a= .70; a= .41), and theft (a= .67; a= .64).
The first page of the on-line survey contained the participant information sheet and other relevant
ethical information. Participants provided informed consent by clicking “next”and beginning the
survey. They first completed a selection of demographic questions and then continued to complete
the NPI, NVOBS, and other questionnaires not reported in this paper. After completing the survey,
participants were thanked, and presented with a full debrief.
In Table 1, we present the descriptive statistics and sex differences for all measures (all p-values were
adjusted using the Holm–Bonferroni method). Men scored significantly higher than women on total
narcissism and the three subscales. In addition, men scored significantly higher on total overall
Table 1. Descriptive statistics, t-tests, sex differences, and effect sizes for all measures.
n= 501 Hedges’gt
Total NPI 11.74 (7.32) 15.39 (8.72) 10.79 (6.59) 0.65 5.64***
Leadership/Authority 3.72 (2.87) 5.11 (3.05) 3.36 (2.71) 0.63 5.96***
Grandiose Exhibitionism 2.46 (2.42) 3.08 (2.53) 2.30 (2.37) 0.32 3.34**
Entitlement/Exploitativeness 0.79 (1.01) 1.23 (1.15) 0.67 (0.93) 0.57 5.10***
Total Overall Offending 5.05 (4.63) 7.27 (5.84) 4.47 (4.07) 0.62 5.17***
Total General Violence 2.66 (2.55) 3.82 (2.95) 2.36 (2.34) 0.59 5.26***
Total Drugs 0.58 (0.82) 0.85 (0.95) 0.50 (0.77) 0.43 3.93***
Total IPV 0.92 (1.38) 0.86 (1.50) 0.93 (1.35) 0.05 -0.50
Total Criminal Damage 0.35 (0.82) 0.75 (1.29) 0.24 (0.60) 0.64 4.37***
Total Theft 0.54 (0.94) 0.98 (1.29) 0.43 (0.79) 0.60 4.64***
Current Overall Offending 5.88 (9.88) 8.16 (15.41) 5.28 (7.72) 0.29 2.07
Current General Violence 2.79 (5.46) 4.26 (8.47) 2.41 (4.28) 0.34 2.43
Current Drugs 1.22 (2.65) 1.49 (2.86) 1.16 (2.59) 0.12 1.21
Current IPV 1.43 (3.87) 1.61 (5.78) 1.38 (3.19) 0.06 0.44
Current Criminal Damage 0.15 (0.60) 0.19 (0.77) 0.14 (0.55) 0.08 0.90
Current Theft 0.28 (1.28) 0.61 (2.16) 0.20 (0.90) 0.32 2.14
** p<.01; *** p<.001
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 3
offending, total general violence, total drugs, total criminal damage, and total theft. No significant
sex differences were found for any of the current offending behaviors.
In Table 2, we report the correlations (all p-values were adjusted using the Holm–Bonferroni
method) between the NPI and NVOBS subscales for total offending. In men, total NPI score,
grandiose exhibitionism and entitlement/exploitativeness were positively associated with total IPV.
In women, total NPI score and leadership/authority was positively related to total overall offending,
total general violence, total IPV, and total theft. Grandiose exhibitionism was positively related to
total overall offending, total general violence, and total IPV. Entitlement/exploitativeness was
positively associated with each of the NVOBS subscales apart from total criminal damage.
In order to control the shared variance between the narcissism subscales, we next conducted six
simultaneous linear regressions (all p-values were adjusted using the Holm–Bonferroni method) for
each sex separately, where the narcissism subscales were entered as predictor variables, and each type
of six offending behaviors were the outcome variables. In men, none of the NPI subscales predicted
any type of offending behavior. In women, the entitlement/exploitativeness facet predicted higher
levels of total overall offending.
The Fisher r–z transformation was used in order to test the significance of the sex differences
within Table 2. Just one significant difference was found. The correlation between entitlement/
exploitativeness and total general violence (z=−3.15, p< .01) was significantly stronger in women
than in men. All other correlations were similar in both men and women.
In Table 3, we report the correlations (all p-values were adjusted using the Holm–Bonferroni
method) between the NPI and NVOBS subscales for current offending. In men, total NPI score was
positively associated with current overall offending, current general violence, and current criminal
damage. Grandiose exhibitionism was positively associated with current overall offending and
current IPV. In women, leadership/authority and grandiose exhibitionism was positively related to
current overall offending, current general violence, current IPV, and current theft. Entitlement/
exploitativeness was positively associated with each of the NVOBS subscales apart from current
When shared variance between the narcissism subscales was controlled in six multiple regressions
(all p-values were adjusted using the Holm–Bonferroni method), in men, none of the NPI subscales
predicted any type of offending behavior. In women, the grandiose exhibitionism facet predicted
Table 2. Zero-order correlations and standardised regression coefficients for NPI subscales and Total Offending Behaviour.
1. Total Overall Offending .16 (.13) .17 (.13) .04 (-.07) .20
2. Total General Violence .07 (.13) .08 (.09) -.16 (-.21) .08
3. Total Drugs .09 (.08) .12 (.12) -.03 (-.11) .11
4. Total IPV .18 (-.08) .31*** (.27) .29** (.23) .30**
5. Total Criminal Damage .19 (.20) .04 (-.09) .13 (.07) .15
6. Total Theft .13 (.13) .12 (.08) .00 (-.09) .14
1. Total Overall Offending .21*** (.11) .22*** (.12) .22*** (.16**) .28***
2. Total General Violence .17*** (.10) .18*** (.11) .15** (.09) .22***
3. Total Drugs .04 (-.01) .07 (.03) .15** (.14) .10
4. Total IPV .19*** (.11) .19*** (.11) .18*** (.12) .26***
5. Total Criminal Damage .07 (.02) .08 (.04) .13 (.11) .10
6. Total Theft .16*** (.12) .11 (.02) .16*** (.12) .17***
** p<.01; *** p<.001
4V. BLINKHORN ET AL.
higher levels of current theft and the entitlement/exploitativeness facet predicted higher levels of
current overall offending and current general violence.
The Fisher r–z transformation was used in order to test the significance of the sex differences
within Table 3. Just one significant difference was found. The correlation between the total NPI score
and current criminal damage (z= 2.87, p< .01) was significantly stronger in men than in women. All
other correlations were similar in both men and women.
In the present study, we investigated narcissism and a range of offending behaviors in both men and
women. Men scored significantly higher than women on total narcissism and the three subscales,
total overall offending, total general violence, total drugs, total criminal damage, and total theft. No
significant sex differences were found for any of the current offending behaviors. When the
narcissism subscales were investigated in relation to offending behavior, relationships were only
found in women, with maladaptive narcissism being the stronger predictor. The grandiose exhibi-
tionism facet of the NPI predicted current theft and the entitlement/exploitativeness subscale
predicted total overall offending, current overall offending, and current general violence. The
correlation between the total NPI score and current criminal damage was significantly stronger in
men than in women; however, the correlation between entitlement/exploitativeness and total general
violence was significantly stronger in women than in men.
Our results are congruent with the work of others that have demonstrated that men consistently
score higher on narcissism (Grijalva et al. 2015; Paulhus and Williams 2002; Tschanz, Morf, and
Turner 1998) and offend more than women (Schwartz and Steffensmeier 2007). However, when
narcissism and offending behavior was investigated together, our results suggest that narcissistic
women offend just as much as men, and potentially even more in some respects.
When analyzing the sex differences, we found that narcissistic men are more likely to have
committed criminal damage offences within the last 12 months than women. We also found that
women with high maladaptive narcissistic traitsaremorelikelytohavecommittedactsof
general violence during their lifespan than men. Research has shown that the combination of
narcissism and threatened egotism results in high levels of aggression toward the source of the
Table 3. Zero-order correlations and standardised regression coefficients for NPI subscales and Current Offending Behaviour.
1. Current Overall Offending .19 (-.03) .33*** (.28) .25 (.16) .33***
2. Current General Violence .15 (-.03) .26 (.24) .19 (.12) .28**
3. Current Drugs .18 (.10) .20 (.15) .12 (.02) .24
4. Current IPV .10 (-.14) .28** (.29) .21 (.17) .21
5. Current Criminal Damage .26 (.13) .22 (.09) .27 (.18) .34***
6. Current Theft .21 (.11) .19 (.09) .20 (.11) .27
1. Current Overall Offending .18*** (.06) .22*** (.13) .26*** (.20***) .28***
2. Current General Violence .16** (.08) .15** (.06) .20*** (.16**) .22***
3. Current Drugs .03 (-.07) .13 (.12) .15** (.14) .13
4. Current IPV .15** (.07) .16*** (.09) .16*** (.11) .21***
5. Current Criminal Damage .05 (.01) .06 (.03) .12 (.10) .07
6. Current Theft .15** (.04) .22*** (.16**) .18*** (.12) .22***
** p<.01; *** p<.001
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 5
threat (e.g., Bushman and Baumeister 1998). Therefore, it could be that narcissistic women have
more delicate egos and as a result, react more violently toward threats than narcissistic men.
Indeed, it is generally believed that women are more interpersonally sensitive to men, both as a
general trait, and also as a skill in terms of judging the meanings of nonverbal cues (e.g., Briton
and Hall 1995; Spence, Helmreich, and Stapp 1975). Therefore, more research is needed to
investigate whether the violent offending found in this study concerning women, was the result
Indeed, rejection may be more damaging to women with high maladaptive narcissistic traits.
This is not surprising, as the general maladaptive behavior of women has been researched for
quite some time. For example, there is evidence demonstrating that direct physical aggression
(Ben-David 1993), verbal aggression (de Weerth and Kalma 1992), and the undermining of
other’s social relationships (Crick and Grotpeter 1995) are all strategies women use to inflict
harm in relationships.
More specifically related to narcissism, Ryan, Weikel, and Sprechini (2008) found that women
with higher levels of entitlement/exploitativeness (maladaptive narcissism) were more sexually
coercive toward their partner than men and Simmons et al. (2005) found that women who had
been arrested for domestic violence have higher rates of clinically elevated, or maladaptive, narcis-
sistic personality traits than men. Further, Blinkhorn, Lyons, and Almond (2015,2016) found that
maladaptive narcissistic traits in women related to sexually coercive tactics and more accepting
attitudes toward violence. This suggests that in subclinical populations, this form of narcissism may
be an important predictor of offending behavior in women. As such, it could be that when women
are highly narcissistic, these maladaptive traits become more prominent and contribute to even more
hostile, aggressive, and violent behavior when rejected or experiencing threat. This would also
explain why no such relationships were found in men.
Of course, our study does have some limitations. Despite our sample involving both university
students and community members, a clear strength of the study, we had an imbalanced ratio of men
to women. However, as the focus of the study was more on women, it did not pose a
problem. Second, as with all self-report methods, it is never guaranteed that participants are fully
honest in their answers. However, due to the complete anonymity of the survey guaranteed by the
on-line environment, our results may be less susceptible to socially desirable responding, particularly
considering the sensitive questions they were asked (e.g., Frauke., Stanley, and Tourangeau 2008;
Link and Mokdad 2005).
Narcissism has been conceptualized in numerous ways to date and this can create confusion
as to which characteristics need to be included in measures for narcissism (Ackerman et al.
2011). Pincus and Lukowitsky (2010)suggesttherearetwodistinctformsofnarcissism;normal
and pathological, and that the NPI (Raskin and Terry 1988) only measures normal narcissism.
They recognized two ways in which pathological narcissism can be expressed; grandiosity and
vulnerability, and thus created the pathological narcissism inventory (PNI; Pincus et al. 2009)as
a way to measure both aspects. Nevertheless, Ackerman et al.’s(2011) three-factor structure of
the NPI contains both adaptive/normal and maladaptive/pathological elements, and therefore, it
is considered a robust, multidimensional, approach to measure narcissism. All the same, future
research should investigate whether pathological narcissism, using the PNI (Pincus et al. 2009),
is related to offending behavior in both men and women. If the NPI (Raskin and Terry 1988)is
indeed an inferior measure for pathological narcissism, then one would expect to find stronger,
more significant results, using the PNI (Pincus et al. 2009), particularly in women.
In summary, our findings complement those of previous research; that narcissism is related to
offending behavior in women (Blinkhorn, Lyons, and Almond 2015; Ryan, Weikel, and Sprechini
immonsetal.2005; Singleton et al. 1998). Despite previous research demonstrating that
narcissism is related to sexual persuasion (Jones and Olderbak 2014), sexual coercion, and
aggression (Mouilso and Calhoun 2012) in men, no such relationships were found between
the subscales of narcissism and offending behavior in men. Narcissistic women were more likely
6V. BLINKHORN ET AL.
to have engaged in violent offending behavior than men, thus suggesting that more research is
needed on women and narcissism. These new findings contribute to the little literature on
narcissism and offending behavior in women, suggesting that narcissistic women may be more
dangerous than previously thought.
Notes on contributors
Ms. Victoria Blinkhorn is a PhD candidate in the School of Psychology at the University of Liverpool. Her general
research interests include the understanding and assessment of personality disorder traits in subclinical populations,
specifically in relation to anti-social behavior.
Dr. Minna Lyons is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Liverpool. Her main research
interests are within the field of evolutionary behavioral sciences. She is especially interested in the Dark triad of
personality, and how it functions in everyday life.
Dr. Louise Almond is a Chartered Forensic Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool where she
is Program Director of the MSc Investigative and Forensic Psychology program. She has worked with numerous
individual Police Forces and National agencies to produce evidence-based models of arson, sexual, and violent
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