Date of Award

Spring 2004

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Psychology and Behavioral Sciences

First Advisor

Tony R. Young


There are two conflicting theories concerning self-esteem in violent and nonviolent criminal behavior. One theory proposes that low self-esteem is more influential than high self-esteem in an individual's decision to participate in criminal behavior, whereas the other theory proposes the opposite. Limited research is available concerning the role that sense of entitlement has in criminal behavior, beyond its previously explored role in rape. The first purpose of this study was to clarify the role of self-esteem in criminal behavior by having individuals currently incarcerated for both violent and nonviolent crimes complete the Self-Esteem Rating Scale. Using the scores obtained on this scale, a discriminant function analysis was conducted to predict membership into groups of violent and nonviolent offenders. The second purpose of this study was to determine the role sense of entitlement has in criminal behavior. Independent samples t-tests were conducted using the obtained scores of the Entitlement Attitudes Scale by this sample along with the scores obtained by another sample of nonincarcerated individuals, to determine if there was a difference between the two samples. The results of the discriminant function analysis did not allow for classification into either group based on self-esteem level beyond what would be expected by chance. The results of the independent samples t-tests did not produce statistically significant differences on the total scores of the Entitlement Attitudes Scale, nor its first factor, Self-Reliance/Self-Promotion. This analysis did, however, produce a statistically significant difference on the Narcissistic Expectations/Self-Promotion factor, indicating that the sample of non-incarcerated individuals scored higher on this factor than the incarcerated individuals. These unexpected results pointed to possible limitations within this study including the truthfulness of the participants' answering patterns. Overall, the results of this study did not support either of the predictions made, nor did they provide support for any of the available research concerning self-esteem and sense of entitlement in violent and nonviolent criminal behavior.