Social Interest and Criminal Conduct

Adler wrote and lectured at length on the failures of life, that is, neurotics, psy-chotics, and criminals. He further contended that these people typically have low levels of social mterest—the barometer of normality and the sole criterion of human values. Does research support Adler's view?

Douglas Daugherty, Michael Murphy, and Justin Paugh, (2001) provided some evidence that low levels of social mterest are related to criminal behavior. These researchers used the Sullitnan Scale of Social hiterest (SSSI) to measure levels of social mterest among male prisoners. The SSSI (Sullitnan, 1973) is a 50-item, true/false instrument that yields a total score plus a score on each of two subscales: (1) concern for and trust hi others and (2) self-confidence and an optimistic view of the world.

Daugherty et al. administered the SSSI to prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes and who were within 120 days of release to parole. The researchers followed these participants for more than 2 years after parole and found that parolees who scored low on social interest, compared with those who had higher scores, were less likely to be employed and more likely to have had subsequent felony arrests, total arrests, parole violations, and reincarcerations. Daugherty et al. also found that social hiterest made a unique contribution to subsequent criminal history; that is, the effects of social interest were independent of demographic variables and criminal history. This study suggests that lack of social hiterest is clearly associated with criminal behavior and may be an accurate predictor of future crimes and subsequent reincarceration.

Daugherty et al. suggested that prisoners low hi social interest and those with moderate social interest represent two separate groups, which may call for two distinct interventions. (Three groups were not possible because high levels of social hiterest are scarce commodities among law breakers.) Offenders low in social interest do not usually benefit from traditional psychotherapy and may require more intense parole supervision, whereas offenders with moderate social hiterest may profit more from such Adlerian-oriented strategies as changing life goals, attacking faulty beliefs about courage, increasing self-confidence, expanding a constricted worldview, and enhancing concern for other people.

Chapter 3 Adler: Individual Psychology 91

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