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In-service offending behaviour among UK military personnel

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Background: Offending behaviour among military personnel has been a concern throughout history. While research has largely focused on violent offending during the life course and post service, there is a dearth of research on offending behaviour during military personnel’s time in service. This thesis examines the prevalence of and risk factors for all types of in-service offending behaviour using official offence records. It also begins to explore the relationship between the perpetrator and victim of interpersonal violent offences. 
Method: This study used a large representative sample of the UK Armed Forces (N=11,418). Data on sociodemographics and experiences during service (including pre- and post-deployment), along with post-deployment mental health factors were collected by self-report questionnaire (collected at three time points, 2003-2005, 2007-2009 and 2013-2016). This data was linked the Ministry of Defence’s official offence record database of offending behaviour during military service, REDCAP. 
Findings: The prevalence of in-service violent offending among this sample was 10.4%. The prevalence of in-service non-violent offending was 16.9%. These results suggest that older age at enlistment, lower levels of educational attainment, having a history of pre-enlistment antisocial behaviour, being a member of the Army and being of lower rank were associated with in-service offending. Compared to non-deployed personnel, being deployed, regardless of role during deployment, was strongly associated with all measures of in-service offending. This was the case whether personnel had a record of offending prior to deployment or not. Being deployed in a combat role compared to a non-combat role was only associated with non-violent in-service offending (adjusted Hazard Ratio (AHR)=1.79, 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 1.21-2.65, p=0.003). While reported symptoms of PTSD were not associated in-service offending, alcohol misuse was independently associated with all measures of in-service offending. The presence of symptoms of common mental disorders was associated with any in-service offending (AHR=1.54, 95% CI: 1.08-2.21, p=0.019), but not in-service violent or in-service non-violent offending separately. Self-reported post-deployment anger was associated with any in-service offending (AHR=1.78, 95% CI: 1.06-3.01, p=0.031) and in-service violent offending (AHR=4.45, 95% CI: 1.69-11.73, p=0.003). 
Self-reported post-deployment violence towards family members was associated with having left service. Deployment in a combat role (compared to non-combat role) and post-deployment mental health variables were also associated with post-deployment family violence. Alcohol misuse was not associated with post-deployment family violence. 
Conclusion: The majority of offences perpetrated among this sample were non-violent offences. Violent behaviour and in-service offending towards family members were prevalent among this military sample and warrant further investigation. More research is needed to determine the factors associated with in-service interpersonal offending towards family members, particularly spouses and partners to build an evidence base on intimate partner violence among UK military personnel.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Dec 2019

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