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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
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Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Dec 2019

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