The revenge motive in delinquency: Prevalence and predictors

Janne Kivivuori, Jukka Savolainen, Mikko Aaltonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Revenge is a well-recognised motive for crime and violence. In sociological research, this topic has been pursued primarily in ethnographic studies of street offenders or gang conflicts. Psychologists have studied revenge behaviour experimentally in laboratory settings and revenge ideation with community samples. Despite these contributions, we know very little about the prevalence and correlates of revenge-motivated offending in representative mainstream population. Most studies focus on violence, ignoring the role revenge may play in non-violent offending. Drawing on a Finnish youth crime survey (n = 5373), this research describes the prevalence of the revenge motive in delinquent behaviour and explores correlates of revenge-motivated delinquency (RMD). The findings indicate that approximately one-half of interpersonal assaults are motivated by revenge and that a significant proportion (10–20%) of running away from home and vandalism is also related to revenge. Narrative evidence from incident descriptions suggests that roughly one in four RMD incidents reflect social/altruistic offending on behalf of a friend or a relative. In correlational analysis, girls, victims of school bullying and those expressing pro-revenge attitudes were more likely to be motivated by revenge when engaging in delinquency. The findings suggest that social learning, situational strain and deterrence theories are promising directions for further research in this area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-84
Number of pages16
JournalActa Sociologica (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Delinquency
  • attitudes
  • criminology
  • deterrence
  • emotions
  • morality
  • revenge
  • victimisation
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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