Vulnerable and dominant: Bright and dark side personality traits and values of individuals in organized crime in Denmark

Oluf Gøtzsche-Astrup*, Bjarke Overgaard, Lasse Lindekilde

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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In this paper, we build on a robust literature on push and pull factors to focus on the personality traits and values of individuals involved in organized crime. We distinguish organized crime from other kinds of criminal activity and recruit a unique sample of non-incarcerated individuals verified by the Danish National Police to be involved in organized crime. We use comprehensive standardized psychological assessments of their big five personality traits, maladaptive dark traits and core values and drivers to compare them to an adult norm group. Danish individuals involved in organized crime are much less emotionally stable (d = 1.84), ambitious and self-confident (d = 1.50), agreeable (d = 0.87) and conscientious (d = 0.65) than the norm group. At the same time, they have substantially higher scores on all but one of the 11 dark traits (Cohen's d ranging from 0.39 to 3.10). They are characterized by a high need for security (d = 1.14) as well as material (d = 0.96) and financial success (d = 0.81). While these patterns fit results previously found in the criminological literature, a latent class analysis reveals two separate groups. A subset of one third of our sample had somewhat less depressed scores on the big five and more moderate scores on the dark traits, indicating more adaptive personality structures. We consider this novel finding in terms of potential exits from a milieu of organized crime.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Psychology
Pages (from-to)526-544
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Organized crime
  • dominant and vulnerable personality structure
  • exit strategy
  • gangs
  • latent class analysis
  • personality traits


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