Self-reported motivations for engaging or declining to engage in cyber-dependent offending and the role of autistic traits

K. Payne, K. L. Maras, A. J. Russell, M. J. Brosnan, R. Mills

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Cyber-dependent offending, i.e. criminal behaviour reliant on computing and the online domain, has been reportedly associated with particular characteristics and motivations such as being young, male, autistic and motivated by challenge. These associations are anecdotal however and empirical evidence is limited. The present study investigated reasons for engaging or declining to commit cyber-dependent offending in cyber-skilled non-offenders (n = 175) and offenders (n = 7) via an online survey measuring cyber-dependent criminality. The potential role of autism and autistic traits was also considered. Qualitative interviews about motivations for offending were carried out with the offenders. The cyber-dependent offenders reported seven main reasons for engaging in cyber-dependent offending: (1) lack of understanding; (2) entertainment; (3) peer influence; (4) experience and career; (5) anonymity and risk perception; (6) life events; and (7) morals. Twenty-nine (approximately 17 %) of the non-offenders had been asked to engage in cyber-dependent offending but had declined. Their reasons and motivations for declining to commit cyber-dependent offences were compared with the cyber-dependent offenders reasons and motivations for engaging in cybercrime. Seven main reasons for declining to offend were identified: (1) moral principles; (2) perception of risk; (3) fear of consequences; (4) not wanting to; (5) wanting to adhere to the law; (6) behaviour being too complicated; and (7) price being too low. Implications for practise are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103681
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online date20 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2020


  • Autism
  • Autistic traits
  • Cyber-dependent offending
  • Cybercrime
  • Motivations
  • Offending

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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