Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Tanja Link

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer McMahon-Howard

Third Advisor

Dr. Christopher Totten


The purpose of this study is to examine college students’ punitive attitudes toward five different types of sex offenders. In addition, various factors that influence college students’ punitive attitudes will be measured in order to assess their significance. Surveys were administered to a total of 809 students at a large southern university. Through the utilization of descriptive vignettes, the survey measured students’ demographic, educational, attitudinal, and crime-related characteristics as well as recommended sanction and punishment preferences for five different sex offenders. The results suggest that college students’ punitive attitudes significantly differ based on sex offender characteristics. Through ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analysis, significant effects of various factors on punitive attitudes were found for each type of sex offender.