Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Dr Gregory Dear


Despite decades of research, there is no consensus as to the factors that explain the association between drug use and criminal behaviour. While the evolving sophistication in research methodology has identified factors that are associated with involvement in both drug use and crime, exploration of the idiosyncratic factors that contribute to initiation, maintenance and desistence in drug use and criminal behaviour over time, across culture and social context remains unknown. In this research a grounded theory approach was used to develop an explanatory model based on the reported experiences of 22 non-Aboriginal and 11 Aboriginal adult male offenders, incarcerated in Western Australian prisons all of who have a history of involvement in drug use and crime . Using thematic text analysis, two distinct models emerged from the two cultural groups. While both models depicted involvement in both drug use and crime as a lifestyle based within a biopsycho- social framework, each pathway described a combination of person centred and context specific constructs as influential in the aetiology, persistence, desistence and re-engagement of the drugs-crime lifestyle. Specifically, each pathway differed with respect to the identified family, cultural and social factors that delay or influence early entry into the drugs-crime lifestyle, and those which continue to influence over the life course. The models were applied to case studies to compare and contrast the applicability of the pathway model to existing theories within the literature. The research showed that the connection between drug use and criminal behaviour comprises complex personal, cultural and social factors that underpin the drugs-crime lifestyle, rather than a simplistic causal model. Furthermore, existing theoretical models interact to partially account for individual’s experiences at discrete periods during their involvement in the drugcrime lifestyle. The bio-psycho-social model proposed found common underlying psychological vulnerabilities across the two cultural samples that contribute to involvement in the drug-crime lifestyle; however, disparate social, family, cultural and community factors influence the association across the life course. This complexity underscores the necessity for multi-faceted and systemic treatment modalities that involve family and culture, and the need for psycho-social support services that are linked to the treatment provided in custody for prisoners being re-integrated into the community.