Psychopathic Female Offenders Female Psychopathy Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

In the final results of their study, women psychopaths scored higher in the categories "Superficial," "deceitful," "impulsive," and "poor behavioral controls." Men scored higher on "lacks remorse," "lacks goals," "adolescent antisocial behavior," and "adult antisocial behavior." The psychopathic men and women in prison scored about the same on the Hale PCL ratings in "Grandiose," "lacks empathy," "doesn't accept responsibility," and "irresponsible."

These results and data must be understood in the context of prison environments, the authors explain. "...A higher prevalence of psychopathy is expected, since severe violence and psychopathy correlates strongly," according to the report. Women were more impulsive and had less behavior control, but the consensus among researchers is that "women generally have fewer psychopathic traits than men.

In another journal study, "Psychopathy in Adolescent Female Offenders: An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version," also published in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, the authors (Crystal L. Schrum and Randall T. Salekin, 2006) assert in the first paragraph that psychopathy is a personality trait associated with "...interpersonal, behavioral, and affective characteristics." The traits that these authors report include "superficial charm, impulsivity, a pervasive lack of guilt and remorse, the tendency to manipulate and exploit others, and a callus disregard for others' feelings and rights." That said, the authors (Salekin's research was alluded to earlier in this paper) also say that "we still know very little about psychopathy in youth...and we know very little about psychopathy in women."

This is an article published in 2006, by well-known and respected researchers, so one can assume that the field of study with reference to female psychopaths either has been ignored, or there has been an erroneous assumption all along that only males were or could become psychopathic offenders. Still, the authors say that "some research is amassing to suggest that the concept of psychopathy may be viable" in both children and in adolescent samplings.

The journal article even suggests that there may be a "genetic link" to "callus unemotional traits in 7-year-old children. The article goes from that introductory point to explaining that the reason for a lack of research into women and pathology is due to "...the small number of female offenders overall." Females only make up about 22% of all arrests, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (;there are an average of 3.2 million arrests of women in the U.S. annually, and women account for 14% of all violent offenders. Of all convicted violent offenders, women make up 8% currently in prison (Dept. Of Justice figures); in all, about 1% of the total female population is under correctional supervision.

Those statistics of course do not relate to psychopathy among women, but they give an idea as to why women just haven't been studied as frequently as men have been when it comes to antisocial and unlawful behavior.

The authors point out that the study of psychopathy in women is also "controversial," even though the rate of female incarceration over the past few years has "increased at more than twice the rate of increase for male defendants." Studies of psychopathology in incarcerated females in recent years, the authors explain, have found "high rates of depression, substance abuse, and personality disorders."

What studies that have been done - and the authors list five studies - have found "evidence of construct validity" which is basically saying that all five studies have revealed the same dynamics and results. And when it comes to predicting the level of psychopathy found in inmates, based on "institutional infractions and recidivism," the PCL-R format by Hale is a "reliable and valid measure" when assessing both men and women, although the results and conclusions drawn from research on women psychopathy is "much more tentative." That tentative issue is simply because the study of women is basically in its infancy.

And when it comes to the psychopathy of girls, the authors allude to research conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA); the APA's researchers explain that women (and girls in particular) showed a two-factor structure of psychopathy. Those two dynamics were "manipulation and lack of genuine emotions," and "nonviolent antisocial behavior."

Under the latter factor, psychopathic girls tended to act out "promiscuous sexual behavior, active defiance of adults," "frequent disregard for curfew..." And "refusal to comply..." And while the last three of those four issues don't sound that different from a "typical rebellious teenager," they aren't that different. The authors recognize that fact in saying some of those things represent a "normal part of development." Still, the belief among the research that Schrum and Salekin have embraced is that psychopathy may have its roots "in childhood and adolescence."

If law enforcement personnel and social service professionals - and healthcare services - had access to the results of more empirical investigations examining psychopathy in young girls, offering an deeper understanding of troubled female adolescents' personalities, that could provide important information "regarding the development of appropriate treatment programs" for psychopathic girls, the authors assert.

In order to determine how many incarcerated female juveniles were indeed psychopathic, the researchers under Schrum and Salekin's supervision sampled 123 girls in detention centers in Miami, Florida, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The ages ranged from 11 to 18; African-American girls made up 61.8% of the survey, Caucasians made up 22%, and Hispanics were about 10.6% of the surveyed group. "Other" comprised 2.4% and "ethnicity unknown" made up 3.3% of the study group.

The Hale formula in the case of youthful offenders is PCL:YV; the two perspectives used along with Hale's model were item response theory (IRT), e.g., how a participant response to a question or suggestion; and "examination of prevalence." The items that most clearly allowed researchers to determine if a given girl in this study was psychopathic or not, were: "callousness and a lack of empathy"; "conning and manipulation"; and "a grandiose sense of self-worth." In other words, if the girls' scores showed these traits were present, it would indicate a high likelihood of psychopathy.

Without giving a specific breakdown of how many of the girls showed traits that matched the expected traits of psychopathic girls, the authors admit that this was only a beginning in a long series of research studies needed in the matter of determining the presence of psychopathy in girls' personalities. They stated that there were "notable differences" between the similarity and consistency when comparing Hale's model in adult males and the female responses. Five of the items in the sample which were found to be good "discriminators" in this sample ("conning/manipulative behavior"; "unstable interpersonal relationships"; "irresponsibility"; "juvenile delinquency" and "impersonal sexual behavior") did not match up with Hare's discriminators in adult females.

More study is needed, the authors concluded, but meantime, the findings of the current study did show that psychopathy "may be a viable construct in adolescent females for several reasons." One, if indeed psychopathy is part of "normal adolescent development," then researchers would expect the rate of disorder to be a bit higher in adolescents than in adults, which is reasonable to assume; but they aren't sure about this. And for another, since psychopathy in girls is not linked with violent behavior as it is in boys, then the implications for clinicians and researchers is that "psychopathy should not be used as a risk assessment construct for girls at this time."

What is needed is "longitudinal studies," in order to compare adolescent females and adolescent males within the same sample, rather than study adolescent girls against data from other research. The reason all this research is needed into female adolescent psychopathy is that "young females comprise nearly a fourth of juvenile offenders," and the percentage of girls being arrested for antisocial, unlawful behaviors is growing, not shrinking.

In the book, Murder Most Rare, by Michael D. Kelleher and C.L. Kelleher, the history of several female serial killers are presented. While all these case histories are fascinating to the student of psychology, sociology and even perhaps anthropology, they are also puzzling to law enforcement and criminologists because they involve women. The popular literature, including movies, magazines and other media, almost always portrays men as pathological killers. But this book takes a close examination at the lives and actions of pathological women killers, and upping the drama, these women are serial killers, to boot.

For example, on pages 74-83, the life and violent times of Aileen "Lee" Wuornos is presented in graphic but not overly-dramatized narrative. Wuornos was born in 1956, and in 1992, she received "multiple death penalty sentences" for the murder of seven men. Each victim was "shot multiple times with a.22 caliber pistol and robbed of their person effects, automobile, or both."

These men she murdered had picked her up; she was a prostitute for over twenty years, and though some of the men she murdered were violent and attempted to - or did - violent acts against her, "most of her victims did…

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