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Violent female offenders: Facts and preconceptions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Women’s comparably low participation in criminal activity has resulted in little overall attention to female offenders in criminological research. The general aim of the present thesis is to illuminate aspects of particular significance for understanding female perpetrators of very serious crimes. Areas of interest are gender differences in the offenders’ psychosocial background, the offenders’ mental illness and medico-legal insanity decisions regarding violent offenders. Study I compared the psychosocial background of female and male perpetrators convicted of homicide in Sweden. The female perpetrators had experienced more severe childhood circumstances. At the time of the crime they had a more ordered social situation but they were more likely to have been exposed to violence and to have sought help than the corresponding men. Study II investigated differences between female and male offenders regarding forensic psychiatric diagnoses and medico-legal insanity decisions. A significantly higher proportion of mentally disordered females were diagnosed with personality disorder, while mentally disordered male offenders more often received a diagnosis of substance dependence or sexual disorders. There was an increased likelihood for violent women to be declared legally insane. Study III attempted to explore whether the differences observed in Study II could be explained by gender bias in forensic psychiatric assessments. The results suggested strong gender effects on legal insanity judgments among clinicians and judges. Consequently, the higher occurrence of legal insanity decisions regarding female defendants found in Study II could be explained, at least in part, by gender-related bias in the judicial system. Influence from such legally irrelevant factors may pose a serious threat to the fairness of the legal system. These results highlight the need for increased knowledge and awareness of human information processing limitations among legal decision-makers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Psykologiska institutionen , 2008. , 101 p.
Keyword [en]
Female, Violence, Crime, Psychosocial background, Gender bias, Stereotypes, In-group bias, Forensic psychiatry, Mental disorders, Legal insanity
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-7569ISBN: 978-91-7155-662-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-7569DiVA: diva2:198620
Public defence
2008-05-23, David Magnussonsalen (U31), hus 8, Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 10:00
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2008-04-30 Created: 2008-04-30Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Women who kill: A comparison of the psychosocial background of female and male perpetrators convicted of lethal violence in Sweden between 1995-2001
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Women who kill: A comparison of the psychosocial background of female and male perpetrators convicted of lethal violence in Sweden between 1995-2001
2008 (English)In: International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, ISSN 0160-2527, E-ISSN 1873-6386, Vol. 31, no 4, 374-383 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this study was to compare the psychosocial background of female and male perpetrators convicted of homicide in Sweden between 1995–2001. All women (n = 43) who were convicted for lethal violence during the period and a corresponding number of randomly chosen men (n = 43) were examined. In total, information about 86 individuals was collected retrospectively. Areas of interest were psychosocial variables during childhood and at the time of the current crime. Results showed that both female and male perpetrators were psychosocially encumbered already at an early age. Homicidal women had more severe childhood circumstances, but less aggressive childhood behaviour than did their male counterparts. At the time of the crime, women had a more ordered social situation, had more often been exposed to violence and searched for help than had the men. These gender differences suggest that specific actions are needed for preventing women's homicidal behaviour.

Keyword
Homicide, Female perpetrators, Psychosocial background
National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-24975 (URN)10.1016/j.ijlp.2008.06.005 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-04-30 Created: 2008-04-30 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved
2. Gender differences in diagnoses of mentally disordered offenders
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Gender differences in diagnoses of mentally disordered offenders
Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-24976 (URN)
Note
Part of urn:nbn:se:su:diva-7569Available from: 2008-04-30 Created: 2008-04-30 Last updated: 2010-01-13Bibliographically approved
3. Evidence of gender bias in legal insanity evaluations: A case vignette study of clinicians, judges, and students
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Evidence of gender bias in legal insanity evaluations: A case vignette study of clinicians, judges, and students
2008 (English)In: Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, ISSN 0803-9488, E-ISSN 1502-4725, Vol. 62, no 4, 273-278 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Forensic psychiatric decision-making plays a key role in the legal process of homicide cases. Research show that women defendants have a higher likelihood of being declared legally insane and being diverted to hospital. This study attempted to explore if this gender difference is explained by biases in the forensic psychiatric assessments. Participants were 45 practicing forensic psychiatric clinicians, 46 chief judges and 80 psychology students. Participants received a written vignette describing a homicide case, with either a female or a male perpetrator. The results suggested strong gender effects on legal insanity judgements. Forensic psychiatric clinicians and psychology students assessed the case information as more indicative of legal insanity if the perpetrator was a woman than a man. Judges assessed offenders of their own gender, as they were more likely to be declared legally insane than a perpetrator of the opposite gender. Implications of and possible ways to minimize such gender biases in forensic psychiatric evaluations need to be thoroughly considered by the legal system.

National Category
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-24977 (URN)10.1080/08039480801963135 (DOI)
Available from: 2008-04-30 Created: 2008-04-30 Last updated: 2017-12-13Bibliographically approved

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