Personality Disorder and Criminal Behaviour

What Is the Nature of the Relationship?

Sophie Davison; Aleksandar Janca


Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2012;25(1):39-45. 

In This Article

Relationship Between Personality Disorder Subtypes and Different Offences

Roberts and Coid[5••] used data from the National Survey of Psychiatric Morbidity in Prisoners in England and Wales to examine the relationships between different personality disorder subtype scores and lifetime offences. A representative sample of prisoners were interviewed using self-report questionnaires about previous conviction history; and a subsample of 391 prisoners were interviewed by clinicians using the Structured Clinical Interview for Axis II Disorders (SCID-II),[6] using continuous scores for the different personality disorder subscales. They used logistic regression to examine the relationships.

Unsurprisingly, they found that conduct disorder scores were significantly related to all offence categories and adult antisocial personality disorder scores were associated with most offences, especially obstruction of justice, firearms, robbery and blackmail, escape and breach, fraud, burglary and theft as well as violence. With regards to other cluster B disorders, narcissistic personality disorder scores were associated with fraud and forgery.

A surprising finding was that there was no association between borderline personality disorder scores and types of offending, despite the high rates of borderline personality disorder found in prisoners, especially in women. The authors attribute this to the high rates of comorbidity of borderline with antisocial personality disorder, such that any relationship was lost after controlling for other confounding factors.

In the cluster C disorders, they found that avoidant personality disorder scores were associated with criminal damage but negatively associated with firearm offences. Obsessive–compulsive personality disorder scores were associated with firearm offences and dependent personality disorder scores were significantly associated with firearm offences and violence but negatively associated with criminal damage.

In the cluster A disorders, paranoid personality disorder scores were associated with robbery and blackmail but negatively associated with driving offences. Schizotypal personality disorder scores were significantly associated with arson but negatively associated with robbery and blackmail. Schizoid personality disorder scores were associated with kidnap, burglary and theft.

Interestingly, homicide offences and sex offending were not associated with any personality disorder scores. In the case of homicide, this may be due to the small numbers.

This is a novel look at the relationship between personality disorders other than antisocial and different offending behaviours using a large sample. It confirms that antisocial personality disorder accounts for most of the relationship between offending and personality disorder but throws up some interesting associations with personality disorders, including from clusters A and C. The authors speculate about why some of these relationships might arise, but ultimately the method used can only point to associations and not to causality or to the mechanism.

Warren and South[7] looked at the relationship between cluster B personality disorders only and patterns of criminality and violence in a sample of women incarcerated in a maximum secure prison. They found no relationship between antisocial, borderline, histrionic or narcissistic personality disorder scores and history of convictions apart from a negative relationship between antisocial personality disorder scores and homicide and a positive relationship between borderline personality disorder scores and prostitution. However, antisocial, borderline and narcissistic scores all showed a significant relationship with perpetrating threats and physical assaults in the prison environment. In addition, borderline and histrionic scores were associated with perpetrating sexual assaults in prisons. Narcissistic and antisocial scores were associated with institutional infractions.


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