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

Male Sex Offending: Rapists versus Child Molesters

Francia et al. [8•] examined personality disorders and their features in two groups of incarcerated male sexual offenders in Colorado, USA. They looked at 251 rapists and 311 child molesters and compared them with a group of nonsexual offenders, using the Coolidge Correctional Inventory, a 250-item self-report DSM-IV aligned personality and neuropsychological inventory. They found that rapists had significantly higher levels of antisocial personality traits than child molesters but no difference in narcissistic traits. Nonsexual offenders also scored higher on the antisocial scale than child molesters but not higher than rapists. Child molesters had higher levels of avoidant traits than rapists and higher levels of avoidant, dependent, and schizoid traits than nonsexual offenders. When they looked at the number of individuals who reached the cut-off for different personality disorder diagnoses they found that the greatest prevalence for nonsexual offenders was for obsessive compulsive, antisocial, avoidant and narcissistic personality disorders. For sexual offenders, if considered together, avoidant personality disorder had the highest prevalence followed by obsessive compulsive, schizoid, paranoid and borderline personality disorders.

Eher et al.[9•] did a similar study of 807 incarcerated sexual offenders admitted to Austria's prisons between 2002 and 2009. They found that sexual offenders displayed high rates of mental illness, sexual disorders, personality disorders and substance abuse. However, there were differences between rapists and child molesters consistent with the finding of the study by Francia et al. [8•] Rapists had higher rates of personality disorder overall (76 versus 60%) and alcohol and substance abuse than child molesters, who had higher rates of sexual disorders (78 versus 24%). Rapists had higher rates of cluster B personality disorders, especially antisocial and borderline, than child molesters (66 versus 40%), whereas child molesters had higher rates of cluster C disorder (14 versus 6%).

These two studies have treatment implications, as they suggest that child molesters may benefit from treatment aimed at sexual disorders and cluster C traits, whereas rapists may need an approach aimed at the features of cluster B personality disorders more generally and not just at deviant sexual behaviour.


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