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


Familicide is defined in this article as the killing of an intimate partner and at least one child. Léveillée et al.[16] studied sixteen cases of familicide in Quebec between 1986 and 2000; all were perpetrated by men. Sixty-two percent of the perpetrators used firearms and many (68%) of them killed themselves after the act. The authors reported that 19% had borderline personality disorder and 38% borderline traits. Twelve percent had antisocial personality disorder or antisocial traits and 68% had a lifetime history of depressive symptoms. The four main motivations were: intimate partner loss, social loss, mental state perturbations and economical motivation. Once again this starts to hint at the mechanism for the link between personality disorder and this sort of offending. The authors underline the apparent link between borderline personality disorder, impulsivity and intense fear of loss and abandonment and familicide. One can start to hypothesise how intimate partner loss, social loss and economic motivation might interact with mood, maladaptive thinking, coping and behaviour styles to lead to violence. The sample was, however, very small as this is a rare crime, making conclusive statements about the role of different mental disorders difficult.

Several of the articles we have reviewed show an association between personality disorder and particular types of offending or maladaptive behaviour. Several of the articles lump all personality disorders together without distinguishing between the clusters or subtypes. Some start to provide a hint as to how an individual's personality disorder might relate to the motivation for particular behaviours. However, all they show is an association between a type of crime and a personality disorder; they do not explain the nature of that link or indeed whether it is causal. We found three articles that tried to elucidate in more depth the link between personality disorder and criminality, in particular violence.


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