Criminal profiling


Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Non-intimate Relationships and Psychopathic Interpersonal and Affective Deficits as Risk Factors for Criminal Career: a Comparison Between Sex Offenders and Other Offenders”, by Ferretti, F.; Pozza, A.; Carabellese, F.; Schimmenti, A.; Santoro, G.; Mandarelli, G.; Gualtieri, G.; Carabellese, F.; Catanesi, R. and Coluccia, A. (2021), in which authors carry out a study to know how the non-intimate relationships and psychopathic interpersonal an affective deficits can work as risk factors that affect the criminal career of sexual offenders, comparing them to other offenders.

Since the beginning of Criminology, the criminals’ personal history, the development pattern of their careers and the risk factors that lead them to these destinations have always been considered a topic of great interest.

For example, the relationship between the traumatic experiences of victims of sexual abuse and the emergence of dysfunctional sexual behaviors was investigated by numerous experts, leading to the conclusion that other underlying causes of sexual crimes should be sought, because the victim/aggressor paradigm is too reductionist.

Attention has also been paid to psychiatric disorders, which play an important role; in the case of sex offenders especially schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and mood and personality disorders.

On the other hand, psychopathy appears, whose relevance in criminal behavior and violent behavior is widely recognized in the literature. It is generally assessed using the Revised Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R), which covers the factors of interpersonal and affective deficits and antisocial behavior.

The association of psychopathy with sexual crimes is not new. In a study mentioned in the article, it was found that the presence of psychopathy in sexual offenders constitutes a predictive factor of criminal recidivism in this but also other types of crimes.

Other studies have shown that the relational failures of caregivers and attachment figures, can lead the child to experience difficulties in their interpersonal self-regulation. These difficulties can constitute a risk for adults by promoting aggressive behaviors, difficulties in emotional regulation and sexual problems, as can be found in many cases of psychopathy, sadism and paraphilias.

As we can see, there is such a variety of ideas that it is difficult to accurately identify the risk factors that can affect the dysfunctional sexual behavior of sex offenders.

The objective of this study was to explore the relevance of life events in the criminal outcome, comparing sexual offenders with other types of offenders. Experiences related to violence problems, antisocial behaviors, personal relationship problems, substance use, traumatic experiences and parenting styles were studied.

A total of 88 sex offenders and 102 people serving sentences for other types of crimes participated.

Among sex offenders, most of the inmates (76%) served time for child abuse.

In the category of other offenders, were convicts serving time for murder, assault, crimes against property and against the state, but not sexual crimes.

A set of items from the HCR-20 V3 scale was used to evaluate risk factors.

Non-sexual offenders were found to be more likely to have a history of violence and antisocial behavior problems in adolescence and adulthood, along with substance abuse problems. Only one risk factor, the absence of problems in non-intimate relationships, differentiates the criminal career of non-sexual offenders and sexual offenders.

These non-intimate relationships are defined as bonds with family members, friends, or acquaintances, which do not involve any type of sexual dimension. Social isolation, emotional distance, instability, conflict, manipulation of others, inappropriate sexualization, and violence in non-intimate relationships are indicators to consider.

Compared with the group of non-sexual offenders, sexual offenders showed higher levels of interpersonal and affective psychopathic deficits, and lower levels of antisocial behaviors.

With this study the importance of poor non-intimate relationships in predicting the criminal career of sex offenders is confirmed. Above all, inappropriate sexualization, violence and the escalation of problems are important in this context.

Authors consider that treatment programs for sex offenders should be aimed at preventing recidivism, and therefore should address these deficits in non-intimate relationships, and target psychopathic traits, specifically interpersonal and affective traits. For example, through cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be an effective treatment for psychopathic traits.

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