The violent female perpetrator and her victim

Forensic Sci Int. 2003 May 5;133(3):197-203. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(03)00068-9.


The aim of the present study was to examine the relationship between violent female offenders and their victims as well as the putative differences in the motives and specific psychological factors among three groups of female offenders: women who have victimised someone closely related to them, those who have victimised an acquaintance and lastly women who have victimised a stranger. More than half (N=61) of all violent female offenders hospitalised or incarcerated in Finland during the year of study were interviewed and assessed by Structured Clinical Interview II for DSM-IV (SCID-II) and Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). In 34% of the cases the victims were persons close to the offender, in 41% the victims were acquaintances and in 25% strangers. The victims in homicide offences were more often both male and closer to the perpetrator than in assault offences. Although motives were related to interpersonal problems, self-defence and long-term physical or psychological abuse were reported by only a few women, even for the small proportion of women whose victims were intimate partners. The most frequent reason for offences stemmed from confrontational situations in connection with alcohol use. Women who victimised acquaintances and strangers were also more likely to have a history of criminality and substance abuse than women who victimised those in close personal relationships. The latter were also more likely to have an antisocial personality disorder (PD) and psychopathic characteristics. There were, however, no significant differences found between those who had experienced physical or psychological abuse in childhood or adulthood and those who had no adverse experiences. These findings suggest that the violent behaviour by females leads more often to the death of the victim, when the victim is closely related to the perpetrator. The commonly-held view that violent female offending occurs primarily as a consequence of precipitation by the victim was not supported.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data*
  • Divorce / statistics & numerical data
  • Educational Status
  • Employment
  • Family Relations
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Marital Status
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mentally Ill Persons / psychology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation*
  • Parity
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Women / psychology*