Recidivism is related to psychopathy (PCL-R) in a group of men convicted of homicide

Int J Law Psychiatry. May-Jun 2005;28(3):255-68. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2004.08.008.


It is well known that psychopaths are a group with high risk for criminality. Despite that, researchers and clinicians have not yet agreed on a general cause of psychopathy. However Raine [Raine, A. (2002). Biosocial studies of antisocial and violent behavior in children and adults: A review. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 311-326.] advocated a biosocial model of violent behaviour where the greatest risk for criminal behaviour occurred when both heredity and environmental risk factors (e.g., social class, childhood history) were present. In this follow-up study, 35 men convicted of homicide were assessed retrospectively for psychopathy according to the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). Information on personal history, as well as from legal documents and records of offences committed by the subjects was also obtained. Fourteen of the 35 men were classified as psychopaths. Two men, both rated as psychopaths, had criminal parents. Twenty-seven of the men had a social relationship with their victim, and eleven out of these were rated as psychopaths. There was no difference in PCL-R scores between those who had a social relationship with their victim and those who did not. The psychopaths relapsed more frequently than the nonpsychopaths into criminality after their prison term. This result confirms previous research indicating that psychopathy is a risk factor for recidivism. It is, therefore, very important that psychopaths get the best possible treatment, aftercare, and supervision.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Female
  • Homicide / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychopathology / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Recurrence*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sweden