Schizophrenia and violent crime: the experience of parents

Int J Law Psychiatry. 2006 Jan-Feb;29(1):57-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2004.07.002. Epub 2005 Nov 8.


Individuals with schizophrenia have an increased risk of committing a violent crime, although their contribution to the overall criminality in society is small. In this qualitative study we have interviewed parents of adult sons, diagnosed with schizophrenia and who recently had been referred to forensic psychiatric treatment due to a violent crime, with an aim to explore the parents' experiences and emotional reactions. Four events, or status passages, emerged as crucial and common for all parents. These were the onset of the mental disorder, the diagnosis of schizophrenia, the violent behaviour/criminality and the recent referral to forensic psychiatric treatment. Every passage evoked strong emotional reactions such as guilt, fear, disappointment, anger and relief, which in return led to different actions taken. Unawareness of the character and severity of their sons' mental illness and the type of violent criminality they had committed were common and complicated contacts both between the parents and their sons, and also between family members and official authorities. The findings emphasize that psychiatric health care professionals must take the initiative and responsibility for information, education and support of family members.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Health
  • Forensic Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / supply & distribution
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / epidemiology
  • Trust
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*