What violent offenders remember of their crime: empirical explorations

Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2006 Jun-Jul;40(6-7):508-18. doi: 10.1080/j.1440-1614.2006.01833.x.


Little systematic evidence is available about how violent offenders remember and think about their violent crimes. The general aim of this article is to selectively review a range of different 'types' of memory disturbance and their risk factors, in an attempt to draw together different strands of research concerning memories of offending that might usefully be considered together for clinical purposes. A selective review of psychiatric or psychological studies related to amnesia, intrusive memories, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ruminations, and pleasurable memories was performed. The body of research on amnesia in relation to violent crime is relatively small and is subject to significant limitations. The empirical base of studies identifying intrusive memories arising from violent crime is also very limited, with no previous published study primarily focusing on description of the form and content of intrusive memories related to acts of violence in a population of violent offenders. A small number of studies have investigated PTSD directly arising from the commission of a violent or sexual crime, in those with mental illness. No published studies that investigated the presence of ruminations related to violent offending were identified. No systematic comparative studies were identified that described the form and content that positive memories of non-sexual violence might take. Relevant phenomenological reports from extreme populations raise concerns about selection bias. A memory-based approach to eliciting descriptions of violent offending may elicit clinical information relevant to violence risk assessment and therapeutic interventions within forensic settings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amnesia / epidemiology
  • Crime / psychology*
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data
  • Empirical Research*
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Recurrence
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data