Women who kill: a comparison of the psychosocial background of female and male perpetrators

Int J Law Psychiatry. Aug-Sep 2008;31(4):374-83. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2008.06.005. Epub 2008 Aug 3.


The purpose of this study was to compare the psychosocial background of female and male perpetrators convicted of homicide in Sweden between 1995-2001. All women (n=43) who were convicted for lethal violence during the period and a corresponding number of randomly chosen men (n=43) were examined. In total, information about 86 individuals was collected retrospectively. Areas of interest were psychosocial variables during childhood and at the time of the current crime. Results showed that both female and male perpetrators were psychosocially encumbered already at an early age. Homicidal women had more severe childhood circumstances, but less aggressive childhood behaviour than did their male counterparts. At the time of the crime, women had a more ordered social situation, had more often been exposed to violence and searched for help than had the men. These gender differences suggest that specific actions are needed for preventing women's homicidal behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / psychology
  • Adult Survivors of Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Criminal Psychology / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data*
  • Homicide / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Homicide / psychology
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Adjustment
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Violence / psychology
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Women / psychology*