Do seriously offending girls differ from their age- and offence type-matched male counterparts on psychopathic traits or psychopathy-related background variables?

Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2016 Nov 1;10:38. doi: 10.1186/s13034-016-0128-1. eCollection 2016.

Abstract

Background: More research is needed to improve our understanding of the manifestation of psychopathic traits in violently offending girls. Our aim here was to assess psychopathic traits and psychopathy-related background variables in a Finnish nationwide consecutive sample of girls charged with violent crimes and referred to a pretrial forensic psychiatric examination. These girls were then compared to their male counterparts.

Methods: The forensic psychiatric examination statements of 15- to 17-year-old juveniles who underwent a pretrial forensic psychiatric examination over a 31-year period (1980-2010) were reviewed. For each non-psychotic girl with a normal IQ (n = 25), an age- and offence type-matched male control was randomly selected. Offence and offender characteristics were collected from the forensic psychiatric examination reports, and a file-based assessment of psychopathic traits was performed using the Hare psychopathy checklist-youth version.

Results: Approximately every third girl exhibited high traits of psychopathy, and no significant difference was observed between the genders. Focusing on the underlying factor and item scores, the girls scored significantly lower than boys on the Antisocial factor. Their interpersonal relationships were significantly more unstable and they significantly more often exhibited a history of child sexual abuse. During the index offence the girls were significantly less frequently intoxicated, and their victims were significantly more often family members or current or ex-intimates but significantly less often strangers.

Conclusions: Although violently offending girls and boys do not differ on psychopathy total scores, significant gender differences exist on underlying factor and item scores as well as in background- and offence-related variables. Interventions should take into account these special features of violent girls.

Keywords: Adolescence; Delinquency; Gender; Girl; Offending; Psychopathic traits.