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Personality disorder and criminal behaviour: what is the nature of the relationship?

Davison, Sophiea,b; Janca, Aleksandara

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: January 2012 - Volume 25 - Issue 1 - p 39–45
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32834d18f0
PERSONALITY DISORDERS AND NEUROSIS: Edited by Charles B. Pull and Aleksandar Janca

Purpose of review There is a well established association between personality disorder and offending but the nature of the relationship is less well understood. We reviewed the recent literature on personality disorder and offending, picking out studies that examined the relationship between the two.

Recent findings Cluster A, B and C personality disorders are each associated with different types of offences. Although rates of personality disorder are high in all serious offenders, the role played by personality disorder may be greater in some offences than others, for example, in rapists compared with child molesters, men who kill their fathers rather than their mothers, men who kill their children compared with mothers who kill their children; and in less severe stalking behaviour compared with those who get convictions. Three articles suggested frameworks for understanding how personality disorder may interact with other factors to contribute to offending.

Summary Frameworks that integrate personality traits; comorbid problems such as substance misuse, mood disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms; motivation for offending; maladaptive cognitions; beliefs and attitudes; anger and arousal; and situational factors are helpful when considering risk assessment, risk management and treatment. More empirical research is needed to test these theories.

aSchool of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, University of Western Australia

bClinical Applications Unit, North Metro Area Mental Health Service, Perth, Australia

Correspondence to Dr Sophie Davison, Clinical Applications Unit, Post Office Private Bag no. 1, Claremont, WA 6910, Perth, Australia. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.