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Understanding Female Offenders: Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior, Assessment, and Treatment

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Abstract

Between 1980 and 2018, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 750%, rising from a total of 26,378 to 225,345. Managing and treating these women can be challenging. Understanding Female Offenders: Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior, Assessment, and Treatment provides a guide for meeting these challenges. In addition to providing a sound conceptualization for both psychopathic and non-psychopathic women, the text includes suggestions for interviewing, assessing, managing, and treating them. Throughout this text, clinical caveats and case examples enliven the application of research to practice. Consistent with the scientist-practitioner model, clinical experience and research guide the authors’ formulations which are translated for direct application. Additionally, guidelines are provided for identifying bias and interpreting the female offender literature. This is the first in-depth resource of its kind.
Understanding
Female Offenders
Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior,
Assessment, & Treatment
Jason M. Smith • Carl B. Gacono • Ted B. Cunliffe
Understanding Female Offenders
Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior, Assessment, & Treatment
Jason M. Smith, PsyD, ABPP, Carl B. Gacono, PhD, ABAP, and Ted B. Cunliffe, PhD
Between 1980 and 2018, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 750%, rising from a total of
26,378 to 225,345. Managing and treating these women can be challenging. Understanding Female Offenders:
Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior, Assessment, & Treatment provides a guide for meeting these challenges.
In addition to providing a sound conceptualization for both psychopathic and non-psychopathic women, the
text includes suggestions for interviewing, assessing, managing, and treating them. Throughout this text,
clinical caveats and case examples enliven the application of research to practice. Consistent with the scientist-
practitioner model, clinical experience and research guide the authors’ formulations which are translated for
direct application. Additionally, guidelines are provided for identifying bias and interpreting the female offender
literature. This is the first in-depth resource of its kind.
Key Features
Describes the differences between ASPD and psychopathic women and men
Presents PCL-R, Rorschach, and PAI data on female offenders, female psychopaths, and female sex offenders
Reviews the current literature on female psychopathy studies
Provides in-depth female offender case studies
Discusses common biases in diagnosing, treating, and assessing in forensic settings with female offenders
“This book addresses a long standing and serious gap in the literature, including two extremely powerful and
attractive assessment tools, together into one volume. Overall, the coverage and integration of the literature on
psychopathy, the PCL-R, PAI and Rorschach makes the addition of Understanding Female Offenders to one’s
library quite worthwhile.”
-- Marvin W. Acklin, PhD, ABPP, ABFP, ABAP, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist
Understanding Female Offenders shows a masterful and up-to-date review of the literature. Historical review
and contextualization of concepts and assessment instruments are extremely helpful and set the stage for the
strong analysis that follows. The authors are leaders in the field of psychological assessment, and their extensive
knowledge is reflected in the care and detail of the conceptual theories and analysis developed in this book and
its foundational research.”
-- Giselle Hass, PsyD, ABAP, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist.
“Understanding Female Offenders: Psychopathy, Criminal Behavior, Assessment, & Treatment”,
makes an important contribution to the field. Clinicians who work with female psychopaths will want to consult
this text for practical advice about bias and about managing the emotional demands of this work. The case studies
offer vivid illustrations that are supported by extensive tables of test data which can readily be applied.”
-- Kari Carstairs, PsyD, ABAP, Clinical Psychologist
Understanding Female Offenders
Smith
Gacono
Cunliffe
9780128 233726
ISBN 978-0-12-823372-6
... Institutional misconduct is rarely studied with incarcerated women (Steiner & Wooldredge, 2014). Like most prisoner research, research with males is generalized to females disregarding the many differences between the genders and constituents a form of bias Reidy et al., 2017;Smith et al., 2021). Institutional misconduct research is no exception and therefore, there is a need for a better understanding of why misconduct in these women occurs. ...
... Studies with incarcerated women that explored the relationship between personality vulnerabilities and misbehavior indicated that women adjust better to prison than men and engage in less violence and other serious infractions (Celinska & Sung, 2014;Chen et al., 2014;Craddock, 1996;Harer & Langan, 2001;Jiang & Winfree, 2006;McClellan, 1994;Smith et al., 2021;Thompson & Loper, 2005;Warren et al., 2004). Women were also less likely to lose privileges (telephone, email, visitation, etc.) and be remanded to confinement units (put in segregation) than incarcerated men . ...
... Institutional misconduct helps prison administrators make decisions about classification, programming, and visitation (Leigey, 2019). Mostly deemphasized within institutional settings, psychological assessment aids in assessing and understanding men and women at risk for institutional misconduct (Baity & Hilsenroth, 2002;Buffington-Vollum et al., 2002;Edens et al., 2002;Gacono, 2016;Hare et al., 2020;Smith et al., 2021). Assessment data can both inform and expand clinical judgment providing a clear depiction of how the personality of the prisoner provides a blueprint for their future behavior (Gacono, 2016;Meyer et al., 2001). ...
Article
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Managing the incarcerated population is the primary task within correctional settings. Using psychological assessment to predict institutional behavior, the psychologist has a unique set of skills essential to the management of prisoners. PCL-R, PAI, and Rorschach data were compared with institutional infractions (total, physical, verbal, non-aggressive) among 126 incarcerated women. Multiple binary logistic regression analyses were used which found significant correlations between PCL-R total score, PAI scales (BOR, ANT, VPI), and Rorschach variables (ROD, EGOI, TCI, AgPot, AgPast, SumV, SumC’, MOR) with total, verbal, physical, and nonviolent incident reports. Each of these measures adds incrementally to the assessment and understanding of institutional misbehavior for incarcerated women. Clinical implications of the findings were presented.
... Assessing the current psychopathy literature makes one realize that a plethora of largely unchallenged biases, unsound methodology, and faulty conclusions predominate the landscape Gacono, 2016;Smith et al., 2021). These poorly designed studies become part of meta-analytic ones, which add conflicting findings to an already confusing literature (Cunliffe et al., 2012;Gacono, 2019;Smith, Gacono, Fontan, et al., 2018. ...
... A related concern involves lowering PCL-R cutoff scores to form a psychopathic group (a common practice in female offender studies; Cunliffe et al., 2016;Gacono & Gacono, 2006;Smith et al., 2021). Researchers frequently do this because their samples do not contain enough actual psychopaths (PCL-R ≥ 30). ...
... While male and female psychopaths evidence increased amounts of behavioral problems when compared to non-psychopaths, the extant research indicates that they are not dynamically equivalent (Cunliffe & Gacono, 2005;Forouzan & Cooke, 2005;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Pauli et al., 2018;Smith et al., , 2019Smith et al., , 2020aSmith et al., , 2021. In line with David Shapiro's (1965) personality styles, the personality functioning of the psychopathic male is best understood as a form of pathological narcissism (malignant narcissism; Gacono & Meloy, Commentary: A Psychodynamic Model of Psychopathy, Using Gullhaugen et al. (2021) Kernberg, 1967Kernberg, , 1975Kernberg, , 1976Meloy, 1988); while the psychopathic female displays a form of malignant hysteria 2 (Cunliffe et al., 2016;Forouzan & Cooke, 2005;Gacono, 2016;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Smith et al., 2014. ...
Article
Full-text available
Erratum--please note on page 116, the total score of 34 should be 37. Also, the text should read "might receive" instead of receive, accounting for the potential individual items scoring.
... These poorly designed studies become part of meta-analytic ones, which add conflicting findings to an already confusing literature (Cunliffe et al., 2012;Gacono, 2019;Smith, Gacono, Fontan, et al., 2018. Taken together, disparate findings-artifacts of poor research-create "apparent controversies," which lead to "pseudo-debates," and add to the "armchair quality" of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 2003) literature (Gacono, 2016(Gacono, , 2019(Gacono, , 2021Hare, 1998). This pattern provides another level of difficulty for practicing clinicians while, at the same time, providing ample data for those who are critical of psychological assessment (Fowler et al., 2009;Lilienfeld, 1994Lilienfeld, , 2018Wood et al., 2000Wood et al., , 2001Wood et al., , 2003Wood et al., , 2010. ...
... These "straw person" controversies, laden with logical fallacy and bias , provide fuel to critics that attack psychology, not only as a "soft" science but also as having little to offer on substantive issues. These trends make psychologists look unprofessional and even ridiculous (Gacono, 2021). ...
... In this article, we use the Gullhaugen et al. (2021) Gacono 2016Gacono , 2021Gacono & Gacono, 2006;Gacono et al., 2001). We also provide a theoretical and empirically derived psychodynamic model for understanding psychopathic men and women . ...
Article
Full-text available
Recently in Psychoanalytic Psychology, Gullhaugen et al. (2021) proposed a Dynamic Model of Psychopathy (DMP) to better understand psychopathic traits. Several issues with the authors' methodology, including the use of the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV) as an independent measure and a small sample size (N = 16) relative to their conceptual approach and the number of statistical analyses conducted, limit the conclusions that can be drawn from their data. Additionally, the authors discuss their findings as if the data from this study with all males could apply to women. In this article, we use the methodological issues presented in the Gullhaugen study to discuss problems with the broader psychopathy literature. We also provide a psychodynamic model of psychopathy consistent with theory and empirical data.
... The PCL-R has a two-factor, fourfacet structure: the callous, selfish, remorseless use of others and a chronically unstable and antisocial lifestyle factors, and the Interpersonal, Affective, Impulsive Lifestyle, and Antisocial Behavior facets (Hare, 2003). A total PCL-R score of 30 or higher is needed for categorical designations of psychopathy for both males and females to increase the likelihood that psychopaths are present in the sample (Cunliffe et al., 2016;Gacono, 2016;Gacono & Smith, 2021;Hare, 2003;Neumann et al., 2016;Smith et al., 2021b). ...
... Research indicates that male and female psychopathic structures are behaviorally similar but not equivalent (Beryl et al., 2014;Cunliffe & Gacono, 2005;de Vogel & Lancel, 2016;Dolan & Völlm, 2009;Forouzan & Cooke, 2005;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Pauli et al., 2018;Smith et al., 2018Smith et al., , 2019Smith et al., , 2020aSmith et al., , 2021aSmith et al., , 2021bVerona & Vitale, 2018). The personality functioning of the psychopathic male is best understood as a form of pathological narcissism (Kernberg, 1967(Kernberg, , 1975(Kernberg, , 1976Gacono & Meloy, 1994, Meloy, 1988, while the psychopathic female displays a form of malignant hysteria 1 (Cale & Lilienfeld, 2002;Cunliffe et al., 2016;Forouzan & Cooke, 2005;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Kreis & Cooke, 2011;Smith et al., 2014Smith et al., , 2018. ...
... Psychopathic women lack men's grandiose self-structure and are not immune from experiencing themselves as damaged. They need others (e.g., pseudo-dependency, maladaptive neediness) to bolster selfesteem and obtain some sense of stability with their troubling affect (pseudo-emotionality; Cunliffe & Gacono, 2005;Forouzan & Cooke, 2005;Kreis & Cooke, 2011, 2012Smith et al., 2021b;Verona & Vitale, 2018). ...
Article
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The psychopathic personality is organized at a borderline level of personality. Additionally, while male psychopaths are considered to manifest pathological narcissism, female psychopaths are best understood in terms of malignant hysteria. Using Kernberg's three components of borderline personality functioning (identity diffusion, reliance on primitive defenses, and transient lapses in reality testing),
... The Rorschach is a perceptual-associativejudgmental task that partially bypasses volitional controls, yielding both structural and psychodynamic data, some of which is projected material (Bornstein &Masling, 2005;Exner, 2003). Rorschach data adds incrementally to, and provides data well beyond, what can be obtained with self-report measures (Bornstein &Masling, 2005;Gacono & Evans, 2008;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Smith, Gacono, & Cunliffe, 2021). The Comprehensive System (CS) has an extensive research base, more than adequate normative, clinical, and forensic comparative data i (Exner, 2001(Exner, , 2003(Exner, , 2007Gacono & Evans, 2008;Smith et al., 2021), and has been widely used in clinical and forensic practice, meeting the standards of admissibility and acceptance in court McCann & Evans, 2008;Piotrowski, 1996aPiotrowski, , 1996bPiotrowski, , 2007Piotrowski, , 2017. ...
... Rorschach data adds incrementally to, and provides data well beyond, what can be obtained with self-report measures (Bornstein &Masling, 2005;Gacono & Evans, 2008;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Smith, Gacono, & Cunliffe, 2021). The Comprehensive System (CS) has an extensive research base, more than adequate normative, clinical, and forensic comparative data i (Exner, 2001(Exner, , 2003(Exner, , 2007Gacono & Evans, 2008;Smith et al., 2021), and has been widely used in clinical and forensic practice, meeting the standards of admissibility and acceptance in court McCann & Evans, 2008;Piotrowski, 1996aPiotrowski, , 1996bPiotrowski, , 2007Piotrowski, , 2017. ...
... The supplemental systems offered in this article have also been found to be useful related to their validity findings but would benefit from additional comparative group data. Dr. Smith and I are attempting to create forensic comparative samples of these scores by coding them in the over 2000 forensic protocols from our archives (Gacono & Evans, 2008;Smith, Gacono, & Cunliffe, 2021). We welcome any collaborators. ...
Article
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This article is part I of a two part series. It discusses the interpretative importance of anchoring Rorschach data within a larger body of comparative (both nonpatient and clinical) group data.
... The meaning from the many years of study (with links to theory) that went into developing the CS administration procedures seems to have been ignored. This is just one of the common fallacies (bias) in psychology research that stems from a failure to understand fully, or even ignoring, the history of what precedes one's current "discoveries" (see Chapter 2 in Smith, Gacono, & Cunliffe, 2021). ...
... Of note, the CS Human Experience score (Hx) was removed from R-PAS based on a statistical chopping block. We found this to be an important indicator of primitive hysteria in psychopathy (female offenders M = 0.84, 35%; female psychopaths M = 1.03, 38%; male offenders M = 0.15; 11%; male psychopaths M = 0.18, 12%, Chapter 3 in Smith et al., 2021). ...
... Applying statistics without putting them into context is never justified (i.e., Simpson paradox). It may lead to large effect sizes and statistical significance, but the results can still be meaningless (lacking in practical significance and logical soundness; see Chapter 2 in Smith et al., 2021;Smith et al., 2020). This over-evaluation of statistical prowess at the expense of conceptual understanding has resulted in the tail (statistics) wagging the dog (sound conceptual driven methodology; Gacono 2019). ...
Article
Full-text available
It is essential to understand that CS validity research does not translated directly to the R-PAS. In this article we dicuss essential issues to consider prior to using the R-PAS in an applied context.
... While both male and female psychopaths are organized at a borderline or psychotic level and share a similar cognitive style, their predominant personality style differs (Gacono & Meloy, 1004;Smith et al., 2021). Males can be conceptualized as manifesting grandiosity and a malignant form of narcissism (Gacono & Meloy, 1994). ...
... Males can be conceptualized as manifesting grandiosity and a malignant form of narcissism (Gacono & Meloy, 1994). By contrast females exhibit a hysterical style with an underlying paranoid structure (Cunliffe & Gacono, 2005;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Smith et al., 2021). Female psychopathy has been linked to Histrionic and Borderline Personality Disorders while PCL-R Factor 1 and 2 scores have been correlated with BPD in women (Conn et al., 2010;Cunliffe & Gacono, 2005;Hare, 2003;Hicks et al., 2010;Salekin et al., 1997;Smith et al., 2021). ...
... By contrast females exhibit a hysterical style with an underlying paranoid structure (Cunliffe & Gacono, 2005;Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Smith et al., 2021). Female psychopathy has been linked to Histrionic and Borderline Personality Disorders while PCL-R Factor 1 and 2 scores have been correlated with BPD in women (Conn et al., 2010;Cunliffe & Gacono, 2005;Hare, 2003;Hicks et al., 2010;Salekin et al., 1997;Smith et al., 2021). The expression of the histrionic personality has been linked to the expression of antisocial behavior and somatization in women (Gacono & Meloy, 1994;Lilienfeld et al., 1986). ...
Article
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The histories of incarcerated women exhibit a multitude of personality issues including psychopathy, trauma, and interpersonal dependency. Two studies were undertaken to better understand these issues with psychopathic (PCL-R ≥ 30; N = 115) and non-psychopathic (PCL-R ≤ 24; N = 53) women incarcerated for drug, theft, fraud, violence, and sex offenses. In the first study, trauma symptoms were compared on Rorschach variables, TSI-2, and PAI scales. The female psychopathic group experienced more problems related to intrusive experiences and dissociation (TSI-2, Rorschach). In the second study, interpersonal dependency was also examined with the PAI, TSI-2, and Rorschach. The psychopathic females had higher rates of interpersonal dependency (PAI, Rorschach). Based on our findings we discuss the relationship between trauma and interpersonal dependency and the meaning of these testing variables and concepts within the personality functioning of these antisocial women.
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