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This study had three purposes: to explore psychological characteristics of animal abusers (criminal thinking styles, empathy, and personality traits), to replicate previously reported results (past illegal actions, bullying behavior), and to examine potential gender differences. The self-reported animal abuser group was 29 college students who reported two or more incidents of animal abuse; controls were 29 college students matched on age and gender. Participants completed self-report measures of criminal thinking, illegal behaviors, bullying, empathy, and the five-factor personality traits. Results indicated animal abusers had more previous criminal behaviors, were more likely to bully, and had the highest scores on the power orientation criminal thinking scale. Abuser by gender interactions were detected; female animal abusers scored significantly higher on several measures of criminal thinking, were found to be more likely to bully, and exhibited lower scores on measures of perspective taking and empathy compared to female controls.
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Journal of Interpersonal
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0886260511423254
2012 27: 846 originally published online 16 October 2011J Interpers Violence
Rebecca L. Schwartz, William Fremouw, Allison Schenk and Laurie L. Ragatz
Psychological Profile of Male and Female Animal Abusers
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American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children
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Journal of Interpersonal Violence
27(5) 846 –861
© The Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
DOI: 10.1177/0886260511423254
wartz et al.Journal of Interpersonal Violence
© The Author(s) 2012
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1West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, USA
Corresponding Author:
Rebecca L. Schwartz, West Virginia University, Department of Psychology, 53 Campus Drive,
1124 Life Sciences Building, PO Box 6040, Morgantown, WV 26506-6040
Psychological Profile
of Male and Female
Animal Abusers
Rebecca L. Schwartz1, William Fremouw1,
Allison Schenk1, and Laurie L. Ragatz1
This study had three purposes: to explore psychological characteristics of
animal abusers (criminal thinking styles, empathy, and personality traits), to
replicate previously reported results (past illegal actions, bullying behavior),
and to examine potential gender differences. The self-reported animal abuser
group was 29 college students who reported two or more incidents of ani-
mal abuse; controls were 29 college students matched on age and gender.
Participants completed self-report measures of criminal thinking, illegal be-
haviors, bullying, empathy, and the five-factor personality traits. Results indi-
cated animal abusers had more previous criminal behaviors, were more likely
to bully, and had the highest scores on the power orientation criminal think-
ing scale. Abuser by gender interactions were detected; female animal abus-
ers scored significantly higher on several measures of criminal thinking, were
found to be more likely to bully, and exhibited lower scores on measures of
perspective taking and empathy compared to female controls.
animal abuse, criminal thinking, empathy, bullying
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Schwartz et al. 847
Approximately 10% of male and 9% of female adolescents have admitted to
animal cruelty when completing an anonymous survey (Ascione, 2001). This
cruelty toward animals often occurs along with other antisocial behaviors
such as assaults or gang violence (Henry, 2004). Over 40 years ago, Margaret
Mead (1964) suggested that animal cruelty in childhood may predict future
violent behavior in interpersonal relationships. In fact, many serial killers
have committed animal abuse in childhood. This connection between serial
killers and childhood animal cruelty has facilitated interest in examining the
association between animal cruelty and later interpersonal violence (Miller,
2001; Wright & Hensley, 2003).
Animal Abuse and Interpersonal Violence
Associations have been found between animal abuse and criminal behavior
such as assault, rape, and murder (Hensley & Tallichet, 2008). Arluke, Levin,
Luke, and Ascione (1999) reported that 70% of male individuals in the com-
munity who have abused animals had one or more criminal offenses.
Individuals who abused animals were 5.3 times more likely to have a violent
criminal record than controls based on this community sample. Studies with
male inmate populations have strengthened the prediction of animal abuse
leading to future interpersonal violent behavior. For example, Hensley and
Tallichet (2009) examined the relation between type of animal abuse (e.g.,
drowning, kicking, burning) and interpersonal violent crime (e.g., rape,
assault, murder) history among a sample of 261 male inmates. A regression
analysis demonstrated that drowning animals and having sex with animals
were the best predictors of later interpersonally violent behavior as reported
by the inmates on self-report measures.
Merz-Perez, Heide, and Silverman (2001) were interested in extending the
connection between animal cruelty and interpersonal violence. Information
regarding the variables of interest was obtained through interviews of 45 vio-
lent and 45 nonviolent inmates, (categories were determined by criminal
records). Results from these interviews indicated criminals with a violent
record were more likely to have committed acts of animal cruelty for all ani-
mal types (e.g., pets, wild animals) as children. The link between interper-
sonal violence and childhood acts of animal cruelty was supported by this
Further strengthening the relationship between frequencies of childhood
acts of animal cruelty and later interpersonal violence, Tallichet and Hensley
(2004) and Hensley, Tallichet, and Dutkiewicz (2009) conducted studies
aimed at examining this phenomenon. In 2004, Tallichet and Hensley
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848 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27(5)
collected data from 261 inmates in medium and maximum security prisons.
Results from this study indicated that participants were more likely to have
engaged in recurrent acts of interpersonal violence if they had a higher num-
ber of siblings or if they had reported engaging in repeated acts of animal
abuse. Hensley et al. (2009) collected data from 180 medium and maximum
security prisoners; results indicated that recurrent participation in animal
abuse in childhood was predictive of later repeated acts of interpersonal
Animal Abuse and Criminal Thinking
Interpersonal violence and animal abuse may also be related to criminal
thinking. Walters (2006, p. 88) defined criminal thinking as “thought content
and process conducive to the initiation and maintenance of habitual law-
breaking behavior.” Criminal thinking has been associated with both juvenile
and adult antisocial behavior (Simourd & Andrews, 1994). Elevated criminal
thinking patterns have been found to be associated with violent criminal
activity in college students. Research on male and female college students
has looked at levels of criminal thinking and self-reported illegal behavior. It
was found that males who have engaged in interpersonally violent criminal
behavior had significantly higher levels of criminal thinking. It has also been
found that females who had committed property and interpersonally violent
crimes were higher on levels of criminal thinking. (McCoy et al., 2006).
Animal Abuse and Personality Traits
Given that animal abusers show a number of important differences when
compared to controls, it is logical to examine whether animal abusers differ
from controls in major personality traits. Individuals high on psychopathic
traits score higher on measures of callousness and narcissism, experience a
lack of remorse, and engage in more frequent antisocial and impulsive behavior
(e.g., animal abuse; Habel, Kühn, Salloum, Devos, & Schneider, 2002).
Patrick (2006) found that on the five-factor personality measure, individuals
high in callousness and antisociality tend to score high on the Extraversion scale
(outgoing and energetic) and on the Neuroticism scale (anger/hostility and impul-
sivity). It was further determined that psychopaths tended to score low on
Agreeableness (friendly and empathic), certain facets of Conscientiousness
(dutifulness and deliberation), and Neuroticism (anxiety and depression). To
date, there has been no research on the personality traits in animal abusers.
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Schwartz et al. 849
Animal Abuse and Bullying
It is intuitive that bullying is one form of interpersonal violence that has a
relationship with animal cruelty. Henry and Sanders (2007) surveyed 185
college males regarding their experiences with bullying and being a victim
of bullying, their attitudes toward animals, and their participation in animal
abuse. Results indicated that participants who were involved in victimization
and perpetration of physical bullying were significantly more likely to
engage in repeat animal abuse. Furthermore, it was also found that past
observations of animal cruelty at a young age significantly increased partici-
pation rates in later animal abuse. Victimization and perpetration of bullying
was also related to lower levels of sensitivity toward animals, which may
indicate generally lower levels of empathy toward animals.
Baldry (2005) conducted research on preadolescents who were experienc-
ing domestic abuse and who were victims of bullying. Males and females
between the ages of 9 and12 years were recruited from an Italian community
and were administered questionnaires regarding victimization of domestic
abuse, bullying, and participation in animal abuse. Children who experienced
or witnessed domestic violence were found to be three times more likely to
participate in animal abuse compared with participants who had not wit-
nessed or experienced domestic violence. Results from a linear regression
indicated that bullying perpetrated by peers was the strongest predictor of
participation in animal abuse for males. For females, witnessing animal abuse
perpetrated by another individual was the strongest predictor of participation
in animal abuse. Animal abuse was found to be associated with bully victim-
ization in boys but not in girls. This was suggested to be related to boys’ more
frequent participation in bullying than girls, and perhaps also that boys may
“[externalize] pain and suffering onto more vulnerable others” (p. 107) more
regularly than girls.
Current Study
This study had three purposes. First, it was hypothesized that animal abusers
would be more likely to have higher levels of criminal thinking. Second, it
was predicted animal abusers would score lower in empathy and would differ
in their personality traits. Animal abusers were hypothesized to engage in
more severe categories of illegal behavior and more total criminal behavior.
Animal abusers were also hypothesized to be the perpetrators of bullying.
The third purpose was to explore potential differences in male and female
animal abusers. Research has not observed the characteristics of college
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850 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27(5)
students who were animal abusers nor has it examined characteristics of
female animal abusers. Henry (2004) collected information regarding male
and female animal abusers from a college population, but obtained a sample
of three females admitting to engaging in animal abuse and was unable to run
analyses on this data.
A sample of 1,434 undergraduates enrolled in a large Mid-Atlantic university
took part in this online study. Participants were eliminated from analyses if
they completed the entire online study in 20 min or less. Following this pro-
cedure, 1,175 participants (886 female, 289 male) were retained.
Twenty-nine participants were selected for the self-reported animal abuser
group (animal abusers), female n = 12 (1.4% of all female participants), male
n = 17 (6% of male participants), based on whether they answered yes to
either the question, “Have YOU ever intentionally hurt an animal or pet
(exclude hunting, killing for mercy, protection, and farm animals intended for
slaughter)?” or “Have YOU ever made animals fight?” Similar to Henry and
Sanders (2007), participants had to endorse abusing animals at least two or
more times. Control participants (n = 29) did not endorse abuse items. They
were matched to abuser sample on gender and age.
Demographic questionnaire. The demographic questionnaire was utilized to
assess age, gender, class rank, ethnicity, marital status, and family income.
Boat Inventory on Animal-Related Experiences-Revised (Boat Inventory). The
Boat Inventory (Boat, 2002, as cited in Flynn, 1999) is a 63-item measure of
the experiences with animals including pets and wild animals. Questions
assessed pet ownership, pet loss, and cruelty or killing of animals (the inten-
tional harming of animals, administration of alcohol or other substances to
animals, and forcing animals to fight). The Boat Inventory was modified
from its original version to include questions specifying the number of times
the participants engaged in animal abuse: “How many times have you hurt an
animal (or group of animals)?”
Texas Christian University Criminal Thinking Scales (TCU). The TCU (Knight,
Garner, Simpson, Morey, & Flynn, 2006) is a 36-item self-report question-
naire assessing maladaptive thinking related to criminal behavior. This scale
is widely used in the correctional system and in the community to assess
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Schwartz et al. 851
offender profiles as well as offender programs. Internal consistency on this
scale has been found to be between .68 and .81; test-retest reliability has been
found to be between .66 and .84. The TCU yields seven scores including Total
Criminal Thinking (calculated by summing the six scales), and six thinking
style subscales. Scoring high on any of these scales is indicative of greater
propensity to use that particular criminal thinking style (Knight et al., 2006).
Illegal Behaviors Checklist (IBC). The IBC (McCoy et al., 2006) is a self-
report instrument to measure the number and type of illegal behaviors an
individual has committed. The IBC is composed of 22 yes-no items and iden-
tifies four categories of illegal behaviors that are hierarchically ordered as
follows: violent crimes against others (“attacked someone with the intention
of seriously hurting him or her”), property crimes (“deliberately used credit
cards and/or checks illegally”), drug crimes (“sold marijuana”), and status
offenses (“lied about your age to buy cigarettes or alcohol”). Thus, partici-
pants are classified into five categories of illegal behaviors: violent, property,
drug, status, and no illegal behavior. Total number of crimes is also calculated
by adding the number of items endorsed across these four categories.
The Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. The Revised Olweus Bully/
Victim Questionnaire (Olweus, 1996) consists of 12 questions that measured
an individual’s experience with different forms of being bullied and bullying.
The same behaviors assessed on victim questions were assessed on the bully
questions (i.e., “How often were YOU BULLIED during elementary school”
and then “How often did YOU TAKE PART IN BULLYING another student
in elementary school”). For both the victim and bullying questions, respon-
dents were asked to consider their experiences “during the last 2 years of high
school and up until starting college.” Responses for both the victim and bully
scales were measured on a 5-point scale (1 = I wasn’t bullied during my last
2 years of high school, 2 = It has only happened once or twice, 3 = 2 or 3
times a month, 4 = About once a week, 5 = Several times a week). Using this
measure, respondents were classified in the victim, bully, bully victim, or no
bully category for this study.
The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI). The IRI (Davis, 1983) is a 28-item
measure used to assess empathy and interpersonal skills. Response options
are measured on a 5-point Likert-type scale (from 1 = Does not describe me
well to 5 = Describes me very well) for all scale items. Test-retest reliability
for the IRI was from .61 to .81 and internal reliability for this measure fell
between .70 and .78 (Davis, 1980). The IRI contains the following four sub-
scales: Perspective Taking (putting oneself in the shoes of another), Fantasy
(daydreaming), Empathic Concern (feeling protective of others in distress),
and Personal Distress (feeling helpless when emotional).
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852 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27(5)
Five Factor Model Rating Form (FFMRF). The FFMRF (Samuel & Widiger,
2004) measures the “Big Five” personality traits (Openness, Conscientious-
ness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) using 30 traits on which
participants rate their perceptions of the traits on a 5-point scale (1 = extremely
low, 2 = low, 3 = neither high nor low, 4 = high, 5 = extremely high). This
yields five total scores, including Neuroticism (sensitive, anxious), Extraver-
sion (outgoing, gregarious), Openness (creative, inquisitive), Agreeableness
(friendly, empathic), and Conscientiousness (efficient, organized). Higher
scores indicate respondents are higher on the trait. The internal validity of the
FFMRF is comparable to the NEO Personality Inventory (Costa & McCrae,
1992), with convergent correlations ranging from .38 to .78 (Mullins-Sweatt,
Jamerson, Samuel, Olson, & Widiger, 2006; Samuel & Widiger, 2004).
The University’s Institutional Review Board approved this study. All study
participants completed the study via SONA, a university-supported research
web site. Participants first read the informed consent; then, by selecting the
“I agree” button, were directed to the anonymous survey. Next, participants
completed questionnaires assessing demographic information, animal abuse
history, bullying, criminal thinking, empathy, and personality in counterbal-
anced order. Participants were provided with a debriefing. The majority of
students who participated received extra credit in their psychology courses
for participation.
Participant age did not significantly differ for abusers (M = 20.00, SD = 2.4)
years, and controls (M = 19.97, SD = 2.2). The groups did not differ signifi-
cantly by class rank, as animal abusers (62.1% Freshman or Sophomore)
were similar to controls (69.1% Freshman or Sophomore). Animal abusers
(93.2% single) were not different from controls (100.0% single) for marital
status, either. Participants in the abuser and control groups were mostly of
European American descent (n = 27, 93.2% and n = 28, 96.6%, respectively).
Criminal Thinking and Empathy
A series of 2 (abuse group: abuser vs. control) × 2 (gender: male vs. female)
ANOVAs were conducted on the TCU dependent variables (see Table 1).
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Schwartz et al. 853
A significant group effect demonstrated that animal abusers (M = 31.65,
SD = 6.93) had higher scores on the Power Orientation scale compared to
controls (M = 26.96, SD = 5.31), F(1, 57) = 5.35, p < .05, partial η2 = .09.
No other significant findings were demonstrated.
Several significant main effects were found for gender, F(1, 57) = 10.64,
p < .01, partial η2 = .17. Males (M = 159.70, SD = 31.79) had significantly
higher scores on the TCU CTS Total Criminal Thinking scale compared to
female participants (M = 143.48, SD = 30.31). There was also an abuser
group by gender interaction, F(1, 57) = 5.59, p < .05, partial η2 = .09. Female
animal abusers were found to have higher TCU CTS total scores compared
with female controls, and scored similarly to male abusers and male controls
(see Figure 1). Additional significant interactions existed for TCU CTS sub-
scales Justification, F(1, 57) = 4.94, p < .05, (partial η2 = .08) and Power
Orientation, F(1, 57) = 7.18, p < .01, (partial η2 = .18).
A series of 2 (abuse group: abuser vs. control) × 2 (gender: male vs.
female) ANOVAs were conducted with the IRI scales (i.e., Perspective
Taking, Fantasy, Empathic Concern, and Personal Distress) as the dependent
measures. There were no significant group effects while significant main
Figure 1. Total criminal thinking of animal abusers and control participants by gender
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854 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27(5)
effects for gender were demonstrated on the Fantasy, F(1, 57) = 6.85, p = .01,
partial η2 = .11, Empathy, F(1, 57) = 14.89, p < .01, partial η2 = .22, and
Personal Distress, F(1, 57) = 11.70, p < .01, partial η2 = .10 scales, with
females scoring higher than males on each dependent measure. Significant
gender by abuse group interactions were demonstrated for the Perspective
Taking, F(1, 57) = 4.96, p < .05, partial η2 = .08, and Empathy, F(1, 57) = 5.81,
p < .05, partial η2 = .10 scales.
Table 1. Criminal Thinking, Empathy, Personality Traits, and Criminal Activity of
Animal Abusers and Control Participants by Gender
Controls Abusers
(n = 12)
(n = 17)
(n = 12)
(n = 17)
Total 125.14 26.74 161.08 32.91 161.81 33.88 158.31 30.67
Entitlement 18.93 4.88 24.37 7.88 24.88 7.88 23.87 8.60
Justification 17.64 5.48 23.63 9.88 25.97 7.47 22.16 8.62
Power orientation 23.57 5.63 30.34 4.99 32.62 7.70 30.67 6.17
Cold heartedness 20.00 6.12 28.53 8.25 21.67 6.60 26.92 9.38
Crim. rat. 26.25 5.74 29.51 6.00 30.97 6.83 31.18 7.97
Pers. irrespons. 18.75 5.23 24.71 8.17 25.69 10.43 23.53 7.73
IRI Empathy 29.50 3.85 22.94 3.25 26.75 4.67 25.34 4.02
IRI Fantasy 24.75 6.72 21.59 3.62 26.67 3.92 23.35 4.24
IRI Persp. taking 25.08 4.03 21.82 3.15 22.58 3.87 23.88 4.28
IRI Pers. distress 24.00 3.84 22.12 2.06 25.58 2.94 21.76 3.56
Five-factor personality
Neuroticism 15.25 3.84 16.35 2.71 19.75 4.69 14.94 4.28
Extraversion 22.50 3.15 22.65 3.22 20.58 5.55 22.06 2.57
Openness 20.75 3.14 21.29 2.73 20.58 3.45 21.94 3.44
Agreeableness 22.50 4.06 20.47 2.29 20.75 4.07 20.24 3.44
Conscientiousness 24.08 3.92 22.06 3.61 21.25 4.61 21.12 2.91
Total crimes 2.33 2.35 2.68 2.18 4.67 4.83 5.86 4.57
Note: Crim. rat. = Criminal rationalization; Personal irresp. = Personal irresponsibility; Persp.
taking = Perspective taking; Pers. distress = Personal distress. TCU = Texas Christian University
Criminal Thinking Scales; IRI = Interpersonal Reactivity Index.
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Schwartz et al. 855
Five-Factor Measure of Personality
and Criminal Behavior
We explored five-factor personality scores between male and female animal
abusers compared to controls. A series of 2 (abuse group: abuser vs. control)
× 2 (gender: male vs. female) ANOVAs were conducted with the five-factor
personality scales (i.e., Extroversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism,
Conscientiousness, and Openness) as the dependent measures. There were
no significant main effects for abuser group or gender. There was a signifi-
cant interaction effect for abuser group by gender on the Neuroticism scale,
F(1, 57) = 8.14, p < .01, partial η2 = .13, Female abusers (M = 19.75, SD =
4.69) scored significantly higher on the Neuroticism scale compared to
female controls (M = 15.25, SD = 3.84), male abusers (M = 14.941, SD =
4.28), and male controls (M = 16.535, SD = 2.71). No other significant inter-
actions were found (see Table 1).
A one-way ANOVA (abuse group: animal abusers vs. controls) was per-
formed on Total Crimes as measured by the IBC as the dependent variable.
Results demonstrated a significant main effect, F(1, 57) = 8.82, p < .01, partial
η2 = .14. Animal abusers (M = 5.26, SD = 4.70) endorsed participating in signifi-
cantly more criminal actions than controls (M = 2.51, SD = 2.27). A 2 (abuse
group: abuser vs. control) × 2 (gender: male vs. female) ANOVA was used to
compare Total Crimes, and there was not a significant difference between
groups, F(1, 57) = 0.19, p = .67, partial η2 < .001.
A chi-square test was conducted to determine whether bullying status (i.e.,
bully, bully-victim, victim, uninvolved) differed by group (animal abusers or
controls). There was a significant bullying by group difference, χ2(3, n = 58)
= 14.09, p < .01, w = .20. That is, animal abusers (82.76%) were more often
classified as bullies and bully-victims compared to controls (37.93%). Also,
controls (62.06%) were more likely to be in the uninvolved and victims cat-
egory when compared to animal abusers (27.24%).
Bullying categories were examined for potential differences between animal
abusers compared to controls by gender. To evaluate this hypothesis, a chi-square
test was conducted to determine whether bullying behaviors varied by participant
gender and abuser status. Female animal abusers (83.33%) engaged in signifi-
cantly more experiences with bullying behaviors, χ2(3, n = 29) = 9.60, p = .02,
w = .28 than female controls (33.33%), but male animal abusers (82.36%) did not
differ from male controls (41.18%), χ2(3, n = 29) = 6.22, p = .10, w = 14 (see Table 2).
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856 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27(5)
The association between animal abuse and interpersonal violence, such as
gang violence, assault, rape, and even serial killing, has long been recog-
nized (Hensley & Tallichet, 2008; Hensley, Tallichet, & Dutkiewicz, 2010;
Mead, 1964; Wright & Hensley, 2003). The goal of this study was to explore
the characteristics of individuals who abuse animals. This is the first research
of college students and female animal abusers. Criminal thinking, empathy,
five factors of personality, criminal behaviors, and bullying were investi-
gated. In addition, gender differences between male and female animal abusers
were examined.
Results showed that college-age animal abusers were higher on the crimi-
nal thinking subscale of Power Orientation. This subscale measures a strong
need to be in control of different situations, indicating that those who abuse
animals have a strong need to be in control over other people and environ-
ments. Seminal research such as Hensley and Tallichet’s (2004) and Hensley
et al.’s (2009) work has shown individuals who abuse animals in childhood
and adulthood are more likely to engage in criminal behaviors. This study
further supported this association by revealing animal abusers also have the
thinking styles to support these illegal acts. In fact, the animal abusers
engaged in more illegal behaviors than controls, which supported earlier
research that animal abusers have a greater propensity for criminal involve-
ment (Arluke et al., 1999; Hensley & Tallichet, 2008).
Empathy and personality traits were examined to better understand the
characteristics of animal abusers. While it was expected that animal abusers
would be lower in empathy, no differences were found between the groups.
Table 2. Frequency of Bullying in Animal Abusers and Control Group by Gender
Bullying Victim Bully
Bully and
Victim χ2df p
Female: control 5 3 0 4
41.67% 25% 0% 33.33%
Female: animal abusers 0 2 4 6
0% 16.67% 33.33% 50% 9.60 3 .02
Male: control 4 6 3 4
23.53% 35.29% 17.65% 23.53%
Male: animal abusers 1 2 7 7
5.88% 11.76% 41.18% 41.18% 6.22 3 .10
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Schwartz et al. 857
Differences in personality traits were also expected between those who abuse
animals and those who did not, but none emerged. More research, perhaps
with different measures, is needed to better understand the relationship
between animal abusers and personality.
Henry and Sanders (2007) identified a relationship between animal cru-
elty and bullying behavior. This study also showed that animal abusers were
more likely to bully others or be a bully-victim. A bully-victim is considered
someone who has bullied others and has also been a victim of bullying them-
selves. Control participants were more likely to be victims of bullying or
uninvolved in bullying altogether. These findings strengthen and support the
association between animal abuse and bullying involvement.
Female animal abusers were significantly higher than female controls on
total criminal thinking scores, as well as on subscales of Justification, Power
Orientation, Perspective Taking, and Empathy. Female animal abusers more
closely resembled male animal abusers and control participants, scoring sig-
nificantly higher than female control participants on dimensions of criminal
thinking. Male animal abusers and control participants reported similarly
high levels of criminal thinking. Female animal abusers also differed in their
experiences with bullying, in that 83% were bullies or bully victims as com-
pared to 33% of female control participants. More research on gender differ-
ences among animal abusers is necessary to further understand this interesting
and surprising relationship. Based on an examination of written responses,
female and male animal abusers were similar in their form of violence and
types of animals abused.
Limitations and Future Directions
Conclusions from the data were limited due to the study’s predominately
White college sample. Recruiting participants from other settings, such as
the community, psychiatric hospitals, or prisons, would increase sample
generalizability and diversity. Also, perhaps due to a strong social desirabil-
ity effect, very few participants (29 of 1,175) admitted to abusing animals
despite research suggesting male base rates of approximately 10%, and
female base rates of 9% (Ascione, 2001).
Some results did not reveal differences between animal abusers and nona-
busers. This could be partly due to the survey being based on self-report. It
would be useful if some information could be corroborated with arrest and
conviction records for criminal involvement, or reports from other people
close to participants (caregivers, family, friends) to assess empathy or
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858 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 27(5)
This is the first study to investigate female animal abusers and interesting
differences emerged regarding criminal thinking style patterns, bullying
experiences, and the personality trait of neuroticism. Female animal abusers
were different from other females who did not abuse animals, but similar to
both male animal abusers and controls in criminal thinking styles. More
research is needed to better understand the differences between male and
female animal abusers.
Future research should examine other factors related to animal abuse.
Hensley and Tallichet (2008) reported differences based on motivation
between those who abuse for fun and those who abuse for another reason,
such as feelings of anger or boredom. More about the type of animal abused
should also be considered; Merz-Perez and Heide (2004) suggested age of the
abused animal and whether the animal was a stray or a pet could have affected
later violent behavior. These differences in motivation, age of abused animal,
and the relationship of the pet and abuser need to be further explored and
understood in larger samples of abusers.
It would also be beneficial to conduct a functional analysis of animal
abuse using individual interviews, such as done by Merz-Perez and Heide
(2004). Interviewing individuals who committed acts of animal abuse to
directly question various factors (e.g., motivations, current stressors, peer
involvement) would help guide and inform future research.
Implications of the Research
In general, the findings in this study indicated two contributing factors of a
broad psychological profile of animal abusers, and it also possibly eliminated
several constructs that are not as relevant. It appeared that criminal thinking,
bullying, and illegal behavior were the clearest markers of animal abuse,
while personality and empathy were not strongly related to tendencies
toward animal abuse. These results merit further research replication these
findings to thoroughly validate the proposed psychological profile of animal
The association between animal abuse and interpersonal violence has
been well established (e.g., Hensley & Tallichet, 2008; Mead, 1964; Merz-
Perez & Heide, 2004). Being aware of this association, individuals can be
directly identified and services can be implemented when instances of animal
abuse occur to prevent future interpersonal violence. By better understanding
the traits of animal abusers, programs can be tailored to fit these characteris-
tics by targeting higher criminal thinking patterns and bullying involvement.
The strong link between interpersonally violent behavior and animal abuse
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Schwartz et al. 859
suggests it would be beneficial to assess animal abuse as a risk marker.
Research findings from studies conducted by Tallichet and Hensley (2004)
and Hensley et al. (2009) have suggested that participation in acts of animal
abuse in childhood is a predictor of later interpersonally violent behavior.
Making animal abuse a clear warning sign could encourage reporting of this
behavior and may increase the number of persons caught engaging in inter-
personal abuse. This is largely of importance, as the only researched predic-
tors of interpersonal violence to date are recurrent acts of animal abuse
(Hensley et al., 2009). Furthermore, expounding on this link, researchers may
develop a model that may allow for more accurate prediction of later inter-
personal violence.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publica-
tion of this article.
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Rebecca L. Schwartz is currently a graduate student at West Virginia University. Her
research focuses primarily on alternative treatments for adjudicated populations. She
is also interested in trauma, interpersonal violence, and animal abuse, including the
influence of family and other factors influencing the development of psychopathy and
interpersonal deficits.
William Fremouw is a professor of clinical psychology at West Virginia University.
His research interests broadly include ethical and legal issues in psychology, assess-
ment of suicidal risk, and malingering.
Allison Schenk is a graduate student at West Virginia University. Her research inter-
ests include forensic psychology, cyberbullying, and the assessment of forensic mea-
sures and assessments among various types of criminal offenders.
Laurie L. Ragatz is currently at the United States Medical Center for Federal
Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, completing her predoctoral internship. She is
working toward completing her PhD in clinical psychology at West Virginia
University. Her research interests include white-collar crime, criminal thinking,
vicious dog ownership, and correlates of animal abuse.
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... Poor social skills have been found to put children at increased risk of being victimized (Fox & Boulton, 2005), and being the victim of school bullying may influence Machiavellian attitudes (Andreou, 2004). Additionally, animal abuse has been linked with negative social cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors concerning peer interactions like interpersonal hostility (Walters, 2014), the need for power (Oleson & Henry, 2009;Schwartz et al., 2012), narcissism (Kavanagh et al., 2013), and Machiavellianism (Kavanagh et al., 2013). ...
... Our study also revealed that witnessing cruelty toward animals predicted bullying (Hypothesis 2a), and that victimization is related to both animal abuse and witnessing cruelty towards animals as well (Hypothesis 2b). In accordance with other findings (Henry & Sanders, 2007;Schwartz et al., 2012), these results provide further empirical support for co-occurrence of aggressive behaviors toward animals and humans in school-age children. Therefore, they should be interpreted in the context of other violence or abuse -such as by the child against peers and animals, or by peers against the child and animals. ...
... On the other hand, empathy, self-control, and peer interactions failed to predict bullying in school-age children (Hypothesis 4). These findings suggest that some forms of violence may be not impulsive, as proposed by Schwartz et al. (2012), and may be acceptable in the peer group since they are not connected with negative interactions with peers. Future research should investigate motivators for children's engagement in bullying of peers in an effort to better understand whether affective or social variables are also involved. ...
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... El análisis de correlación de los puntajes de la ECA con las sub-escalas de la ECOM, fue consistente con lo reportado previamente por López-Tello & Moreno-Coutiño (2019) quienes encontraron una correlación moderada entre reactivos que evaluaban la compasión hacia los animales y hacia los humanos. Esta evidencia de validez de la ECA plantea la importancia de realizar investigaciones que permitan identificar si la compasión hacia los animales se relaciona con conductas especificas del ser humano como la conducta prosocial, preocupación por el otro, agresividad, conductas antisociales, etc., tal como ha sido explorado por diversos autores (Ascione & Shapiro, 2009;Henderson et al., 2011;McPhedran, 2009;Overton et al., 2012;Preylo & Arikawa, 2008;Schwartz et al., 2012;Signal & Taylor, 2007;Taylor & Signal, 2005). ...
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... It is widely believed that individuals who are highly empathetic towards humans will exhibit that same level of empathy towards animals (i.e., experience a vicarious emotional response to the emotions of animals ;Eisenberg, 1988;Paul, 2000). For instance, individuals who are violent towards animals and have low animal-centered empathy may display the same aggression and low empathy towards humans (Schwartz et al., 2012). Although human-and animal-centered empathy tap the same psychological mechanisms, they are independent and influenced by separate factors (Paul, 2000). ...
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... Research on victim blaming is closely linked to victims of sexual assault (Grubb & Harrower, 2008;Ryan, 2011) and has generally focused on attributions of blame to victims of rape (Grubb & Harrower, 2008;Grubb & Turner, 2012) and domestic violence (Edelen et al., 2009;Schwartz et al., 2012). Many studies on rape have shown that victims are often perceived to be at least partially responsible for their fate, regardless of whether any of the evidence justifies this viewpoint (for example, Grubb & Turner, 2012;Muehlenhard, 1988). ...
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... However, while being cruel to animals during childhood is a strong predictor of adult antisocial features, it does not necessarily predict later violence toward adults (e.g., Arluke, 2002). Some researchers have argued that other factors play a role in determining the prognostic value of childhood AC. Schwartz, Fremouw, Schenk, and Ragatz (2012) reported that AC during childhood was linked to greater criminal thinking, bullying, and power orientation, and perhaps these variables are more predictive of psychopathic traits in adulthood than AC. ...
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Tujuan penelitian ini adalah untuk mengidentifikasi atau menggambarkan suatu konsep atau untuk menjelaskan atau memprediksi suatu situasi atau solusi untuk suatu situasi yang mengindikasikan jenis studi yang akan dilakukan. Penelitian ini menggunakan metode penelitian hukum yuridis normatif yang dilakukan dengan cara meneliti berdasarkan bahan sekunder atau studi kepustakaan yang berkaitan dengan permasalahan yang akan dibahas, yaitu suatu pendekatan yang lebih menekankan pada aspek hukum positif yang menyangkut tentang tindak pidana yang dilakukan oleh anak. Berdasarkan hasil analisis didapatkan bahwa penyakit mental adalah salah satu dari banyak faktor kriminogen (faktor yang dapat menimbulkan suatu tindak kejahatan) yang mempengaruhi perilaku pelaku. Solusinya adalah kerja sama pemerintah dalam mendorong masyarakat, bersinergi mengimplementasikan Undang-Undang Nomor 35 Tahun 2014 tentang Perlindungan Anak serta bekerja sama dengan lembaga-lembaga dan pihak medis untuk melakukan sosialisasi dan edukasi inklusif secara terus-menerus mengenai gejala, identifikasi keluarga, dampak, dan perawatan delinkuensi anak, yang dalam hal ini sangat diperlukan sebagai upaya preventif mengurangi kasus tindak pidana yang dilakukan oleh anak.
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Personality psychologists from a variety of theoretical perspectives have recently concluded that personality traits can be summarized in terms of a 5-factor model. This article describes the NEO Personality Inventory (NEO–PI), a measure of these 5 factors and some of the traits that define them, and its use in clinical practice. Recent studies suggest that NEO–PI scales are reliable and valid in clinical samples as in normal samples. The use of self-report personality measures in clinical samples is discussed, and data from 117 "normal" adult men and women are presented to show links between the NEO–PI scales and psychopathology as measured by D. N. Jackson's (1989) Basic Personality Inventory and L. Morey's (1991) Personality Assessment Inventory. The authors argue that the NEO–PI may be useful to clinicians in understanding the patient, formulating a diagnosis, establishing rapport, developing insight, anticipating the course of therapy, and selecting the optimal form of treatment for the patient. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
To facilitate a multidimensional approach to empathy the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) includes 4 subscales: Perspective-Taking (PT) Fantasy (FS) Empathic Concern (EC) and Personal Distress (PD). The aim of the present study was to establish the convergent and discriminant validity of these 4 subscales. Hypothesized relationships among the IRI subscales between the subscales and measures of other psychological constructs (social functioning self-esteem emotionality and sensitivity to others) and between the subscales and extant empathy measures were examined. Study subjects included 677 male and 667 female students enrolled in undergraduate psychology classes at the University of Texas. The IRI scales not only exhibited the predicted relationships among themselves but also were related in the expected manner to other measures. Higher PT scores were consistently associated with better social functioning and higher self-esteem; in contrast Fantasy scores were unrelated to these 2 characteristics. High EC scores were positively associated with shyness and anxiety but negatively linked to egotism. The most substantial relationships in the study involved the PD scale. PD scores were strongly linked with low self-esteem and poor interpersonal functioning as well as a constellation of vulnerability uncertainty and fearfulness. These findings support a multidimensional approach to empathy by providing evidence that the 4 qualities tapped by the IRI are indeed separate constructs each related in specific ways to other psychological measures.
Studies demonstrating the potential link between childhood and adolescent acts of animal cruelty and later interpersonal violence toward humans remain ambiguous. Unfortunately, most of the research examining this possible link has failed to investigate repeated acts of animal cruelty or recurrent acts of violence toward humans. Using a sample of 261 inmates surveyed at medium and maximum security prisons in a southem state, this article examines how demographic attributes, childhood and adolescent characteristics, and repeated acts of cruelty toward animals impacted recurrent acts of interpersonal violence during adulthood. Respondents who had more siblings and who had committed repeated acts of animal cruelty were more likely to have engaged in recurrent acts of interpersonal violence, showing a possible link between recurrent acts of childhood and adolescent animal cruelty and subsequent violent crime.
Recent studies have begun to establish an association between childhood acts of animal cruelty and later violence against humans. Even so, research has failed to establish a strong correlation between the two, perhaps because previous studies have failed to examine the commission of violence against animals and humans in terms of their frequencies. In a replication of Tallichet and Hensley (2004) and based on survey data from 180 inmates at a medium- and maximum-security prison in a Southern state, the present study examines the relationship between the demographic characteristics of race, level of education, the residential location of an offender's formative years, and recurrent acts of childhood cruelty and their impact on later repeated acts of interpersonal violence. Only repeated acts of animal cruelty during childhood was predictive of later recurrent acts of violence toward humans, showing a possible relationship between the two.
Recent studies have offered compelling evidence supporting a relationship between childhood cruelty to animals and later violence against humans. This study investigated whether violent offenders were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have abused animals of various types during childhood. Interviews were conducted with 45 violent and 45 nonviolent offenders incarcerated in a maximum-security prison and randomly selected for this study by institutional staff members. Two data collection instruments were used. The first extracted demographic and social history from the participants. The second was used to gather information regarding cruelty to animals as categorized into four types (wild, farm, pet, and stray). Results indicated that a statistically significant relationship existed between childhood cruelty to animals and later violence against humans. Furthermore, the study found, consistent with prior research, that violent offenders were significantly more likely than nonviolent offenders to have committed acts of cruelty toward pet animals as children.
In recent years, school violence has become an issue of great concern among psychologists, educators, and law-enforcement officials. The purpose of the current study was to examine the relationship between bullying, victimization, and abuse of nonhuman animals. The study assessed bullying and victimization experiences, animal abuse, and attitudes toward animals within a sample of 185 college males. Results of the study highlighted the important distinction between males involved in single episodes of animal abuse and those involved in multiple episodes of animal abuse. Further, results highlighted the significance of the bully/victim phenomenon with regard to participation in multiple acts of animal abuse. Those who were above the median with regard to both victimization and perpetration of physical bullying exhibited the highest rates of involvement in multiple acts of animal abuse and also exhibited the lowest levels of sensitivity with regard to cruelty-related attitudes pertaining to animals. The study discusses theoretical mechanisms linking bullying and animal abuse as well as directions for future research.