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Differences in personality and risk characteristics in sex, violent and general offenders

by Leam A. Craig, Kevin D. Browne, Anthony Beech, Ian Stringer
Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health ()

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Studies examining the characteristics of sex and violent offenders have found differences in personality and offence characteristics. However, none of these studies has examined differences in personality characteristics between violent, sex and general offenders using the Special Hospitals Assessment of Personality and Socialization (SHAPS). METHOD: Using a retrospective archival research design, data on 153 male offenders were divided into three groups, sexual (n = 85), violent (n = 46) and general offenders (n = 22). Of the sample 139 offenders had completed the SHAPS. The Sexual Violence Risk-20 (SVR-20) measure was used to categorize levels of risk. Reconviction data collected over a 10-year follow-up period were analysed using the receiver operating characteristic analysis. RESULTS: Violent offenders had significantly more chaotic lifestyles, displayed greater psychopathology than sex or general offenders, and were most likely to reoffend, with over a quarter committing further violent offences. The sexual offender group share more in common with the general offenders, in terms of personality characteristics and recidivism rates, than with the violent offenders. More of the violent offenders were categorized as at medium or high risk of recidivism than any other group. The SVR-20 significantly predicted any reconviction over five- and 10- year follow-up periods. DISCUSSION: The results from this study support the use of self-report inventories in assessing differences between offender groups. Such information may assist clinicians in prioritizing management and intervention strategies for those offenders, and in turn lower the risk of further offending.

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