Women and men of mafia between traditional cultural contexts and new social roles

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The Italian mafia organizations represent a subculture with values, beliefs, and goals that are antithetical to and undermining of the predominant society. The conduct of individual members includes such extreme violence for material gain, it may at least superficially suggest a severe personality disorder. Since the first edition of the DSM and into the 21st century, various terms have been used, sometimes interchangeably, but over time inconsistently, to designate the mentality and practices of mafia members. Only recently has the psychology of mafia members become a focus of serious scientific study. For the first time, investigators for the present study applied instruments, including the PCL-R, to examine for character psychopathology and specifically degrees of psychopathy in male and female mafia members, 20 female and 21 male members. Results showed some gender difference with the women having a higher score on Factor 1, in contrast to men who showed a lower score. Psychopathy and personality disorder were not found to be associated with membership in the mafia for either gender. Some psychopathic traits and gender differences warrant further research. Meanwhile these findings are consistent with a mentality characterized by beliefs and practices determined by a deviant culture rather than psychopathology.




Carabellese, F., Felthous, A. R., Kennedy, H. G., Montalbò, D., La Tegola, D., Coluccia, A., … Catanesi, R. (2021). Women and men of mafia between traditional cultural contexts and new social roles. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 39(5), 567–582. https://doi.org/10.1002/bsl.2533

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