Most instruments used to assess offenders' risk of recidivism were developed and validated on male samples. Use of these instruments with female offenders is, however, common practice. This use with female offenders implies the assumption that the risk of recidivism can be predicted on the basis of the same risk factors for women as for men. Yet, this implied gender-neutrality of offender risk instruments has been the topic of much debate. This study compared criminogenic needs in male and female offenders and their relevance in predicting recidivism. A large sample of male and female offenders (N = 16,239) charged with a range of index offenses was studied. Results mainly support the gender neutrality of existing offender risk and needs assessment. However, results do suggest that some criminogenic needs may indeed have a different impact on recidivism for men and women. Problems with accommodation, education and work, and relationships with friends were more strongly correlated to general recidivism in men than in women. For women, difficulties with emotional well-being had a stronger correlation with recidivism than for men. In addition, relative to all other criminogenic needs, problems with emotional well-being were more important for women than for men in predicting general as well as violent recidivism. However, because the bivariate correlation for female offenders between emotional difficulties and recidivism is weak (as it is for male offenders), the question remains whether the relative importance of emotional difficulties in predicting recidivism in women actually has clinical relevance.
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