Psychopathology and neuropsychological functioning among male and female prisoners in England and Wales
Gender differences in the presentation and psychological function of prisoners is an increasingly prominent issue in day to day management, treatment outcome, and risk reduction. However, research in this area is not well developed, and little is known about the gender-specific associations between psychopathy, personality disorder (PD) and criminal histories, or differences in neuropsychological function between male and female prisoners. This is an important area to evaluate when considering recent government initiatives to develop services for individuals with dangerous and severe personality disorder (DSPD), where male and female offenders are seen as having an equivalent level of risk and need. For intervention and management strategies to be most responsive to the needs of these individuals, we need to know more about the gender-specific differences in psychopathology and neuropsychological functioning. This study explored psychopathy, PD, criminality, and neurocognitive performance in a large cohort sample of 620 serious male and female prisoners incarcerated in penal establishments across England and Wales. It examined prevalence and performance rates and the associations between these measures, paying particular interest to gender-specific relationships. Multivariate regression analysis demonstrated divergent relationships between facets of psychopathy, features of PD, criminality, and neuropsychological functioning among male and female prisoners. Female prisoners scoring highly on antisocial features of psychopathy were more antisocial than their male equivalents regarding Antisocial PD and lifetime robbery offences. Affective features of psychopathy were associated with a higher degree of Borderline PD traits and violent history in women specifically. Additionally, deficient emotional processing among female prisoners was further impaired by high rates of Borderline PD. In contrast, risky decision-making in men was specifically linked to affective features of psychopathy and antisocial behavioural traits. These results are discussed in terms of gender-specific interventions and treatment efficacy, which may help inform needs analysis for treatment providers.
AuthorsBell, Laura E.
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