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Intoxication and violent women

Abstract

Alcohol and drugs have been linked to severe violent offending among women as well as men. The purpose of this study was to make a contribution to the limited knowledge of characteristics related to the state of intoxication in violent female offenders. The putative differences in the characteristics of female offenders and their violent offenses in relation to the state of intoxication at the time of the violent offending were examined. Of a nation-wide sample of 109 female offenders found guilty of homicide and other violent crimes and incarcerated in 1999–2000 in Finland, 60 offenders participated in the study. Of these offenders 49 (81.7%) had been intoxicated at the time the of index offenses. These were compared with 11 (18.3%) non-intoxicated offenders using a structured interview, the Structured Clinical Interview II for DSM-IV (SCID-II) and the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). The prevalence of substance abuse or dependence (73.3% and 0%), personality disorder (89.6% and 36.4%), particularly antisocial personality disorder (66.7% and 0%), as well as a history of criminality (69.4% and 0%) were significantly higher among the intoxicated women than among the non-intoxicated. The PCL-R scores were also significantly higher among the intoxicated offenders than among non-intoxicated offenders. The victims of the intoxicated women (23.9%) were less often emotionally close to the perpetrator than were the victims of the non-intoxicated women (66.6%). No differences emerged between the groups in experiences of childhood and adulthood abuse or stressful life events prior to the index crime. The findings indicate that intoxicated violent female offenders exhibit more of the characteristics previously found in violent men, than do the non-intoxicated female offenders. Moreover, the non-intoxicated group comprises both psychotic non-responsible and non-psychotic, fairly well-adjusted women, who are educated, working or studying at the time of the offense and has no history of criminality. Substance misuse constitutes an obvious risk factor for violent behavior in women, and therefore the prevention should include substance abuse treatment.

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Correspondence to Ghitta Weizmann-Henelius.

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Weizmann-Henelius, G., Putkonen, H., Naukkarinen, H. et al. Intoxication and violent women. Arch Womens Ment Health 12, 15–25 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-008-0038-1

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