Suicidal and Criminal Behavior Among Female Offenders: The Role of Abuse and Psychopathology

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Childhood abuse is relatively prevalent among women and is an important risk factor for both criminal behavior and suicide-related behavior (SRB). Based on a sample of 266 female offenders, we address one theoretical and one practical issue. First, from a theoretical perspective, we assess whether internalizing (depression and anxiety) and externalizing (substance abuse and antisocial behavior) psychopathology mediate the relation between abuse on the one hand, and SRB or criminal behavior, on the other. Results indicate that externalizing problems mediate the relation between childhood abuse and both lifetime SRB (fully) and lifetime criminality (partially). Second, at a practical level, results indicate that a subscale of the Revised Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R; Hare, 1991) that assesses lifetime criminal behavior adds incremental utility to postdicting SRB, beyond the variance accounted for by self-report measures of abuse and externalizing problems. However, none of the measures—including the PCL-R—predicted future recidivism.

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Journal of Personality Disorders, v. 24, issue 5, p. 581-609