Is There a Link Between Psychopathy, Aggression, and Recidivism?
Society believes that the presence of psychopathy in offenders is a factor that predisposes them to recidivism. But is this true? In reality, it isn’t entirely clear. In fact, different studies have obtained conflicting results on whether this mental illness acts as a risk agent for recidivism.
As such, there’s no clear answer as to whether psychopaths have a tendency to recidivism. But, what exactly defines a psychopath? And, what makes them the way they are? We’re going to explain.
Psychopaths are manipulative, self-centered, dominant, and superficial in the interpersonal sphere. On the affective level, they have difficulty getting emotionally involved or putting themselves in another’s place. Behaviorally, they’re impulsive, unstable, and sensation-seeking. They’re also prone to breaking social norms and not complying with responsibilities and obligations, both explicit and implicit.
But, what kind of emotions do they experience? In fact, people with high levels of psychopathy tend to feel negative emotions toward others, such as spite and contempt, more frequently and intensely than other people. They also lack feelings of remorse or guilt.
Research suggests that psychopathic traits among convicted violent offenders are associated with reduced expression of fear and minimal response to emotional gestures from others. In addition, the ability of high-risk inmates to recognize anger or disgust is linked to affective and antisocial characteristics typical of psychopathy, but also to the individual’s cognitive abilities.
Research on psychopathy and recidivism
An investigation in 2017 studied whether convicts who exhibited psychopathy and sexual deviation demonstrated a greater propensity for sexual recidivism. However, they found no significant trend. But, a study conducted in 2020 did find a relationship between convicted persons who exhibited psychopathy and recidivism.
In 2021, a study conducted in different Spanish prisons analyzed whether inmates with moderate to high levels of psychopathy also exhibited greater recidivism than those with low levels of psychopathy. The researchers concluded that inmates with moderate and high levels of psychopathy revealed higher risks of recidivism than those with low levels of psychopathy.
As you can see, there’s a great deal of disagreement when it comes to addressing whether this mental illness is linked to recidivism. Therefore, we need to delve deeper into the field. We also need to take into account other aspects or characteristics that may influence the correspondence between psychopathy and recidivism.
Is the type of aggression linked to psychopathy?
There are different types of aggression. Two kinds are instrumental (proactive) and hostile (reactive). The difference between these two is found in the objectives pursued by the perpetrator.
Hostile aggression occurs in response to an insult or threat. It’s usually more emotional. On the other hand, instrumental aggression focuses on obtaining a profit or a goal via the victim.
Some studies indicate that psychopathy is more linked to instrumental-type aggression. Others consider that this mental condition can occur with both models of aggression.
For example, a study conducted in 2020 determined that there was a link between psychopathy and both types of aggression. Moreover, the above-mentioned research conducted in Spanish prisons and published in Anurio de Psicología Jurídica (Legal Psychology Yearbook) also found that proactive and reactive aggression is latent in psychopathy.
Finally, are all psychopaths criminals? The answer is no, not all psychopaths have a criminal record. In fact, many psychopaths are integrated into society. You may even know a few.
“I like hurting little things that can’t fight back.”
“I’m full of hate and I love it.”
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
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