Violent Crime: Clinical and Social Implications


Edited by: Christopher J. Ferguson

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    Violent criminal behavior, despite being on a precipitous decline in the United States, Canada, the UK, and most other Western countries for a decade and a half, remains a cultural and academic area of fascination. In the media, crime shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Law and Order remain among the top-rated shows, giving birth to a dizzying array of spinoffs and copycats. At universities, courses and majors in criminology, criminal justice, and forensic psychology are among the most popular. Indeed, if every student in these majors obtained a job in the field, there arguably would be more criminologists than criminals. Many students come to my office and inquire about careers in law enforcement, predictably voicing an interest in criminal profiling or “CSI” jobs. Clearly, there is much desire for information on violent crime. Yet, in a field that is arguably rampant with politics and ideology, there is a risk that the information widely available may be what is expedient or, indeed, politically correct rather than empirically supported. That was the genesis for this book: I envisioned it as a book that would break through the old tropes, adages, and false paths of society's understanding of violent crime and return the discussion to the science of violence and the current direction of research.

    Science is inherently self-correcting. However, sometimes it takes its time to do so. I think that societal understanding, and even academic understanding, of violent criminal behavior may linger in the past at times. I submit that social science still labors, despite the “nature/nurture compromise,” under decades of behavioral and social learning dogma. This is not to say that these paradigms don't enjoy some window on the “truth” of human behavior, but at least some proponents of this view have set up unnecessary roadblocks to our understanding of the biological and genetic roots of violent behavior. Similarly, old theories that should have been laid to rest may continue to exert considerable influence, despite the limits of their empirical support. First, I set out to develop this book to be a core, introductory text on the current science of violent crime. Second, I view this text as a catalyst for discussion of what we think we know, how we study violence, and where the research may take us in the future. This book is not wedded to a single theoretical viewpoint or even an overarching paradigm, such as social constructionist or biological essentialist perspectives. Theory is important, and the major views are presented in the first part of this book, yet the single most important question in the development of this book was “What does the research say?”

    This text may differ in some notable ways from other texts in this area. First, I have observed that most texts and theorists focus on sociological or social constructionist perspectives of violent crime. Although these approaches are important to examine, the comparative lack of coverage of biological and genetic influences is a major oversight. Thus, this text includes a more thorough examination of biological theories of aggression than is common in most similar works. Second, violent criminals are not treated as a homogenous group. Specific chapters are dedicated to major categories of criminals, from sex offenders to domestic violence perpetrators to serial murderers. Attention is focused on similarities and differences between male and female perpetrators, particularly in areas related to domestic violence and homicide. Third, the text examines the clinical implications of violent crime with respect to treatment of offenders and the experience of victims.

    This book is designed to be an introductory text to the research on violent crime. This makes this text suitable for academic classes on criminal violence, criminal justice, forensic psychology, criminal offending and profiling, violence and victimology, and sociology and social work classes focused on violence. Broader classes on criminology or criminological theory may also benefit from this book, perhaps as a secondary text. This book has several features that I believe distinguish it:

    • An interdisciplinary focus: Chapter authors consider multiple theoretical frameworks, and they are experts in criminal justice, criminology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, and medicine.
    • An international focus: Chapter authors are from the United States, Canada, England, Greece, and Spain, providing a wider perspective on criminal violence.
    • Discussion of biological theories: One of my concerns in writing this book is that biological theories of violence continue to be given short shrift in the criminological literature. To my reading, this is unfortunate, given that current data to support biological causes of violence are strong. The inclusion of this data, at least as a springboard for discussion, is essential for any complete understanding of criminal violence.
    • Relevant case studies: Empirical and theoretical data in each chapter are highlighted by relevant case studies from the historical record or the authors’ case files. It is my opinion that the inclusion of these case studies enhances the reader's experience, both by giving real-world examples of the material discussed in the chapters and by appealing to the reader's fascination with criminal violence. In other words, these case studies help draw readers in so they become interested in reading the empirical material.
    • Internet resources: Each chapter includes a list of Internet resources that readers may use to learn more about the topics. They include links to law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups, and even some of the original empirical papers that are freely available on the Internet.

    Not surprisingly, there are a number of people whom I would like to acknowledge for their contributions to this book. First, the chapter authors who have contributed their knowledge and expertise, not to mention their time and effort, to this project. Without them, this book simply could not have been possible. This book also benefited from several stages of reviews that provided excellent suggestions and feedback. I would like to thank the reviewers for their thoughtful comments and for their time and hard work: Chris Anderson, Concorde College; Geri Brandt, Maryville University; Sara Broaders, Northwestern University; Delores Craig-Moreland, Wichita State University; Stan Crowder, Kennesaw State University; Mitch Eisen, California State University, Los Angeles; Kelly Goodness, University of Texas at Dallas; Christopher Hale, Southern Connecticut State University; Chandrika Kelso, National University; Kay King, Johnson County Community College; Travis Langley, Henderson State University; Hua-Lun Huang, University of Louisiana, Lafayette; David Myers, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Douglas Peters, University of North Dakota; Allan Roscoe, University of Massachusetts, Lowell; Ira Sommers, California State University, Los Angeles; Amy Thistlethwaite, Northern Kentucky University; Louis Schlesinger, John Jay College of Criminal Justice; Stephen Schnebly, Arizona State University; Mike Stevenson, University of Toledo; Lori Van Wallendael, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Mark Winton, University of Central Florida at Daytona Beach.

    My university has been very supportive of this effort. In particular, Roberto Heredia, John Kilburn, and Dean Champion have all given me time and advice on the book editing process. So, too, has my colleague and former mentor, Charles Negy. Jerry Westby and Deya Saoud at Sage deserve a thank you for their patience and for guiding me through this process. Last, and certainly not least, I want to acknowledge my family: my wife Diana; my son, Roman; and my parents, Stuart and Denise. Their support has been immeasurable in importance. After thinking about violence all day at work, it's nice to come home to a warm and supportive family. Their positive influence is what keeps me grounded.

  • About the Editor

    Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, is an assistant professor of clinical and forensic psychology at Texas A&M International University. He earned his PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Central Florida and is licensed as a psychologist in Texas. His research focuses on biological and social causes of violent behavior. Most recently, he has been working on positive and negative effects of video game play. Aside from research on violent crime, he enjoys writing speculative fiction, some published examples of which can be found at

    About the Contributors

    Alissa R. Ackerman is a criminal justice doctoral student at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY Graduate Center. Her research interests include the supervision and management of sex offenders.

    Kevin M. Beaver, PhD, earned his PhD from the University of Cincinnati in 2006 and was awarded the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Institute of Justice. He is currently an assistant professor at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University. His research examines the ways in which the environment intersects with biological and genetic factors to produce delinquent and criminal behaviors. Recent publications have appeared in American Journal of Public Health, Behavioral and Brain Functions, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Criminology, Journal of Adolescent Research, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Justice Quarterly, and Social Biology, among others. He is also co-editor (with Anthony Walsh) of Biosocial Criminology: New Directions in Theory and Research (Routledge, 2008).

    Francisco Javier Chacartegui-Ramos is employed by the Scientific Police Department in the city of Seville, Spain as a CSI Technician Deputy Inspector. He has worked as a crime scene specialist on many violent crimes that were later solved and now specializes in fingerprint identification and latent print identification, lending his expertise to material required by judicial authorities. A recipient of the Police Medal of Merit, he also has received over 20 Public Service Awards in recognition of his assistance in crime resolution.

    Mary Clair, PhD, is an assistant research professor at the Cancer Prevention Research Center at the University of Rhode Island. She received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Drexel University and completed a two-year adolescent forensic postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Brown University. Her clinical and research interests include adolescents involved with the juvenile justice system.

    Jeanette M. Daly, RN, PhD, is an assistant research scientist in the Department of Family Medicine, University of Iowa. She has worked in acute care and also has seven years of work experience in long-term care as Director of Nursing and three years as a National Institute on Aging postdoctoral fellow through the University of Iowa Center on Aging. She has evaluated patients who have been abused and has implemented the investigative process for victims. The focus of her research has been the relationship of the law to elder abuse in domestic and long-term care settings.

    Sarah L. Desmarais, PhD, is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, University of British Columbia and the Child & Family Research Institute. She obtained a PhD with a specialization in law and forensic psychology from Simon Fraser University in 2008. Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Interdisciplinary Women's Reproductive Health Training Program, the Consortium for Applied Research and Evaluation in Mental Health, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, her research examines factors affecting intervention in forensic and healthcare settings. Current research projects include an evaluation of the effectiveness of an intimate partner violence intervention, delivered in the context of primary care, in reducing violence against and improving health outcomes of pregnant women, as well as an examination of predictors of successful community reintegration among women released from correctional settings. Since 2005, she has been a researcher with the B.C. Mental Health & Addiction Services. She is also a member of an international research team whose focus is to reduce violence perpetration, victimization, and self-harm among persons with mental disorders.

    Lee Ellis, PhD, received his PhD at Florida State University. He has taught criminology and other courses in the sociology department at Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota since 1976. Besides criminology, his research interests include the study of social stratification, sex differences in behavior, and research methods. He is the lead author of Sex Differences: Summarizing More than a Century of Scientific Research (Psychology Press, 2008) and Crime Correlates (Elsevier, 2009). The latter provides a fully documented summary of what is currently known about variables that are statistically associated with criminal and delinquent behavior.

    Lisa Faille, PhD, is a graduate of the postdoctoral fellowship, Rhode Island Training School/RI Department of Children, Youth, and Families and the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, Providence. She is a licensed clinical psychologist for the Adult Corrections Institution of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, Cranston, Rhode Island and an adjunct psychology professor at Roger Williams University, Newport, Rhode Island.

    Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, PhD, is professor and chair of criminal justice at California State University, Stanislaus, where she has taught since 1993. She earned a JD and a PhD in psychology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is known internationally for her research and publications on hate crimes, and her other areas of research include juvenile justice and psychology and law. Her books include Hate Crimes: Causes, Controls, and Controversies (Sage, 2004) and Crimes of Hate: Selected Readings (Sage, 2004).

    Andrea Gibas is a clinical psychology graduate student in the law and forensic psychology program at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada. Funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Andrea's research and clinical interests primarily focus on intimate partner violence. In particular, she is currently involved in research that examines structured risk assessments for intimate partner violence and stalking, safety planning, and the development of a clinical intervention to assist victims of intimate partner violence. Andrea has worked at Correctional Service of Canada, Youth Forensic Psychiatric Services, and the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission. She also works closely with local police officers who are conducting intimate partner violence risk assessments.

    Orestis Giotakos, PhD, graduated in 1985 from the Military Medical School, University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and he has been working as a military psychiatrist since 1992. In 1998, he obtained a MSc in neuroscience at the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. In 2003, he received his doctorate in sexual aggression at the Medical School, University of Athens. He has conducted several investigations and has written a number of articles and books on sexual aggression and on psychopathology and prevention strategies. He is president of the Hellenic Society for Research and Prevention of Sexual Abuse (

    Martin Gottschalk, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of North Dakota. He received his PhD in criminal justice at the University at Albany, State University of New York, in 2002. His research uses evolutionary theory and the many disciplines that inform it to help understand criminal behavior, moral/legal behavior, and the human punitive response.

    Mary E. Haskett, PhD, is currently a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and a faculty member at the Center for Developmental Science at UNC-Chapel Hill. She received her PhD in clinical and school psychology from Florida State University, and she completed a predoctoral internship at the Medical University of South Carolina, where she received a NIH training fellowship from the National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center. She is interested in the linkages between parenting and young children's social and emotional adjustment; specifically, she investigates the adjustment of children who have experienced harsh, abusive parenting. Her work also focuses on examining factors that contribute to abusive parenting, with the goal of contributing to prevention and intervention efforts. Her research is supported by grants from NIMH and NICHD.

    Maria Ioannou, MSc, PhD, CPsychol, is a chartered forensic psychologist and currently works as a research fellow at the International Centre for Investigative Psychology at the University of Liverpool. She is the assistant editor of the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling and the chair of the Membership and Fellowship Nominations Committee of the International Academy of Investigative Psychology. She has assessed intervention programs for reducing and preventing crime for a range of different forms of criminality and groups of offenders and has consulted with police forces and other agencies. Her research interests include the emotional experience of offending, criminal narratives, psychological characteristics of offenders, the relationship between personality and crime, mental disorder and crime, stalking behavior, sexual offences, and homicide. Her work has been presented nationally and internationally.

    Patricia Kerig, PhD, is a professor of psychology and the Director of Clinical Training at Miami University. She received her degree in clinical psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, with a specialization in children and families. After completing an internship at Stanford Children's Hospital and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, she held faculty positions in the departments of psychology at Simon Fraser University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Her research has focused on understanding and ameliorating the effects on youth of exposure to trauma, interparental conflict, family violence, maltreatment, and divorce. She is interested in the ways in which these risks affect relationships among family members and relationships outside the family. She also studies resilience and believes that uncovering the protective factors that enable children to overcome the risks associated with family stress and trauma will help us to design empirically supported interventions.

    John C. Kilburn, Jr., PhD, is currently chair of the Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice as well as an associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at Texas A&M International University. He previously served on the faculty at Eastern Connecticut State University. He earned his MA and PhD degrees in sociology from Louisiana State University. As a graduate student in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he served as a consultant to the Mayor-President Task Force on Fear and Violence and has continued to study violence in various forms including partner and caregiver violence, handguns, effectiveness of prevention programs, and neighborhood reactions to violence. He is currently working on a manuscript that explores halfway houses as both public goods and neighborhood nuisances. His previous research has appeared in journals such as Urban Affairs Review, Criminal Justice Review, and Social Forces.

    Jenifer Lee, PhD, received her PhD in criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2005. Her dissertation focused on law students’ perceptions of African American, gay, and lesbian hate crime victims. Currently, she is an assistant professor of criminology at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. She has presented at national conferences in areas including the media and school violence, prosecutorial decision making and hate crimes, and the use of Web-based surveys in social science research. Her research interests include hate crimes and hate crime victims, prostitution, and diversity in higher education. Her work has appeared in the International Journal of Cultural Studies and Deviant Behavior.

    José León-Carrión, PhD, is a professor of neuropsychology and director of the Human Neuropsychology Laboratory at the University of Seville, Spain and is also director of the university's Postgraduate Program in Neuropsychology. He designs rehabilitation programs and coordinates the R+D+I Department at the Center for Brain Injury Rehabilitation in Seville. He served as president of the Academy for the Advancement of Brain Injury Rehabilitation, is vice-chairman of the executive committee of the International Brain Injury Association, and is a member of the World Academy for Multidisciplinary Neurotraumatology and the European Brain Injury Society. He served as president of the Second World Congress on Brain Injury and has participated in conferences worldwide. A member of several journal editorial boards, he is also recognized for international books and articles on assessment and rehabilitation of brain injury and neuropsychology textbooks. He is executive director of the Revista Española de la Neuropsicología and currently serves as a reviewer and consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense Traumatic Brain Injury Grant Program.

    Kristen M. Lewis, MA, is enrolled in the doctoral program in school psychology at North Carolina State University. She obtained her MA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Her research interests include family violence, parenting stress, positive parenting interventions, children's causal attributions, and depression. She supervises undergraduate researchers in data collection for a NICHD-funded study examining pathways from parenting to children's social and academic adjustment. In addition, she has served as the primary instructor for several undergraduate psychology classes. Her dissertation is designed to explore the effects of a parenting intervention (Triple P) for graduate students who are balancing graduate school and parenting young children.

    Arthur J. Lurigio, PhD, is a psychologist and Associate Dean for Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of criminal justice and psychology at Loyola University Chicago, where he received tenure in 1993. He is also a member of the Graduate Faculty and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Research, Training, and Education at Loyola University Chicago, and a Senior Research Advisor at Illinois Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities. In 2003, he was named a faculty scholar, the highest honor bestowed on senior faculty at Loyola University Chicago. His research is primarily in the areas of offender drug abuse and dependence problems, mental disorders and crime, community corrections, policecommunity relations, criminal victimization, and victim services. In recognition of the overall outstanding contributions of his research to criminology and criminal justice practices, he received the University of Cincinnati Award in 1996 and the Hans W. Mattick Award in 2003.

    Cricket Meehan, PhD, is the Coordinator of School Mental Health Projects at Miami University's Center for School-Based Mental Health Programs. She received her PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Central Florida. Her clinical and research interests revolve around working in local communities to conduct needs assessments, develop and identify programs based on recognized needs, conduct program evaluations, secure resources and funding for mental health organizations, train in-the-field mental health practitioners in the latest empirically supported treatment protocols, provide advocacy for mental health interests in the public policy and legislation sectors, and bridge the gap between pragmatic treatment and academic research in psychology. She currently provides technical assistance to local elementary and middle schools to plan, implement, and sustain evidence-based prevention programs. In addition, she leads the Southwest Ohio Regional Action Network affiliate of the Ohio Mental Health Network for School Success.

    Tonia L. Nicholls, PhD, obtained a PhD with a specialization in law and forensic psychology from Simon Fraser University in 2002. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research funded her three-year postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia and the B.C. Institute Against Family Violence. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia and senior research fellow at the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission, B.C. Mental Health & Addiction Services. Her scholarly work has earned her Brain Star awards from the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health, and Addictions (Canadian Institutes of Health Research); the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Professional Contribution by a Graduate Student; and the Canadian Psychological Association President's New Researcher Award. Her research interests include women in conflict with the law, the assessment and management of violence, and intimate partner abuse. In 2007, she received a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Career Scholar award.

    Joseph V. Penn, MD, CCHP, is Director of Mental Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch Correctional Managed Health Care, Huntsville, Texas. He was previously Director of Child and Adolescent Forensic Psychiatry, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island; Director of Psychiatric Services, Rhode Island Training School, Cranston, Rhode Island; and Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown Medical School, Providence, Rhode Island.

    Sharon G. Portwood, PhD, currently serves as executive director of the Institute for Social Capital, professor of Public Health Sciences, and adjunct professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She received her JD from the University of Texas School of Law in 1985, and after more than 10 years as a practicing trial attorney she received her PhD in psychology from the University of Virginia in 1996. She has authored journal articles, book chapters, and a textbook on topics including the prevention of youth and family violence, child maltreatment, the intersection between child maltreatment and domestic violence, and law and policy responses to crimes committed by and against children. Her work has been presented both nationally and internationally. She has provided consulting and training on program implementation and evaluation to a wide variety of agencies and organizations at the federal, state, and local level. She is a fellow in the American Psychological Association and past president of the American Psychological Association's section on child maltreatment.

    Jennifer Schwartz, PhD, is an assistant professor of sociology at Washington State University. Her research focuses on gender and other correlates of crime; stratification, family structure, communities, and crime; and how social change impinges on trends in crime and social control. Her work in these areas has been published in Criminology, Journal of Marriage and Family, Homicide Studies, and Sociological Perspectives. Currently, she is examining how trends in women's drunk driving have been altered by changes in women's lives and changes in DUI laws and enforcement. She is also studying whether girls and women are becoming more violent or are being arrested more often for low-level violent behaviors in which they have always participated.

    Karen J. Terry, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the executive officer of the Doctoral Program in Criminal Justice, CUNY. She holds a doctorate in criminology from Cambridge University. She has authored several publications on sex offender treatment, management, and supervision, including Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification: A “Megan's Law” Sourcebook (Civic Research Institute, 2003) and Sexual Offenses and Offenders: Theory, Practice and Policy (Wadsworth, 2006). She has been involved with numerous research projects regarding sexual offenses and offenders. She was the principal investigator for a study on the nature and scope of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and is currently the principal investigator for a study on the causes and context of the Catholic Church sexual abuse crisis. She is also the editor of the periodical Sex Offender Law Report, published bi-monthly by the Civic Research Institute.

    Maria Tsiliakou, PhD, graduated in 1998 from the Law School of Democritus, University of Thrace, Greece, and she has been working as a lawyer since 2000. In 2004, she obtained a MA in criminology at Panteion University of Athens, Greece. In 2008, she received her doctorate in alternative justice and sexual offenders from Panteion University of Athens, Greece. She is a professor at the Police Academy and teaches criminology. She is responsible for the public relations of the Hellenic Society for Research and Prevention of Sexual Abuse (, and she is a member of the European and Greek Criminological Societies. She has worked as a legal advisor for the International Organization for Migration, and she is a legal advisor for NGO Solidarity. She has written a number of articles and books.

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