Title

Distinguishing Features of Diagnosed Sexual Psychopaths

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-1-1987

Abstract

Ever since the French psychiatrist Phillipe Pinel introduced the concept of psychopathy in the eighteenth century it has had a checkered career. It has been considered everything from an extremely useful concept to a psychiatric diagnosis wastebasket. Even the term itself has undergone numerous changes (psychopathy, criminotic, sociopathy, impulse disorder, anti-social personality) to render it more consistent with its divergent conceptualizations (it has, however, remained fairly consistent as "psychopathy" in the European literature). This kind of conceptual difficulty, as well as ideological considerations, led Gibson (1971 171) to state: "We regard any attempt to proceed further with the psychopathy/criminality line of inquiry a futile business".

However, the psychological literature considers such cavalier dismissal to be premature (Schroeder, Schroeder, Hare 1983; Hare 1985). Various studies have shown that the psychopath can be distinguished from non-psychopaths on a number of physiological and psychological variables (Goldman, et al. 1971; Mednick and Finello 1983). The purpose of this study is to examine the bivariate distribution of a range of sociological variables among a sample of convicted sex offenders to determine if psychopathic sex offenders can be distinguished from non-psychopathic sex offenders along these dimensions.

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