Personality Disorders and Offending Behaviour

The real world is much more complicated than vague sound bites, as are offending behaviours and antisocial behaviours, and solutions demand a more careful reading of the literature and a broader discussion which recognizes causes rather than symptoms or tangential causes.
To this end, this paper will discuss the relationship between personality disorders and offending behaviours. in order to accomplish this, it will first be necessary to define a working definition of personality disorder and a basic typology before further exploring the risk factors that influence personality disorders over the course of an individual’s life. It is the basic thesis of this paper that these risk factors and subsequent personality disorders explain offending behaviours far more satisfactorily than vague references to criminal subcultures, dangerous prisoners incapable of reform, or the dreaded substance abuse allegation.
As an initial matter, any rational discussion of the connections between personality disorders and offending behaviours demands precise definitions. This, however, has proven somewhat problematic in the instant case because different professional and social interests have approached the conceptual framework differently. There are psychiatrists, for instance, whom define personality disorders largely within the context of a public health paradigm whereas many criminal justice professionals and policy-makers emphasise a criminal justice paradigm. The psychological research, therefore, must account for and attempt to reconcile these often competing approaches to and definitions of personality disorders into a larger contextual framework. This larger contextual framework, in turn, must attempt to harmonise definitions to the extant possible in order to serve both public health and criminal justice objectives and needs.
This is no easy task. indeed, as pointed out by Eastman with respect to fairly recent proposals linking medical treatment of certain types of personality disorder to public protection rather than patient treatment, "The fragility of the distinction between public health psychiatry and crime prevention has never before been so starkly represented as it is now in this proposal. However, all doctors should note the subtle but growing social requirement that medical practice should be applied towards public protection" (1991: 551). This merging of disciplines, most manifest in terms of the growing relationship of forensic psychiatry and criminal justice, portends a greater ability to establish firm definitions. these better definitions can then be used to more carefully analyse the connections between personality disorders and offending behaviours.
As noted by Coid, even those concerned primarily with a public health paradigm disagree about matters of definition. a prime illustration is the inability to harmonise the often contrary definitions of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) categories of personality disorder (2001: s4). Most researchers, in both public health and criminal justice, tend to rely on the DSM-4 categories espoused by the APA and for that reason this paper shall proceed relying primarily on those APA categories and the research relying on the APA categories. More importantly, because this issue implicates important criminal justice issues and important issues of public protection, it