Research into the manifestation of psychopathy and its association with offending behavior has mainly been conducted on male offender samples, so relatively little is known about the concept of psychopathy in women. In the past ten years, however, research into the construct of psychopathy in women and possible gender differences in the etiology, prevalence rates, assessment and manifestation of psychopathy has expanded (see for example the two volume special issue in Behavioral Sciences and the Law.
Most of the studies into psychopathy in women apply the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) to measure psychopathy. Overall, lower PCL-R scores and prevalence rates have been found for women compared to men, as well as differences in the PCL-R factor structure. It has been suggested that because women demonstrate fewer antisocial behaviors, several PCL-R items (e.g., Juvenile delinquency, Early behavior problems, Revocation of conditional release) are less suitable to assess the core traits of psychopathy in women. Furthermore, it has been found that the interrater reliability of the PCL-R for women is good, but the research results on the predictive validity of the PCL-R for violence in women are equivocal. Overall, there are concerns about whether the PCL-R captures the construct of psychopathy satisfactorily in women. Several scholars have written about the possible gender differences in the manifestation of psychopathy in women, suggesting that women compared to men have to rely on different tactics to attain their goals, for example, in a more subtle, verbal, manipulative or sexual way (e.g., Kreis & Cooke, 2011, 2012; Nicholls & Petrilla, 2005; Wynn et al. 2012).
More in-depth knowledge about characteristics and offending behavior of women with psychopathy may contribute to a better understanding of criminal behavior and violence and more accurate risk assessment and risk management. Although the manifestation of psychopathy is different in men versus women, the relevance in both men and women is clear. "What drives both psychopathic men and women is: power over others, the expectation of gain and glorification of the self" (Logan & Weizmann-Henelius, 2012). More research is definetely needed. Click here for some recent research results from the Dutch multicentre study.