Journal of Criminal Psychology

Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Latest documents

  • Special Issue on stalking: commentary

    Purpose: The research literature on stalking has proliferated in recent years. Even so, gaps remain. This commentary paper introduces a Special Issue on stalkers. Design/methodology/approach: This Special Issue showcases Rachael Wheatley’s mixed methods work with male stalkers. These stalkers were actively engaged in the research process. Importantly, Wheatley’s studies took a phenomenological approach, exploring how these men construed their reality for engaging in stalking behaviour. Findings: This Special Issue highlights many of the factors that may increase the risk that a person becomes a stalker, including disordered attachment, depression, entitlement, emotional regulation, stress management and narcissism. Originality/value: Taken together, this collection of papers points to a need for practitioners and researchers alike to break out of silos and take a holistic and comprehensive approach to tackling the widespread problem of stalking.

  • Stalking and the impact of labelling “There’s a difference between my offence and a stalker”

    Purpose: This paper aims to consider stalking as an offending behaviour and the prevailing narratives associated with this offending behaviour given the increased attention of society and criminal justice. The stereotypes and labels associated with the offending behaviour often sensationalise aspects of those who engage in stalking. Frequently, individuals are portrayed as disturbed, psychopathic, mentally ill, violent and culturally deviant. Sometimes stalking behaviour is perversely downplayed as romantic perseverance. The impact of the stalker label extends outward from the act of marking legal and societal transgression, which impacts upon prospects for rehabilitation and desistance through the shaping of assumptions and maintenance of disempowering connotations. Design/methodology/approach: This paper considers the impact of the stalking label as a therapeutic-, and perhaps rehabilitation-interfering problem for those who have stalked, drawing on recent research by Wheatley, Winder and Kuss (2020a). Findings: It discusses the wide-ranging implications of labelling in this context and considers therapeutic approaches for intervention that may encourage rehabilitation engagement, mitigate shame and support desistance from a strengths-based perspective. Originality/value: This paper draws on recent research exploring stalking case narratives of their own experiences of what drives stalking behaviour, existing labelling literature, and on specialist practitioners’ experiences of working with this group, to influence future thinking and research to address nuances highlighted.

  • Stalking: Issues of deterrence “When I was stalking, I was so dedicated to it. Nothing would stop me. It was my focus.”

    Purpose: This paper aims to present issues of deterrence related to stalking. Design/methodology/approach: The authors have combined recent mixed method research findings and existing general deterrence literature with their practitioner experiences of working with this population, to provide a novel viewpoint paper intending to influence advancements in knowledge in this area. Findings: Recent qualitative research investigating the function of stalking in a small sample (see Wheatley et al., 2020a) noted the participants’ focus on the lack of deterrence. For example, participants described feeling emotionally stuck in their pursuits, experiencing poor access to help and support, being ignorant of the potential custodial consequences of their offending and even stating that imprisonment provided a harsh yet necessary moment of reality. Originality/value: This novel discussion paper reviews these findings in relation to both the available research based on deterrence generally and deterrence related to stalking and the experience of working with stalking cases in clinical practice. This paper explores what we know about the motivations that underlie stalking behaviour and how that relates to the effectiveness of deterrence, including the role of traditional criminal justice approaches to this type of offending.

  • Stalking, narcissistic vulnerability and the application of schema therapy “I was punishing her for me not being good enough”

    Purpose: This discussion paper aims to further explore narcissistic vulnerability as a psychological concept in relation to stalking, adding to the literature base by resurrecting this focus and exploring practical implications of this association through proposing a schema therapy (ST) approach. Design/methodology/approach: Stalking results from an interaction of circumstances and a vulnerable personality. Understanding the psychology of those who stalk, before and during stalking episodes, is pivotal in helping the person stalking to desist and thus protect victims. Knowing how to most effectively intervene at the earliest opportunity with those stalking is an area receiving renewed attention. Not least due to the improved identification of stalking, but also the continued absence of empirical evidence on effective intervention approaches. This paper sets out to explore the utility of ST with stalking cases. Findings: Recent research undertaken by Wheatley et al. (2020) with men who had stalked and were detained in prison within the UK highlighted narcissistic vulnerability as a key feature in their personalities. The original study provided support for the linked conceptualisations of narcissistic vulnerability, preoccupied attachment styles and the phenomenon of stalking. This paper extended discussions to explore the utility of ST to address narcissistic vulnerability in stalking cases. Originality/value: This is an original discussion paper combining research with stalking cases, practitioner specialism, psychological theory and existing empirical literature to argue for the value of ST for addressing stalking.

  • Introduction “stalking: what do we know about working with people who stalk and where do we go?”

    Purpose: There is an absence of qualitative research with individuals who have stalked. This special issue of articles draws on one study, rich with the meaning-making of experts by experience. That is, people who have stalked, been convicted and detained in UK prisons. The purpose of this issue is to provide forensic practitioners with an overview of current considerations for intervening with individuals who stalk. It does this by drawing together empirically derived interpreted experiences of men who stalk, expanding key discussions with expert practitioners in the field, working with those who stalk. It highlights current thinking on the psychology of stalking and multidisciplinary options for risk management. Furthermore, it provides an overview of necessary future directions. Design/methodology/approach: Research findings from a recent, novel, mixed methods study (Wheatley, 2019 and Wheatleya et al., 2020) are discussed with other experienced stalking practitioners in the UK for reflection and discussion. The papers synthesise the research findings, existing psychological literature and practitioner experience to discuss implications for psychological practice with those who stalk. Findings: The key findings resonated with current practitioners, providing a springboard for expanding thinking around stalking and crucial themes such as narcissistic vulnerability, deterrence, labelling and developing alternative meaningful activities. Research limitations/implications: In providing this marriage of experiential expert insights, this Special Issue advances the practice of psychology in relation to those who stalk, having clear applications to the processes of risk assessment, intervention and management. Pivotally, how to enhance engagement opportunities to develop working and therapeutic relationships. Originality/value: This issue introduces new subtopics, some of which have never been written about before. It provides discussion papers marrying research with practitioner experience, with a focus on practical applications within criminal psychology and future directions.

  • Case study reflections of an internet child abuse material offender informing the development of a proposed assessment instrument

    Purpose: Internet child abuse material (I/CAM) offences negatively affect children in our own communities and in the wider virtual world. This study aims to understand the differentiation between online (internet) and offline (contact) offenders. The development of the Estimated Risk for Internet Child Sexual Offending (ERICSO), a proposed instrument for I/CAM offenders, incorporated a case study component to test on a known offender before the tool is applied to a wider sample. Design/methodology/approach: The case study approach provides a unique opportunity for researchers to consider reflections from an I/CAM offender. These insights provide unique perspectives on areas for further exploration, including suggestions for consideration in the assessment and treatment of I/CAM offenders. Findings: Mr A is a male convicted of possessing I/CAM with previous convictions for contact child sexual offending. During the development of the ERICSO, Mr A provided commentary on proposed questions based on his experiences as an offender and his communications with other offenders. Mr A’s feedback was generally consistent with current research findings, with notable suggestions in recognising the importance of differentiating between fantasy/reality, violence/voyeurism and the role technology plays in I/CAM offences. These reflections will be considered in conjunction with ongoing development and validity studies of the ERICSO to contribute to the targeted assessment and risk-relevant treatment for I/CAM offenders. Originality/value: The use of a case study in the development of a proposed assessment instrument provides a unique perspective to improve ecological validity.

  • Gender based violence against women: the crisis behind being a restaurant waitress

    Purpose: This study aims to investigate the types, perpetrators, places, times and consequences of gender-based violence (GBV). Design/methodology/approach: Phenomenology research design was used, and 13 waitresses were selected using convenience sampling technique. In-depth interview was used to gather relevant data, and the collected data were analyzed using thematic and interpretive analysis technique. Findings: Physical, psychological, sexual, economic and social types of violence were common. Though GBV may be committed anywhere and anytime, restaurants are the most epicenter and night is critical time by which the problem is more prevalent. Customers, supervisors and agents are of perpetrators of GBV. GBV can have serious long-term and life-threatening consequences for victims. Physical, psychological, health-related, social and economic impacts are the crisis behind being a restaurant waitress. Originality/value: This research is the author’s original work.

  • A Wolf in sheep’s clothing: taxometric evidence of the dimensional structure of stalking

    Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the latent structure of stalking. Stalking can be defined as a pattern of repeated and unwanted behaviours that cause another person to be afraid. The consequences for the victims can be severe and potentially happen over a long period of time. While stalking is considered as a taxon, empirical evidence and an absence of pathognomonic criteria point towards a dimensional structure. Design/methodology/approach: The aim of this study is to examine the latent structure of stalking using taxometric analyses on the Severity of Stalking Behaviours Scale. Analyses were conducted on a sample of N = 1,032 victims’ accounts, who had contacted the National Stalking Helpline in the UK. Findings: Taxometric analyses revealed that stalking presents a dimensional structure, and no taxonic peaks emerged. The results were consistent across analyses (MAMBAC, MAXEIG and L-Mode), indicators (CCFI, curves) and measures (items, factors). Research limitations/implications: A dimensional structure implies that individual variation is a matter of intensity, and the present results suggest that the conceptualization of stalking should be modified. Understanding stalking from a dimensional perspective provides support to study stalking in non-clinical populations. Scales that measure stalking should provide discrimination along the entire continuum rather than focusing on putative taxonic boundaries and arbitrary threshold. Originality/value: This paper is proposing the first set of taxometric analyses on stalking. The results are providing empirical support to the idea that stalking exists on a continuum. It also strengthened the validity of previous findings in non-clinical populations and their applications all along the continuum, including with clinical populations.

  • An analysis of the characteristics and motives of the UK homicides involving acts of dismemberment

    Purpose: The purpose of this study was to contribute to the evidence base by analysing the characteristics and motives of homicides involving acts of dismemberment. Design/methodology/approach: The current study explored offence, victim and offender characteristics and the motives for 71 homicides involving dismemberment using open source data. All cases included in this study were investigated in the UK between 1970 and 2016. A non-metric multi-dimensional scaling procedure smallest space analysis (SSA) was used to explore the characteristics and motives derived from a content analysis of homicide data sourced online. Findings: A distinction between expressive and instrumental characteristics was observable with three thematic regions identified: instrumental – defensive, instrumental – predatory and expressive – affective. Support was found for previously identified motives for criminal dismemberment, with defensive being the most common motive identified in 63% (N = 45) of the cases. Originality/value: The implications of the findings are discussed with suggestions made for future research. The findings have practical implications for assisting law enforcement and forensic and clinical practitioners in further understanding offenders who engage in homicidal dismemberment. This includes aiding homicide investigations, in terms of supporting investigators to draw upon offence, victim and offender characteristics and motives for homicides involving acts of dismemberment. Differentiation between cases of dismemberment and understanding of motives also has practical implications for the development of interventions and treatment pathways for homicide offenders who dismember victims.

  • A comparison of public perceptions of cisgender male and transgender male stalking perpetrators

    Purpose: The purpose of this study is to compare perceptions of male cisgender and male transgender stalking perpetrators. There present study compared participants’ perceptions of whether behaviour constituted stalking, posed a threat, had a risk of violence and required police intervention when the perpetrator was transgender or cisgender. The present study also sought to replicate the prior-relationship misconception in stalking literature and to investigate whether perceptions of transgender perpetrators changed based on the age and gender of the perceiver. Design/methodology/approach: Participants read vignettes outlining the relationship between victim and perpetrator as well as a description of the stalking behaviours. Participants then reported their perceptions of the four dependent variables on Likert-type scales. Findings: The prior-relationship misconception was replicated. There were no significant differences in perceptions of transgender and cisgender perpetrators across the four dependent variables. There were also no significant differences in perceptions based on the gender of the perceiver. Contrary to expectations, older participants perceived transgender perpetrators as less threatening than younger participants. Research limitations/implications: The prior-relationship misconception is robust to gender identity of the perpetrator. The participants in the present study seemed to make judgements based on stalking behaviour and not the gender identity of the perpetrator. Future research should replicate this study with more severe stalking behaviours and with greater variation in gender identity. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is the first to compare perceptions of cisgender and transgender males in the context of stalking perpetration. There is also consideration of how the demographics of the perceiver could impact these perceptions. This study also contributes to research on the prior-relationship misconception by demonstrating that the misconception is robust to gender identification of the perpetrator.

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