Histrionic Personality Disorder

The Female Psychopath II

“She will choose you, charm you with her words, and control you with this presence. She will delight you with her wit and her plans. She will show you a good time, but you will always get the bill. She will smile and deceive you, and she will scare you with her eyes. And when she is through with you, and she will be through with you, she will desert you and take with her your innocence and your pride. You will be left much sadder but not a lot wiser, and for a long time you will wonder what you did wrong.”

– From an essay signed, “A psychopath in prison,” Particular Characteristics of Female Sociopaths Vs Males

Of course, many of the severest forms of abuse do not mean that the woman is a psychopath. There are many forms of pathology. The most likely culprit in our 21st Century culture at this time is narcissism of varying degrees which includes compensatory narcissism (hypersensitive, fragile, vulnerable, “poor me”) and more overt narcissism (forms of grandiosity, brashness and obnoxious behaviour). Both require the projection of a false self onto the world at large to reinforce and maintain the illusion. Nothing exists outside that mirror of themselves as they would like to be. If you get sucked into that mirror and create a crack in its shine – watch out.

At the extreme end of the scale, even children can be abused, neglected and intentionally harmed to service that image. In fact, pathological narcissism is probably another variant of psychopathy, especially which it  involves the physical and sexual abuse and even murder of children to sustain their own delusions. Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP) is an example, where a parent, guardian or caregiver “deliberately exaggerates, fabricates, and/or induces physical, psychological, behavioral, and/or mental health problems in those who are in their care.” [1]  It is clear to me that what we have here is not a new disease but a collection of pathological disorders which amount to a feminine form of psychopathy.

Perri and Lichtenwald highlight the fact that in the context of female psychopathy and the law courts, syndromes are open to abuse to an extreme degree. This is particularly true for psychological syndromes like MSBP which ensure the diagnosis of criminal conduct is invariably obscure. Moreover, many people with MSBP are in complete control and are not suffering from psychosis. They are often able to plan meticulously and with premeditation. However, the detection of MSBP psychopaths is fraught with difficulty in that “… the deaths can be staged, victims might be too young or too old to not rule out a medical explanation, there are no outward signs of foul play, no marks, no weapons, no struggle, natural death is plausible, and no outward signs of caretaker stress…”It is a perfect combination for psychopaths who are more than capable of coping with stressful situations without showing any signs of emotion, because there are not any emotions to deal with in the first place. When a suspect is abnormally calm and stress-free this should be a sign in itself that something is wrong.  After all: “The mother of a dead child gets a lot of attention from the ambulance crew, the emergency-room folk, the doctors, the nurses, the social workers, and then she gets attention from family, friends, neighbors, the funeral home, and clergy. Then when the excitement dies down, she starts the process all over again.” [2]

Women who kill friends, family members and anyone with whom they have created a close personal relationship are usually and fittingly referred to as “Black Widows”. One example of an alleged sufferer of MSBP was Mary Beth Tinning currently serving a 20-year sentence. After experiencing the natural death of her first-born she quickly realised that there was lots of attention to be had and it wasn’t long before she had murdered all eight of them. [3]

Dr. Geoffrey McKee, forensic psychologist and clinical professor at the University of South Carolina, School of Medicine analysed and evaluated hundreds of murder defendants. McKee published his findings in his book Why Mothers Kill (2006). Whether psychotic, depressed, abusive, neglectful or psychopathic, mothers kill their children due to multiple behavioural reasons. For those women who exhibit MSBP, Dr. McKee found a consistent presence of narcissistic and psychopathic traits. He stated: “few of us can imagine someone who could deliberately and repeatedly injure a child and then deceptively thwart the well-intentioned efforts of medical personnel to successfully treat the highly vulnerable victim.” [4]

As we shall see, there is disturbing statistical evidence that hundreds of infants and young children have been killed by their mothers, with new born babies abandoned, neglected and abused. Though many women convicted for such crimes will show signs of mental illness some may well be psychopaths or have psychopathic traits.

© infrakshun

Given that psychopaths have an inability to bond emotionally with others it makes sense that abandonment or neglect of biological children may be indicative of narcissistic or psychopathic women. Dr. Geoffrey McKee explains how these tragedies evolve:

In a deceitful way, the mother destroys the child that supports the myth of motherhood in order to satiate her narcissism. During the pregnancy, the mother is the center of attention and the need for narcissistic attention is fed; but once the child is born the attention shifts to the well-being of the child, and the perceived benefits of motherhood, the attention, are replaced by the realities of parenthood. Thus the mother attempts to project the myth of the nurturing and care-giving female by placing herself in the role of the heroic mother who saves her child. Placing herself in the role of the mother-hero garners the narcissistic approbation she craves by usurping the myth to her benefit at the expense of the child who was simply a means to an end. For these women, children, like a commodity, are objects to be used for self-gratification. The value of the child is dependent on what they get out of them; if they are more valuable alive, then they are kept alive, but if they happen to die, they can always have another without remorse. It was never about upholding the myth of motherhood; the myth was a guise for their narcissism because these mothers never formed any real attachments/bonding to their children in the first place, symptomatic of psychopathy. [5]

Another example was given by the authors from the November 1997 edition of the Journal of Pediatrics, where doctors had published the results of a “terrifying experiment” conducted in UK hospitals. The covert videotaping of 39 parents was undertaken, most of whom were mothers and who had been under suspicion by medical personnel of “bringing their young children to the brink of death.” The results were horrifying:

In 30 of the 39 cases, the parents were  observed intentionally suffocating their children; in two they were seen attempting to poison a child; in a third, the mother under surveillance deliberately broke her 3-month-old daughter’s arm. Many of the parents seemed as methodical and as brazen, as scoured of fear or conscience, as any serial killer. ‘Abuse was inflicted without provocation and with premeditation, and in some instances, involved elaborate and plausible lies to explain consequences’…. For example, one mother claimed that she had suffocated her son because of stress related to his crying and continually waking her from sleep. However, if this excuse wasn’t bad enough, under surveillance, the mother was seen, with premeditated planning, to suffocate her infant when he was deeply asleep. The majority of other cases showed attempted suffocation when the child was asleep or lying passively on the bed.

The disturbing feature was that these were women (and a few men) who masqueraded as good parents, the sort who rushed their children to the emergency room when they had trouble breathing and stood by them with fortitude and devotion while the doctors puzzled out what was wrong. They were conning; they could give the appearance of the concerned mom the minute a doctor or nurse walked in the room, enjoy the social prestige of a mysterious disease, the proximity to powerful medical professionals, they liked the attention and the drama—the wail of the sirens, the adrenalin rush of the emergency room … With further investigation, it turned out that the 39 patients under surveillance, ages 1 month to nearly 3 years old, had 41 siblings, and that 12 of those siblings had died suddenly and unexpectedly. [6]

Regardless of MSBP and other syndromes, this has been a constant and telling statistical fact in the majority of analyses in stark contrast to the percentage of male perpetrators of abuse.  61 percent of all child abuse is committed by biological mothers while 25 percent of all child abuse is committed by natural fathers. [7] The expression, type and variability of traits involved may differ considerably. These statistics from 2003 research data of the US Department of Health and Services, Administration for Children and Families division stands up to considerable scrutiny.

Where mothers only were responsible for deaths of their children the figure is at 30.5 percent. Stats have fluctuated until 2007 where “… 56.5 percent of the perpetrators were women, 42.4 percent were men, the latter showing an even more dramatic increase. Despite similar variations of marginal increases and decreases the same female dominance in the perpetrator relationship to abuse and related financial and custodial data, while child victims of parental status of perpetrator once again has mothers at the highest at 40.8 percent. (An illustration of these trends is shown from a two 2003 DHHS reports in graph form below).

In January 2005 the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCANDS) and the DHHS provided findings on Male Perpetrators of Child Treatment and found that: “Of all reported cases in the State data set, slightly less than one-half of all perpetrators were male. Of these, about one-half (51 percent) were biological fathers, an additional one-fifth occupied some other parental role (adoptive fathers, stepfathers, mothers’ boyfriends), and about one-quarter were in non-parental relationships (including relatives, foster parents, day care providers, or friends) to their victims. In comparison, among female perpetrators, 86 percent were biological mothers.[8]

Most child sexual abuse is committed by men but abuse in general committed against boys and to lesser extent girls, is carried out by mothers. Which begs the question why there is a category and document for “Male perpetrators of Child maltreatment” but not a “Female Perpetrators of Child maltreatment”?

 DHHS1DHHS report 2003, Fatalities by Perpetrator

DHHS 2DHHS report 2003 Victims by Parental Status of Perpetrator

In a study as far back as 1997, 103 female jail inmates were evaluated using precise scores from an extensive semi-structured interview for the assessment of personality disorders. A substantially different “factor structure” for women was found than had been previously found for male psychopaths. The report concluded that: “For women, interpersonal traits were notable for lack of empathy or guilt, interpersonal deception, proneness to boredom, and sensation seeking. Antisocial factors of strongest link were early behavioral problems, promiscuity, and adult antisocial behavior. Female offenders manifested substantial loadings on two items not found in male populations: promiscuous sexual behavior and lack of realistic long-term goals.” [9]

Yet, it is also true that female offenders do have “gender specific adversities” which include higher rates of sexual abuse in childhood as well as a higher incidence of sexual assault than male offenders [10] This may account for the higher rates of sexual promiscuity linked to socio-economic status parallel to a “man’s world” mentality that will inform the sub-culture in which they often live. The study also found in their sample which was small, that there was definite connection with psychopathy and Histrionic Personality Disorder though they did not elaborate as to whether that was indicative of psychopathy or merely psychopathic tendencies. Interestingly, they found that the “patterns of results strongly supported the relationship between psychopathy and aggression.” [11]

Though not necessarily related to psychopathy or narcissism, a 2010 study from United States Harvard Medical School poked a large hole in the assumptions that women are less violent than men. Their findings showed that:  “When the violence was one-sided, both women and men said that women were the perpetrators about 70 percent of the time. Men were more likely to be injured in reciprocally violent relationships (25 percent) than were women when the violence was one-sided (20 percent). That means both men and women agreed that men were not more responsible than women for intimate partner violence. The findings cannot be explained by men being ashamed to admit hitting women, because women agreed with men on this point.” [12]

Joan Arehart-Treichel of the American Psychiatric Association backed the Harvard Medical School study after publishing her own study which confirmed the results.  In her paper she wrote: “When it comes to non-reciprocal violence between intimate partners, women are more often the perpetrators.” [13]  If this is yet another statistic brushed under the carpet one wonders how many others there are and how they may relate to the female psychopaths which may be riding high on the cover that a lack of awareness provides. The statistics so far, may be the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

One reason why psychopathic behaviour from women may be misunderstood and misdiagnosed is due in part to the fact that abusive behaviour by female offenders in general continues to be unreported. Darlene Barriere, a Canadian violence and abuse prevention educator offers the background to why such states of affairs exist:

  • Children are reluctant to report the person they depend on.
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour is often masked in bathing, dressing or comforting the victim.
  • When boys are the targets of female offenders, they are less likely to disclose.
  • There is denial of the existence of sexuality in females.
  • Females who sexually abuse undermines feelings about how women should relate to children.
  • People find it difficult to understand how women could sexually abuse.
  • Children and adolescents who disclose sexual abuse by female offenders are often told they are fantasizing.
  • When the victim is a male adolescent, often times the sexual abuse goes unreported because of the perception that sex with an older female is a ‘rite of passage’ ”. [14]

As with most abuse consensual or otherwise, this may be highly damaging to the young child or adolescent at sensitive stages in his emotional, mental and sexual development. Barriere also lists several psychological effects such acts of abuse can lead to which include: self-blame; low self-esteem; problems in sexual functioning; avoidance of sex; sexual compulsivity; substance abuse and crime.

While it can be argued that because women traditionally spend far more time at home with children then fathers and male partners, the percentage of abuse will logically be higher and that women generally get paid less than their male counterparts (which is hotly disputed in the US and Europe) there is little credible critique of the statistics themselves.  It is also true that poverty, absence of community and the extended family including a lack of support from the male and the consequent broken homes that result, play a huge part in the final data. However, the consistent pattern overall is that fathers are given little incentive or practical support to be at home even if they wanted to. They are doomed to fulfill a role that is the summation of economically and culturally determined pathways within a very limited spectrum of choices. The devaluation and confusion of gender roles is an inevitable consequence of a vicious circle of competition and unyielding state bureaucracy underpinned by a daily erosion of community values. This inevitably sees a desperate inversion of female traits leading to the abuse of the “wired in” nurturing role of motherhood and abandonment of the spouse, a profound loss of male identity and emasculation on the side of the father. [15]

With compelling statistics linking fatherless homes with high incidence rates of suicide, behavioural problems, rape, absentism at school, time in juvenile detention centres and prison, the role of the father must be seen as equally vital in parenting as the role of the mother. [16] If these statistics are in any way accurate and in combination with the inflicted pathologies we are now witnessing in the West, the involvement of the father, the extended family and the role of women in society in general must be more important that we have ever realised. Stand this against the presence of the female psychopath and we may see that psychopathy could operate as an ironic ratio of gender equality, where male psychopathy gravitates towards hierarchical dominator positions (government, business, institutions) whereas the female psychopath – while undoubtedly drawn to the same positions of power – may be expressed in less obvious ways. They might be found in what was once the traditional setting: in the home and community, masked by myths and the lack of statistical data that goes with it. Rather than forming the bedrock of stability, they seed themselves in the home and community settings in order to create situations that foster the exact opposite. Meanwhile, sandwiched between the two are normal people desperately trying to make sense of their lives.

The tide is beginning to turn in favour of applying the same principles to the investigation of male psychopathy. However, there are some distinct differences between the two genders in how this pathology is expressed. And it is here that many of the problems have traditionally been found.

Let’s also not forget that the existence of female paedophiles and abusers of every kind is as much a reality as the male version but has traditionally slipped under the radar for the very reasons stated previously: it is not culturally excepted that such thing is possible. In other words, its another taboo from which the female psychopath/narcissist takes full advantage. Indeed, from 2009 statistics, UK police say that were over 64,000 child sex offenders and the numbers are rising. Psychologist Dr. Joe Sullivan who lectures worldwide on the prevalence of female abusers in our society, determines the percentage of female is highly variable – between 5% – 20% due precisely to the cultural and cognitive bias. [17] Donald Findlater, director of research and development at Lucy Faithfull Foundation (LFF) a child protection charity said: “… results indicated that up to 20% of a conservative estimate of 320,000 suspected UK paedophiles were women.” He said further that: “The problem is far bigger than conviction rates and, if you look at survivor studies, you end up with a very different story about the scale of the problem of female sexual abuse.” [18]

See also: Sex, Lies and Society II: Paedophilia and Crowd Control III: Mixed Messages (2)



[1] MBP Definitions,Maltreatment Behaviors, and Comments by Louisa Lasher | http://www.mbpexpert.com/
[2] op. cit. Perri & Lichtenwald; (p.61)
[3] ‘Marybeth Tinning again denied parole: Now 68, child killer next eligible in January 2013’. The Daily Gazette. Schenectady, NY. February 8, 2011.
[4] op. cit. Perri & Lichtenwald (p.61)
[5] Quoted by Perri & Lichtenwald from WhyMothers Who Kill: A Forensic Psychologist’s Casebook by Dr. Geoffrey R. McKee, Oxford University Press, 2006.
[6] Op.cit; Perri & Lichtenwald (p.61)
[7] 2003 DHHS report on Nationwide Child Abuse.
[8] Male Perpetrators of ChA ild Maltreatment Findings from NCANDS, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation January 2005.
[9] ‘Female Psychopathy: Equal but Distinct’ The Forensic Echo, Vol. 2, No. 2,  31 Dec 1997.
[10] Female Offenders: Critical Perspectives and Effective Interventions.By Ruth T. Zaplin. Published by Joan & Barlett Publishers, 2008.
[11] Ibid.
[12] ‘Domestic violence: Not Always One Sided’ Pri-Med Patient Education Center, http://www.patient-deu.org, Harvard Medical School. (The entire Harvard Medical School study can be found  in the May 2007 edition of the American Journal of Public Health.  Volume 9, 5th Edition, pages 941-947.)
[13] CDC study by Joan Arehart-Treichel, in the publication of the American Psychiatric Association, Psychiatric News, August 3, 2007 Volume 42 Number 15 Page 31 : ‘Men Shouldn’t Be Overlooked as Victims of Partner.’
[14] By Darlene Barriere | http://www.child-abuse-effects.com
[15] ‘Modern men feel emasculated, study claims’ By Sarah Womack, The Telegraph March 26 2008.
[16] 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census; 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes; – Center for Disease Control; 80percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes – Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 14, p. 403-26; 71percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes; – National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools; 70 percent of juveniles in state operated institutions come from fatherless homes  – U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report Sept., 1988; 85 percent of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home; – Fulton County Georgia jail populations & Texas Dept. of Corrections, 1992.
[16]’Up to 64,000 women in UK ‘are child-sex offenders”By Mark Townsend and Rajeev Syal, The Guardian, 4 October 2009.
[17] ‘Female paedophiles more prevalent than conviction rates suggest, leading forensic psychologist says’ ABC News Australia,
By David Lewis, 28 Apr 2015.

The Female Psychopath I

 By M.K. Styllinski

“After my involvement with the psychopath I got the strange feeling that he really didn’t have a gender. When I learned that psychopaths have no identity – they only create one as needed – it started to make perfect sense. If they have no identity it only seems logical that they have no identity either doesn’t it?”

– A.B. Admin, psychopaths and love.com

Many people might think that the existence of female psychopaths is negligible, if they exist at all. Television, plays, movies and pulp fiction have all portrayed the female psychopath alongside her male counterpart drawn from myths, folklore and fables since time immemorial. The femme fatale and scheming devil-woman have all gone through the mill of the artist’s imagination feeding off the potent archetype of the feminine vampire.

Admittedly, the influence of male prejudice and patriarchal residues still echo through literature and cultural mores of the day, but taking into account such bias, we seem averse to the idea that female psychopathy could be a significant reality. A serious lack of data and knowledge regarding the dynamics of the female psychopath has stemmed from our preconceived ideas about gender roles largely sourced from ideas of Mother Nature and nurturing; that women are passive, weak and non-violent. A male can be evaluated and found to be psychopathic, whereas a female can take advantage of these cultural stereotypes, often playing on the dominance of male bias in law enforcement and related institutions thereby escaping true diagnosis, usually in favour of histrionic or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. (NPD) [1]

Marlene DietrichHollywood Femme Fatale Marlene Dietrich

Since the female psychopath has both a mask of sanity and the imbedded cultural bias  she has a double advantage which allows her to escape detection. Robert Hare asks us not to be deceived as the: “… variety and severity of criminal acts performed by these women, as well as their capacity for cold-blooded violence, are similar to those committed by their male counterparts.” [2]

The pathological narcissist, the Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) and the female psychopath all conform to the archetype of the feminine vampire. Of course, this energy sucker is neither male nor female in reality but the methods of energy extraction are different for each. The female vampire goes for the pity hook of a damsel in distress while the male stimulates the “mother instinct” in the guise of the “little boy lost” playing on the passivity, sensitivity and vulnerability so enamoured of gender stereotypes. This has particular relevance in that so many ordinary people exhibit these traits to a greater or lesser degree and as a general symptom of a society saturated in narcissistic values.

Jungian psychologist Barbara Hort described the feminine vampire archetype as “… the Spider – the incarnation of the Terrible Mother as a devouring weaver of fate and bringer of inevitable death.” No mincing of words there. If pathological narcissism is just one variant of psychopathy then this describes the “dance” that is created between vampire and victim: a fly becomes more and more trapped as it struggles, the spider closing in to extract the nourishment she craves for her continued existence. The image of the Great Spider on her web becomes “…symbolically synonymous with another ancient image of the negative Feminine, one that is found at the center of many web-like labyrinths. The image is that of the Gorgon Medusa…” [3]


Medusa by Arnold Böcklin, circa 1878 (wikpedia)

Hort elaborates on this ancient process:

It may seem incomprehensible that a powerful person could be victimized by a psychic vampire who seems to be completely disempowered. Yet there are few lures more potent for a powerful champion than rescuing a grateful waif in distress. How exciting it is to save someone from the jaws of tragedy, particularly if the recipient is adoring and appreciative! You, the noble champion, journey alone down the desolate nighttime road, when there appears by the wayside a sweet little mist who is weeping in loneliness and alluring despair. Ah, you think, here is a perfect chance for me to put my sword to its proper use! Here is someone to save! And how charmingly pathetic she is! Perhaps there will be some love for me at the end of the heroic rescue! […]

… our gullibility is no mystery. When we embark on the path of the Champion, when we don the armor of empowerment, we expect our vampires also to be draped in the cloak of power. We never suspect that a vampire might veil itself in the guise of weakness and vulnerability. What’s more, when the Champion Archetype is active in our psyche, we strive to serve those less fortunate than ourselves, so when we come upon the sweet mist by the side of the road, is it any wonder that we bleed on its behalf? What a cruel ruse this is, for in fact the mist is a vampire who will feed on us by exploiting the very nobility of which our Championhood is based. […]

“In the beginning, the man was happy to rescue the pathetic damsel, who, coincidentally, had just one or two more little traumas that she hoped he would be kind enough to rectify. Thus began a long series of heoric rescues, each one of which was appreciated by the woman only long enough to resuscitate her hero before she needed his next valorous deed. [4]

Though common to any sexual preference, the primary emotional hook in the ensnarement of the male is pity, coupled with sexual seduction. Nigerian writer Ben Okri’s debut novel: Astonishing the Gods paints a vivid picture of a spiritual quest and the meeting of a strange woman, a siren or a long lost lover: “She lay down beside him and her lust spread a curious darkness over the bed. He seemed to be afloat in her desire. He seemed to levitate in her passion. He surrendered his senses to her power. Gently, she made him lie down. Then she whispered these words into his ear: ‘I am the mystery that will unlock your life.’” [5]


Odysseus and the Sirens by Herbert James Draper, c. 1909 (wikipedia)

It is the sense of hidden depths and mystery that the feminine vampire cultivates in order to draw men into her web, taking great lengths to disguise the emptiness within. The more pernicious the disorder the more external energy is needed to fill the void which is why engaging with the vampire can leave you stripped of your soul:

“… the creature that best embodies the inner nature of the feminine vampire is the needle-fanged, cold-blooded, venom- spewing serpent. …The Medusan vampire slithers up in silent hunger behind her unwary prey, freezing her target with her stare (pitifulness and wiles of the damsel in distress), and then sinks her fangs into the petrified victim, spitting out the venom of her embittered rage, and then leaves the lifeless body behind as she gathers her sinuous coils of deceptive lethargy and sniffs the air for the scent of hot blood, waiting for the next victim who will prolong her life… The Medusan vampire relies on snakelike subtlety to capture her prey.

“The true hero MUST be able to sense the Medusan viper who lurks under the veil of imploring vulnerability… note the term ‘sense’ rather than ‘see.’ The myth tells us that it is extremely dangerous to look directly on the truth of this entity, for the vision will immobilize and destroy us.” [6]

And no doubt many men have been turned to stone by looking directly into the heart of the female narcissist and psychopath. When socio-cultural norms actually reinforce the illusion that such pathology has the air of seductive mystery and enticing sensuality then this can only the increase the number of victims. With the underlying basis of vampirism informing societies’ foundations to an increasing degree, how does the female psychopath take advantage of such an unequal playing field – even between the male of her psychopathic species?

1ef3f2b04e8a3ad7a14d493fa79b1ee2Freud’s psychoanalysis will occasionally pop up throughout this series as one of the causes of our large-scale problems rather than its antidote. In terms of female psychopathy he has a peculiar part to play in its genesis. Freud’s views increased the perception that aggression was mostly male and instinctual where women provided a calming effect on men’s unbridled sexual drives and the rage that lay just beneath the surface of even the mildest of choir boys. [7]

Women who allowed their anger to fly free were considered to harbour too much masculine energy, which perpetuated the belief that aggressiveness in women was abnormal. Buttressed by the simplistic views of Darwin’s theories of evolution as well as the flowering of eugenics in America and England, this contributed to the patriarchal structure of the twentieth century and to the present mess of gender roles. This also allowed the diagnosis of psychopathy to stay hidden, while at the same time shaping the “normal” society of men and women. It is little wonder that such myths about the “passivity” of women persists where expressions of radical feminism only serve to increase the promotion of extreme and unrealistic aims, the latter of which we will presently explore.

Women have traditionally been seen capable of only reactive, non-pre-mediated violence which is counter to all the studies so far on a range of anti-social personality disorders. Dr. Robert Hare shows that there are many cases of female psychopaths doing all the same things of which male psychopaths are capable though the processes and strategies involved may differ. A tiger may wait patiently in a tree before it pounces on the gazelle, or a lion may stalk its prey in the tall grass over many kilometres. Different species, yet both predators and part of the same genus, utilising different strategies that lead to the same result: Lunch. Or to put it another way, the only difference in female psychopaths is that “…they may be less prone than males to use overt, direct physical aggression to attain their needs.” [8]


The innocent, girl-next-door and the pity-me, victimised, submissive female persona are among the arsenal of psychological ploys employed by the female psychopath.

Criminal trial attorney Frank S. Perri, JD, MBA, CPA; and clinical psychologist Terrance G. Lichtenwald, PhD are also convinced that the study of the female psychopath has been greatly lacking thanks to gender stereo-typing and the subsequent lack of awareness in law enforcement, the justice system and forensic science. They consider female psychopathy to have only really taken off in the last fifteen years therefore knowledge as to whether differences in female and male psychopathy: “…reflect actual gender-based differences or are the result of potential biases in sampling, diagnostic criteria, and/or assessment instruments” is difficult to ascertain at this stage.” [9]

Perri and Lichtenwald state that there are two kinds of female psychopaths. The first is characterised by “… interpersonal deception, sensation seeking, proneness to boredom, and a lack of empathy. The second category shows “… early behavioral problems, promiscuous sexual behavior, and adult, nonviolent antisocial behaviour.” Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) (inappropriate sexual seductiveness and exaggerated or shallow emotions) has the strongest relationship to psychopathy in female samples whereas Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is more likely to be found in male psychopaths than female psychopaths:

Female psychopaths were comparable to psychopathic males in terms of irresponsible lifestyles …. Female psychopaths typically have higher unemployment rates, relationship instability, and dependency on social assistance programs, while male psychopaths tend to have higher rates of unlawful behavior and violent crimes …Analysis of adolescent populations found gender differences in psychopathy related to violence. Specifically, nonviolent antisocial behavior appeared to be key to understanding psychopathy in females, whereas violent antisocial behavior was more important in males …Sexual conduct has emerged in several studies differentiating between male and female psychopathy; specifically, female psychopaths appear to engage in more promiscuous sexual behaviour than males … These findings are likely due to gender specific socialization in which assumption of strong, dominant roles is expected and accepted more so for men than it is for women. [10] [Emphasis mine]

Certain distinct preferences in the male and female psychopath and the methods they use to achieve their aims have become apparent. The use of “impression management” seems to be much more of a concern for the female psychopath which means portraying themselves in the best possible light is paramount.  It is here that the gender myths might play a vital role in adding an extra camouflage to the diagnosis of female psychopathy in both the caring professions and in custody cases. Proto-typical findings on male psychopaths as overt aggression, cruelty to animals and bullying and threats were nothing like as common for female psychopaths. Covert tactics and more subtle approaches seem to be favoured by psychopathic females such as complex strategies of emotional manipulation, flirtation and sexual seduction to achieve similar results. [11]

Female serialists kill for money, excitement, and power. They gravitate towards occupations that conform to the traditional female roles, occupations like nursing and babysitting, but also the non-conventional such as stripping and prostitution. They are generally older than their male counterparts and play on being the last person one would think to be responsible for the most heinous crimes, hence, the targeting of small children and the elderly who serve as suitably vulnerable and defenceless victims. Poisoning or suffocation is the preferred means of murder with a meticulous attention to leaving the crime scene free of material evidence.

Conversely, male psychopaths are more likely to kill for sexual gratification and power over others and favour more overt means such as bludgeoning, stabbing and strangling. They are less than careful in the aftermath of their murders. [12]

Yet of the 20,000 or more murders every year in the United States alone there are no exact figures of how many of those were committed by serial killers. Dr. Schurman-Kauflin, an expert on serial killers and founder of the Violent Crimes Institute explains that this is due to the difficulty in determining “…the number of killer who are active at any one time…” and because “…there is no clear definition of the term. There are almost as many definitions of serial killers as there are researchers.”


Karla Leanne Homolka after sentencing. Source: Canada Live

Homolka was a convicted Canadian serial killer who helped her husband Paul Bernado rape and murder at least three women. More specifically: the 1991 and 1992 rape-murders of two Ontario teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, as well as the rape and death of her sister Tammy. However, she cut a deal with prosecutors and served just 12 years in prison for manslaughter after a plea-bargain.  Today, she lives in Guadeloupe with her three children. One wonders how much Perri and Lichtenwald’s conclusions could be applied to this case and many others.

What is more disturbing is that while it is still generally accepted that the number of murders by women is small, there are no reliable national or international data sets to analyse how common (or not) the incidence of female serial killers. Murders perpetrated by women and female serial killing are also on the increase the fact of which has been ignored by the media and encouraged by gender myths in the public: “…Of a total of about 400 serial killers identified between 1800 and 1995 in the United States, nearly 16 percent—a total of about 62 killers—collectively killed between 400 and 600 victims … More than a third of the female serial killers made their appearance since 1970, and the numbers keep increasing …” [13]

Perri and Lichtenwald believe the above figures are conservative due to the prevalence of female serialists carrying out their kills:

… at home or at work in the capacity of caretakers such as nurses, babysitters, etc. where a child’s mysterious death could be explained away as a medical anomaly or to old age. Attacks occur in accepted social and professional relationships, while the means to kill are often surreptitious like poison, drug overdose, or sudden suffocation; the murder in essence becomes hidden because of the belief that someone who established a bonding relationship with the child would not kill (such as a nurturing nurse, mother, caretaker, etc.) Many female serialists tend to use poison and trap their victims on territory that is familiar to them and is shared with the victim … Female serial killers tend to have longer killing careers than men, presumably because their crimes are more carefully planned, methodical, precise and “hidden” on the whole … As for other serial crimes committed by women, some aid their boyfriends and husbands in abducting, torturing, and killing women; such was the kind of assistance Karla Homolka gave her husband, Paul Bernardo, when they killed Karla’s sister and two other school girls. [14]

The absence of emotion tends to help psychopathic women in the law courts despite the high degree of instrumental homicide as oppose to reactive homicide they perpetrate. One of the myths of the feminine mind is that women react to events and thus commit crimes of passion, desperation or survival under accumulated trauma or other forms of duress. The idea is that they have been provoked or driven to carry out certain crimes that were the result of a temporary loss of sanity or the onset of psychosis rather than any premeditated or “instrumental” planning. The latter would suggest someone in control of the mental faculties which is not the province of the mentally ill. Yet, this is precisely the hallmark of the psychopath. “The absence of emotion actually assists them in planning the kill and not killing reactively because a time requirement to predation is not necessarily present.” [15] The authors list several examples of psychopathic caregivers’ crimes, female predators who “…located [in their] well-spring of power in maternity.” [16]

Award-winning journalist Patricia Pearson argues that generally women are more than capable of matching men’s propensity for violence. It is because of our denial of women’s innate capacity for aggression that she thinks “…women got away with their crimes for years..” and “…because so few of us are willing to acknowledge that women are as capable of cool and calculating brutality as men are, again relying on the myth that females are incapable of such monstrosities.” [17]

In the words of American serial killer Carol M. Bundy, a former nurse and a divorced mother of two: “Remember, I look innocent. Impression is worth as much as facts.”

This is where impression management in family courts is so useful to the pathological narcissist and female psychopath.[18]



[1] Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths go to Work by Dr. Robert D. Hare, Ph.D., and Paul Babiak, Ph.D. Published by Harper Collins, 1st edition, 2007 | ISBN-10: 0061147893. p.40.
[2] op. cit.Hare (p.102)
[3] p.136; Unholy Hungers: Encountering the Psychic Vampire in Ourselves & Others by Barbara E. Hort, Published by Shambahla first edition. 1996 | ISBN-10: 1570621810.
[4] Ibid. (p.132)
[5] Astonishing the Gods By Ben Okri. Published by Phoenix Paperbacks, 1999 | ISBN-10: 0753808641.
[6] op. cit. Hort (p.146)
[7] Behind the mask: destruction and creativity in women’s aggression By Dana Crowely-Jack, Published by Harvard University Press, 2001 | ISBN-10: 0674005376.
[8] The Last Frontier: Myths & The Female Psychopathic Killer by Frank S. Perri and Terrance G. Lichtenwald, The Forensic Examiner, Summer 2010.
[9] Ibid. (p.58)
[10] Ibid
[11] Ibid.
[12] p. 10-11; The New Predator: Profiles Of Female Serial Killers by Deborah Schurman-Kauflin. Published by Algora Publishing, 2000 | ISBN-10: 1892941589.
[13] op.cit;  Perri & Lichtenwald; (p.63)
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid. (p.60)
[16] p.96; When she was bad: how and why women get away with murder by Patricia Pearson. Published by Penguin Books, 1998 | ISBN 0140243887.
[17] op. cit. Perri & Lichtenwald (p.61)
[18] Ibid (Perri & Lichtenwald (p.63)