Category Archives: PTSD

Free access to Sage journals gives you a chance to read all about science and pseudoscience in policing

Once again Sage Journals is throwing its archive open – you can get free access to all Sage journals until 31 October if you register first. A great opportunity to stock up on articles in journals that you or your library don’t subscribe to.

Can I, in particular, recommend you take a look at the latest issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior? It’s a special on “Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs” pulled together by guest editor Brent Snook. Scott Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield’s overview of science and pseudoscience is just ok (I don’t think it’s as good as it could be), but there are useful reviews (among others) of hypnosis in a legal setting (Graham Wagstaff), of detecting deception (Aldert Vrij), and of false confessions (Saul Kassin). These reviews will prove invaluable if you’re new to these areas of research or need a refresher.

Also in this issue, Snook and colleagues examine why criminal profiling is so seductive, when much of what passes for profiling is simply – according to the authors – “smoke and mirrors”. They conclude:

There is a growing belief that profilers can accurately and consistently predict a criminal’s characteristics based on crime scene evidence… We contend that this belief is illusory because a critical analysis of research on CP [criminal profiling] showed that the field lacks theoretical grounding and empirical support.

And there’s an extraordinary and provocative critique of the FBI’s programme to introduce Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for its agents, co-authored by a former agent who was involved in the programme. The authors bemoan the fact that although the business of “law enforcement is inextricably tied to facts, objectivity, organization, and high standards of proof” (p.1342), the FBI did not (according to the authors) apply the same standards when evaluating a stress debriefing programme for its agents. The evidence for the effectiveness of CISD is scant, argue the authors (and there is some evidence that CISD may even be harmful to people exposed to severe trauma). So, the authors explain: “We are thus compelled to consider how an idea so poorly grounded and so seriously discredited came to hold so tenacious a footing in the employee assistance practices of what is arguably the world’s most sophisticated law enforcement agency” (p.1342). Newbold, Lohr and Gist’s concluding comments could serve as an epitaph for the entire issue:

Pseudoscience finds its foothold where the blurring of boundaries allows the imperatives of evidentiary warrant shared by both domains to become compromised. It takes many years of training and experience to become competent as either a law enforcement agent or a psychologist, and either role requires strong focus and strict boundaries to be executed effectively. Police officers who want to play shrink and psychologists who want to play cop run a serious risk of blurring those boundaries.

Here are the contents in full:

  • Brent Snook – Introduction to the Special Issue: Pseudoscientific Policing Practices and Beliefs
  • Scott O. Lilienfeld and Kristin Landfield – Science and Pseudoscience in Law Enforcement: A User-Friendly Primer
  • Michael G. Aamodt – Reducing Misconceptions and False Beliefs in Police and Criminal Psychology
  • John Turtle and Stephen C. Want – Logic and Research Versus Intuition and Past Practice as Guides to Gathering and Evaluating Eyewitness Evidence
  • Brent Snook, Richard M. Cullen, Craig Bennell, Paul J. Taylor, and Paul Gendreau – The Criminal Profiling Illusion: What’s Behind the Smoke and Mirrors?
  • Graham F. Wagstaff – Hypnosis and the Law: Examining the Stereotypes
  • William G. Iacono – Effective Policing: Understanding How Polygraph Tests Work and Are Used
  • Saul M. Kassin – Confession Evidence: Commonsense Myths and Misconceptions
  • Aldert Vrij – Nonverbal Dominance Versus Verbal Accuracy in Lie Detection: A Plea to Change Police Practice
  • Katherine M. Newbold, Jeffrey M. Lohr, and Richard Gist – Apprehended Without Warrant: Issues of Evidentiary Warrant for Critical Incident Services and Related Trauma Interventions in a Federal Law Enforcement Agency
  • David C. Flagel and Paul Gendreau – Commentary: Sense, Common Sense, and Nonsense

New issue: Journal of Interpersonal Violence 22(11)


The November 2007 issue of Journal of Interpersonal Violence 22(11) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles.

Sign up for personalised ToC alerts here .

Contents include:

  • Assessing the Factors Associated With Sexual Harassment Among Young Female Migrant Workers in Nepal – Mahesh Puri and John Cleland
  • Parricide: An Empirical Analysis of 24 Years of U.S. Data – Kathleen M. Heide and Thomas A. Petee
  • Weapons Used by Juveniles and Adult Offenders in U.S. Parricide Cases – Kathleen M. Heide and Thomas A. Petee
  • Postdicting Arrests for Proactive and Reactive Aggression With the PICTS Proactive and Reactive Composite Scales – Glenn D. Walters, Alice A. Frederick, and Charles Schlauch
  • Acculturation Stress, Drinking, and Intimate Partner Violence Among Hispanic Couples in the U.S. – Raul Caetano, Suhasini Ramisetty-Mikler, Patrice A. Caetano Vaeth, and T. Robert Harris
  • An Analysis of Korean Homicide Crime-Scene Actions – C. Gabrielle Salfati and Jisun Park
  • Structural Validity of the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist Among College Students With a Trauma History – Jon D. Elhai, Matt J. Gray, Anna R. Docherty, Todd B. Kashdan, and Samet Kose
  • Clinical Epidemiology of Urban Violence: Responding to Children Exposed to Violence in Ten Communities – Ilan Harpaz-Rotem, Robert A. Murphy, Steven Berkowitz, Steven Marans, and Robert A. Rosenheck

Articles of forensic interest in the July issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry


Some articles of forensic interest in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 77(3) . Follow the link for access to abstracts and full text articles.

  • Posttraumatic Distress and Growth Among Wives of Prisoners of War: The Contribution of Husbands’ Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Wives’ Own Attachment – Rachel Dekel
  • Tomorrow’s Players Under Occupation: An Analysis of the Association of Political Violence With Psychological Functioning and Domestic Violence, Among Palestinian Youth – Alean Al-Krenawi, John R. Graham and Mahmud A. Sehwail
  • Do Urban Adolescents Become Desensitized to Community Violence? Data From a National Survey – Michael R. McCart, Daniel W. Smith, Benjamin E. Saunders, Dean G. Kilpatrick, Heidi Resnick and Kenneth J. Ruggiero
  • Children’s Self-Reports About Violence Exposure: An Examination of the Things I Have Seen and Heard Scale – Richard Thompson, Laura J. Proctor, Cindy Weisbart, Terri L. Lewis, Diana J. English, Jon M. Hussey and Desmond K. Runyan
  • Longitudinal Helpseeking Patterns Among Victims of Intimate Partner Violence: The Relationship Between Legal and Extralegal Services – Lauren Bennett Cattaneo, Jeffrey Stuewig, Lisa A. Goodman, Stacey Kaltman and Mary Ann Dutton
  • Adolescent Female Murderers: Characteristics and Treatment Implications – Dominique Roe-Sepowitz

Special issue of the Journal of Personality Assessment: the Personality Assessment Inventory


The first issue this year of the Journal of Personality Assessment 88(1) is a special issue on the Personality Assessment Inventory, with free access to full text articles. There are several papers here that will be of value to anyone who is interested in measurement of malingering and deceptiveness, and a few more that are of interest in a broader forensic context.

More details below the fold.

Continue reading Special issue of the Journal of Personality Assessment: the Personality Assessment Inventory

Quick links: Google searches in a murder investigation and more…


Quick links from around the web:

The BPS Research Digest (29 Mar) highlights a study that indicates that courtroom confidence backfires when a witness makes an error:

Confidence is extremely convincing – many studies have shown that both real jurors and mock jurors are more likely to believe a courtroom witness who appears confident. But what if a confident witness is seen to make an error? New research by Elizabeth Tenney and colleagues shows that in this case, confidence backfires: confident witnesses who make mistakes are perceived to be the least reliable of all.

The press release announcing this study is here.

The Situationist (29 Mar) comments on recent research that links violence and religious indoctrination, and points to other research on religious messages and violence:

In this month’s Nature, Sociologist Mark Juergensmeyer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, summarizes some of his research [PDF] as follows: “If violence is presented as the authoritative voice of God, it can increase the possibility of more violence. But everything depends on how it is presented.”

Providentia (28 March) draws our attention to a study of the effect of social reactions on development of PTSD among rape victims:

Statistical analyses of the results indicated that negative social reactions and avoidance coping (such as nondisclosure) have a profound effect on development of later PTSD symptoms. The expected relationship between victim self-blame and PTSD was found to be at least partially due to negative social interactions with others.

Providentia also comments (19 Mar) on a study in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, which examines homicides committed by psychotic offenders.

The Guardian (28 Mar) reports that under new proposals from British PM Tony Blair, every child will be assessed for risk of turning to crime:

The children of prisoners, problem drug users and others at high risk of offending will also face being “actively managed” by social services and youth justice workers. New technologies are to be used to boost police detection rates while DNA samples are to be taken from any crime suspect who comes into contact with the police.

Finally, if you are going to commit murder, perhaps best to make sure you don’t leave a Google trail:Cop: Wife googled ‘How to commit murder’ – New Jersey Daily Record, via Slashdot (13 & 15 March):

At exactly 5:45:34 on April 18, 2004 a computer taken from the office of the attorney of Melanie McGuire, did a search on the words “How To Commit Murder. That same day searches on Google and MSN search engines, were conducted on such topics as ‘instant poisons’, ‘undetectable poisons,’ ‘fatal digoxin doses’, and gun laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Ten days later, according to allegations by the state of New Jersey, McGuire murdered her husband […]

Photo credit: bigeoino, Creative Commons License

Vicarious tramatisation of those who work with sex offenders

A new review of the impact on therapists of working with sex offenders has just been published in the journal Trauma, Violence and Abuse . The article, by Heather Moulden and Philip Firestone from the University of Ottawa, reviews empirical research on vicarious traumatisation.

Abstract: This article reviews the descriptive and empirical literature examining vicarious traumatization in therapists treating sexual offenders. Vicarious traumatization in sexual offender therapists is described, including an examination of the relationships between vicarious traumatization and client, therapist, and setting and therapy characteristics. Special attention is given to those unique factors that contribute to the development of vicarious traumatization in this group, as well as consideration of why therapists treating offenders or victims may differ in their experience and development of vicarious traumatization. Evidence from the research reviewed suggests that sexual offender therapists do experience symptoms of vicarious traumatization. Factors most strongly associated with the development of vicarious traumatization in sexual offender therapists include professional experience, treatment setting, and coping strategies employed by the therapists. Implications and recommendations for professionals and policymakers are discussed. © 2007 SAGE Publications

Other articles in the January 2007 issue of TVA include reports on health care-based interventions for female victims of sexual violence, sexual abuse perpetrated by females and victimization in romantic relationships.


Research on psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder, and other forensic-relevant articles from the Journal of Abnormal Psychology

Two articles of particular interest in the Nov 06 issue of Journal of Abnormal Psychology 115(4):

Effects of Comorbid Psychopathy on Criminal Offending and Emotion Processing in Male Offenders With Antisocial Personality Disorder
David S. Kosson, Amanda R. Lorenz and Joseph P. Newman

This article addresses with the distinction between Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy, and whether they are the same or distinct syndromes. From the abstract:

[…] Both individuals with ASPD only and those with ASPD and psychopathy were characterized by more criminal activity than were controls. In addition, ASPD with psychopathy was associated with more severe criminal behavior and weaker emotion facilitation than ASPD alone. Group differences in the association between emotion dysfunction and criminal behavior suggest tentatively that ASPD with and ASPD without prominent psychopathic features may be distinct syndromes.

Recognition of Facial Affect in Psychopathic Offenders
Samantha J. Glass and Joseph P. Newman

From the abstract:

On the basis of research linking psychopathy, amygdala dysfunction, and deficits in facial affect recognition, the authors predicted that psychopathic offenders would display performance deficits when required to identify the emotional expression of particular faces. […] Contrary to expectation, psychopathic offenders performed as well as controls […]. The authors conclude that the conditions that reveal affective deficits in psychopathic individuals require further specification.

Other articles of forensic interest from the same issue:

  • The Role of Childhood Abuse and Neglect in the Sensitization to Stressful Life Events in Adolescent Depression – Kate L. Harkness, Alanna E. Bruce and Margaret N. Lumley
  • Gender and Posttraumatic Stress: Sexual Violence as an Explanation for Women’s Increased Risk – Lilia M. Cortina and Sheryl Pimlott Kubiak
  • Genetic Influences on the Overlap Between Low IQ and Antisocial Behavior in Young Children – Karestan C. Koenen, Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt, Fruhling Rijsdijk and Alan Taylor

Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology 17(4)

journalsThe December 2006 Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology 17(4) is now online. Follow the link to the publisher’s website for abstracts and access to full text articles. Sign up for personalised alerts here.

Contents include:

  • Effects of EMDR on previously abused child molesters: Theoretical reviews and preliminary findings from Ricci, Clayton, and Shapiro – Malcolm MacCulloch
  • Some effects of EMDR on previously abused child molesters: Theoretical reviews and preliminary findings – Ronald J. Ricci, Cheryl A. Clayton, Francine Shapiro
  • The relationship between paranoid delusions and compliance – Sharon Levy, Gisli H. Gudjonsson
  • Impact of trauma history and coaching on malingering of posttraumatic stress disorder using the PAI, TSI, and M-FAST * – Jennifer Guriel-Tennant, William Fremouw
  • Is breakaway training effective? An audit of one medium secure unit – Paul Rogers, Peter Ghroum, Richard Benson, Lavinia Forward, Kevin Gournay
  • Changes to (un)fitness to plead and insanity proceedings – A. J. Morris, S. Elcock, T. Hardie, R. D. Mackay
  • Availability of treatment for substance misuse in medium secure psychiatric care in England: A national survey – Mary Alison Durand, Paul Lelliott, Nicholas Coyle
  • The development of a forensic clinical psychology service in a community mental health team – Susan Young, Gisli H. Gudjonsson, Rachel Terry
  • Recalled parental bonding and personality disorders in a sample of exhibitionists: A comparative study – Stefan Bogaerts, Stijn Vanheule, Frans Leeuw, Mattias Desmet
  • The use of abreaction to recover memories in psychogenic amnesia: A case report – Joe John Vattakatuchery, Paul Chesterman

News round-up, 26 August

A few items that caught my eye in the last week:

KIDNAPPING: BBC News (25 August) asks: What do psychologists make of the extraordinary case of Natascha Kampusch, abducted at 10, deprived of her childhood, and now back in the real world after eight years?

[…] “Her life has been suspended, and it will take a lot to reconnect,” says Dr Anuradha Sayal-Bennett. “She’s obviously a very brave young woman, very resourceful, to have managed to escape.”

FEAR OF CRIME: A recent study from the Division of Violence Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that the 2002 DC Sniper spree led to PTSD symptoms among residents , reports Medical News Today (26 Aug).

[…] The Washington, D.C.-area study, like others before it, documents individual responses to shared traumatic events, pinpoints what proportion of the community is affected and helps us better understand who is at risk for debilitating outcomes such as posttraumatic stress disorder, said psychiatrist and lead study author Jeffrey Schulden. The study also gives mental health professionals clues for helping the community recover after a terror-causing ordeal.

The study appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine .

SCHOOL VIOLENCE: Also in Medical News Today (26 Aug), a Cochrane systematic review on concludes that school violence prevention programmes improve the behaviour of at-risk students .

[…] According to the authors, the most effective programs are those that help students learn key social skills such as listening, thinking about the feelings of others, working cooperatively and being assertive in constructive ways.

POLICING: ‘Suicide-by-cop’ can take toll on officers reports the Star-Press (Indiana) on 23 Aug:

“A lot of officers will react more strongly to suicide-by-cop than a regular shooting,” according to Laurence Miller, a Florida-based clinical and forensic psychologist. “They feel manipulated into shooting the suspect. Not only have you taken a life, but you’ve been baited into doing so.”

Recently published articles in non-forensic journals: Intimate Partner Violence

Recently (and not quite so recently) published journal articles from non-forensic journals on intimate partner violence:

Depression, PTSD, and Comorbidity Related to Intimate Partner Violence in Civilian and Military Women – Patricia O’Campo, Joan Kub, Anne Woods, Mary Garza, Alison Snow Jones, Andrea C. Gielen, Jacqueline Dienemann, and Jacquelyn Campbell. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 6(2): May 2006

Common Mental Health Correlates of Domestic Violence – Gina Robertiello. Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 6(2): May 2006

Are Temporary Restraining Orders More Likely to Be Issued When Applications Mention Firearms? – Katherine A. Vittes and Susan B. Sorenson. Evaluation Review 30(3): June 2006

Precipitants of Partner Aggression – Susan G. O’Leary and Amy M. Smith Slep. Journal of Family Psychology, 20(2): June 2006

Approaches to Screening for Intimate Partner Violence in Health Care Settings: A Randomized Trial – Harriet L. MacMillan, C. Nadine Wathen, Ellen Jamieson, Michael Boyle, Louise-Anne McNutt, Andrew Worster, Barbara Lent, Michelle Webb for the McMaster Violence Against Women Research Group. Journal of the American Medical Association 296(5): 2 August 2006

Social class, race, and ethnicity: career interventions for women domestic violence survivors – KM Chronister. American Journal of Community Psychology 37(3-4): June 2006