Antisocial Personalities: Prevalence
among offenders in
South Africa
Ms. Sonja Loots
Department of Psychology
University of the Free State
[email protected]
Antisocial personalities and violent
• South African research on violent crime mainly revolves
around the incidence of, and social/environmental
contributors to crime
• Very little research focuses on intrapersonal contributions of
violent offenders – and no South African studies have
included the possible role antisocial personality traits might
play in violent crime
• Internationally, the antisocial personalities have been strongly
associated with violent crime
• It is estimated that over half of the United States’ violent
crimes are committed by psychopaths
• Antisocial personality disordered individuals also report
higher rates of general re-offence and are more likely reoffend violently
• This study primarily aimed to determine the prevalence of
antisocial personalities among an offender sample
• The process leading to this goal allowed for the exploration of
the applicability of these concepts in the South African
The antisocial personalities
1. Antisocial personality disorder
• American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual
• History of conduct disorder under the age of 15
• Determined by behavioural deficits
• Three or more of the following criteria: a disregard for social norms
and the safety of others, deceitfulness, impulsivity, aggressiveness,
irresponsibility, and a lack of remorse
• Represent around 50% of offenders (estimated up to 80%), and 3%
of the general community
2. Dissocial personality disorder
• World Health Organisation: International Classification
of Diseases (ICD-10)
• Largely determined by personality traits or the lack
• DPD is characterised by gross disparity between
behaviour and the prevailing social norms, callous
unconcern for the feelings of others, irresponsibility,
incapacity to retain relationships, low frustration
tolerance, incapacity for guilt and a tendency for blame
• Behavioural and personality characteristics
• Despite magnitude of research – psychopathy is still not deemed a
diagnosable disorder
• A general contextualisation of psychopathy is “a personality disorder
defined by a cluster of interpersonal, affective, lifestyle, and
antisocial traits and behaviours, including grandiosity, egocentricity,
deceptiveness, shallow emotions, lack of empathy or remorse,
irresponsibility, impulsivity, and a tendency to violate social norms”
(Hare & Neumann, 2009).
• Psychopaths represent around 20% of prison populations and 1% of
the general community
• The sample consisted of 500 male maximum security
offenders from the Mangaung Correctional Centre near
• Questionnaires used:
• Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R)
• DSM and ICD Personality Questionnaire (DIP-Q)
• Psychological Inventory of Criminal Thinking Styles (PICTS)
• The Aggression Questionnaire (AQ)
• Study was divided into 5 focus areas:
1) construct validity of psychopathy
2) prevalence of antisocial personalities
3) criminal thinking styles of offenders with antisocial
4) the role of aggression in offenders with antisocial personalities
5) the predictive ability of psychopathy and criminal thinking
styles with regard to recidivistic behaviour
Psychopathy: Are we measuring the
same construct?
• Psychopathy has been validated cross-culturally in
the Western world
• Through a series of statistical processes it was
determined that several questions have to be
omitted from the PPI-R to increase the instrument’s
validity and reliability in the South African context
• Omitted items mainly reflected differences in
collectivistic vs. individualistic upbringing, as well as
comprehension difficulties
Prevalence of antisocial personalities
Psychopathy = 27%
Dissocial personality disorder = 38%
Antisocial personality disorder = 17%
Prerequisite of conduct disorder before the
age of 15 might be indicative of cultural
differences in the expression of the disorder
Aggression and criminal thinking styles
• Antisocial and dissocial personality disordered
individuals portrayed significant differences in levels
of aggression and criminal thinking styles than
offenders without these disorders
• Different levels of psychopaths did not indicate
significant differences in levels of criminal thinking
styles and only certain aspects of aggression differed
between the groups
Predictive value of psychopathy
• None of the PPI-R subscales could significantly
predict recidivistic behaviour
• None of the criminal thinking styles could
predict recidivistic behaviour
In conclusion
• Further exploration of antisocial personalities and
intrapersonal contributors to violent crime is urgently
• More research on the cultural influence on the
manifestation of disorders are needed
• Samples have to be more inclusive
• Only then will we be able to create culture-specific
risk assessment instruments and generate adequate
intervention strategies

Antisocial Personalities - Institute for Security Studies