Male vs. Female Psychopathy

            Throughout time there have been many controversies on what factors create a psychopath. While some have argued that biological, social, familial, and environmental aspects make a psychopath who they are, there is more to it than meets the eye. These factors do not explain the tremendous difference between male and female offenders. While sex differences in psychopaths may be looked over, they are some of the most evident differences in criminal activity. These sex differences range from the number of individuals classified as psychopaths, types of crimes, depth of depravity, and even the victims of these individuals.

More often than not, the public sees stories of male psychopaths on the news. Females however, are seen only once in a blue moon. The sole reason behind this is that there is a greater number of males classified as psychopaths than females. This difference in conduct begins to appear in adolescents as well as young children. While the sociocultural theory focuses on different peer and adult interactions with children at a young age, there are many biological factors that affect this as well (Raine, Narr, Toga, & Yang, 2011). One study shows that “…more boys than girls had conduct disorders, despite marked differences between studies in the age range of children studied, nationality, reporting sources, and procedures followed to convert the symptoms into diagnostic categories” (Class Reading). While this sex difference is variable around the globe, the general trend is seen cross culturally. In one study, researchers found that in Great Britain, for every girl with conduct disorder, there were two boys with the disorder. Similarly, in the southeastern United States, there was a reported ratio of four boys per girl with conduct disorder (Class Reading).  Conduct disorders however, are not the only reason there are more male than female psychopaths. Many criminals and psychopaths suffer from what is known as antisocial personality disorder. One study on APD states, “Reduced orbitofrontal volumes have been reported in males when compared with women have been reported. Furthermore, patients who have suffered demonstrable damage to the ventral, orbitofrontal regions of the prefrontal cortex proceed to acquire an antisocial, psychopath-like personality, whereas volume reductions in prefrontal gray matter have been reported in several antisocial population” (Raine, et al.). If this study holds true, there is evidence that because more males than females have reduced orbitofrontal volumes, there is likely to be more male psychopaths than females.

In addition to the number of individuals classified as psychopaths, the types of crimes and depth of depravity differ greatly between male and female psychopaths. Females have always been thought to be more nurturing and therefore less violent when it comes to aggression and crime. This often times is the reason that researchers feel that women lack the underlying motives for violence (Class Readings). Research has shown that males account for more of every type of offence at every age. This study also shows that the largest sex difference is apparent in violent crimes whereas the difference is very small in drug or alcohol related offences (Class Readings). In general females commit more petty crimes, but that does not mean that females do not carry out acts of violence. Females tend to commit acts of violence, or murder, but they do them in a more discrete way. While males are more prone to shooting, strangling, and stabbing, females are more prone to poison, or suffocate their victim which reduces their depth of depravity (Class Video).

Furthermore, the most substantial sex difference in psychopaths is the difference in victims of the psychopaths. While studies have shown that males are more likely to engage in violence of all kinds, the one and only exception found is with family violence (Class Readings). This trend however is not only limited to the United States and is seen cross culturally. In one study done at a hospital for the mentally disordered in Zimbabwe, researchers found that, “The majority of victims were female and related to the patient. There were no record sexual offences by females” (Menezes, Oyebode, & Haque, 2008). This shows that females are likely to carry out their acts of violence on someone they know and are close to. In many cases of female killers, victims include, but are not limited to, children, dependents, and patients (Class Video). Also, as seen through the study, female psychopaths are not likely to commit sexual offences. Male psychopaths however usually victimize sexual partners, prostitutes, or even young boys and girls. Many times, as in the case of Ted Bundy, men will target females with long hair, and who are attractive for sex, and then end up murdering them. In general it simply seems that males victimize strangers and females victimize people they know.

In the end, sex differences in psychopaths include the number of individuals classified as psychopaths, types of crimes, depth of depravity, and even the victims of these individuals. While there are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to psychopaths, sex differences are some of the most important. Males and females have always been held to different standards, and psychopathy is no exception. Sex differences in behavior will always exists, even in the worst of society.


Menezes, S. B., Oyebode, F. F., & Haque, M. S. (2009). Victims of mentally disordered offenders in Zimbabwe, 1980-1990. Journal Of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology20(3), 427-439.

Raine, A. A., Yang, Y. Y., Narr, K. L., & Toga, A. W. (2011). Sex differences in orbitofrontal gray as a partial explanation for sex differences in antisocial personality. Molecular Psychiatry16(2), 227-236.

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