A Typology of Violent Offenders

A Typology of Violent Offenders
 How do we explain acts of violence. The following is not an exhaustive explanation. It’s a handout I use when I speak about different types of killers and the motivations for different crimes. But it describes many, if not most types of homicide and most acts of violence. It describes most of the killers and most of the violent individuals I have interviewed.

Chronically Aggressive Individuals

Easily frustrated, limited or poor impulse control

Frequently express anger or hostility

Resents authority, defiant with supervisors.

May express hostility through “passive-aggressive” behaviour

Believes violence and/or aggression are legitimate responses to various interpersonal problems in life (i.e., if someone provokes you, you fight back)

Although they might never admit it, pleasure or reinforcement is derived from the expression of anger (i.e., it feels good to blow someone off; it makes you feel alive; it gives you a sense of power)

Often display the characteristics of a “stimulus seeker” – they engage  in bold, fearless, or reckless behaviour and are prone towards substance  abuse

Most typically, violence occurs in a situational context: an offence,  fight, or disagreement

Sometimes just get carried away in a particular situation (domestic  violence, child battering)

Less likely to engage in acts of unexpected “explosive” violence


The Over-Controlled Hostility Type

Rarely display or express anger – they don’t cuss or yell, and may be offended by such

Emotionally rigid and inflexible: appear to be polite, serious, and sober, rarely “loose” or jocular

Cognitively rigid and inflexible: very strict about interpreting rules; usually go for the letter, rather than the spirit of the law

Morally righteous and upstanding: see themselves as “good people”

Often judgmental: see others as “not such good people”

Non-assertive or passive; their passivity causes others to take advantage of them

Anger builds up like in a pressure cooker, before they explode

After the violence, people say that they never expected it, “he always seemed like such a nice guy; he was always so quiet”


The Hurt and Resentful

Feel that people walk on them and that they are never treated fairly

When they are passed over, there is always someone else to blame

Things are easier for everyone else: other people get more and have more advantages.

They do not accept criticism well

In response to reprimands, they develop grudges, which are sometimes deeply held

They are often whiners and complainers, as a matter of attitude

They wallow in their victimization and are psychologically impotent

Violence occurs because they hold grudges and are “impotent” to deal with their anger in other ways


The Traumatized

Aggression occurs in response to a single, massive assault on their identity

Something happens that is potently offensive, absolutely intolerable, and which strips them of all sense of personal power

The essence of their existence (or their manhood) will be destroyed if they do not respond

Violence is predictable & preventable 


The Paranoid

Jealous Type: Delusionally believes their lover is unfaithful

Persecuted Type: Delusionally believes that people are out to get him

Typically engage in behaviours which make their paranoid beliefs come true

Delusions may reach the point at which the person is grossly out of contact with reality (may be insane).


The Insane

Rare: does not understand the nature and quality of their actions.

More typical: fundamental misperceptions of reality, incapable of rational behaviour, delusional beliefs deprive them of the ability to know that their behaviour is wrong, beliefs and perceptions are incongruent with reality.

Twisted, psychotic beliefs about what is right, what is wrong, and what is necessary.


The Just Plain Bad & Angry

A combination of most of the above (except for insane): angry, hostile, jealous, resentful, impotent, and disturbed individuals, who are socially isolated, socially inadequate, and who feel worthless

May be seeking attention

May be seeking revenge