Recidivism in Female Offenders: PCL-R Lifestyle Factor and VRAG Show Predictive Validity in a German Sample


Hedwig Eisenbarth, Ph.D., Department for Forensic Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University of Regensburg, Universitätsstrasse 84, D-93053 Regensburg, Germany. E-mail:


A clear and structured approach to evidence-based and gender-specific risk assessment of violence in female offenders is high on political and mental health agendas. However, most data on the factors involved in risk-assessment instruments are based on data of male offenders. The aim of the present study was to validate the use of the Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R), the HCR-20 and the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide (VRAG) for the prediction of recidivism in German female offenders. This study is part of the Munich Prognosis Project (MPP). It focuses on a subsample of female delinquents (n = 80) who had been referred for forensic-psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing. The mean time at risk was 8 years (SD = 5 years; range: 1–18 years). During this time, 31% (n = 25) of the female offenders were reconvicted, 5% (n = 4) for violent and 26% (n = 21) for non-violent re-offenses. The predictive validity of the PCL-R for general recidivism was calculated. Analysis with receiver-operating characteristics revealed that the PCL-R total score, the PCL-R antisocial lifestyle factor, the PCL-R lifestyle factor and the PCL-R impulsive and irresponsible behavioral style factor had a moderate predictive validity for general recidivism (area under the curve, AUC = 0.66, p = 0.02). The VRAG has also demonstrated predictive validity (AUC = 0.72, p = 0.02), whereas the HCR-20 showed no predictive validity. These results appear to provide the first evidence that the PCL-R total score and the antisocial lifestyle factor are predictive for general female recidivism, as has been shown consistently for male recidivists. The implications of these findings for crime prevention, prognosis in women, and future research are discussed. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.