Criminogenic need and women offenders: A critique of the literature


Correspondence should be addressed to Clive R. Hollin, Clinical Division of Psychiatry, Department of Health Sciences, The University of Leicester, Leicester General Hospital, Gwendolen Road, Leicester LE5 4PW, UK (e-mail:


Purpose. This paper considers the criminogenic needs of women offenders, raising the question of whether there may be women-specific criminogenic needs.

Arguments. The risk-needs model of offending has become increasingly influential in both research and practice. Simply, the risk–needs model holds that some aspects of an individual's functioning are risk factors for offending. The distinction can be drawn between static and dynamic risk factors: the former are historical, the latter reflect current functioning and are amenable to change. These dynamic attributes linked to offending – such as financial status, emotional problems, and substance use – are referred to as criminogenic needs. Needs assessment instruments, such as the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R; Andrews & Bonta, 1995) have been developed to assess criminogenic need and predict risk of offending. Much of the research informing the risk–needs model has been carried out with male offenders, leading to questions about the criminogenic needs of women offenders and whether there may be women-specific criminogenic needs.

Conclusion. An overview of typical criminogenic needs, as assessed by the LSI-R, suggests that there are probably common needs for male and female offenders. A common need does not imply that aetiology or level of importance of that need is the same for men and women, while some events, such as physical and sexual abuse, are arguably criminogenic needs for women. The implications for practice and research of understanding more about women-specific criminogenic needs are considered.