The relationship of personality traits and past experiences of women and the interest in dating convicted violent offenders
Sarah E. Burkhardt
The high number of inmates in American prison facilities might explain why thousands of men and women have spouses or partners in jails. Surprisingly, previous literature suggests that there exist women that consciously seek romantic relationships with convicted violent offenders. What type of women are interested in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders, specifically those who have committed a violent crime resulting in the death of another person? This study investigates, by using an online questionnaire which consists of three questionnaires, the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (Bernstein & Fink,1998), the 50 items Personality Questionnaire (Goldberg,1992) and 5 Specific Questions (Burkhardt, 2015), whether particular personality traits predict the desire to choose a dominant partner. Specifically the 5 personal characteristics extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and intellect as predictors of the preference for seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders were examined. This study sought to shed more light on the association between women’s past experiences and personality and their interest in seeking romantic relationships with convicted violent offenders. There was a statistically significant weak, positive relationship between women’s experiences of physical neglect and sexual abuse and their interest in dating convicted violent criminals. The study also revealed a statistically nonsignificant relationship between emotional abuse and physical abuse in dating convicted violent offenders. The findings are somewhat consistent with the findings of previous research. However, the previous studies purposively included only women who had reported having contacted incarcerated men and entered into romantic relationships while the current study used women from the general population. It is not explicitly clear why women seek romantic relationships with convicted violent offenders, but the literature seems to point to dominance, control, and self-protection. An examination of the relationship between personality traits and interest in dating convicted violent criminals showed weak, negative or positive correlations between conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, emotional stability, and intellect/imagination and women’s interest in dating convicted violent criminals. Except for conscientiousness, all the other correlations were statistically nonsignificant. It is important to understand the extent of past experiences of abuse that might be related to women’s interest in dating convicted violent offenders. The findings will extend research on mate selection considerations for women (Slavikova & Panza, 2014).
Key Words: personality traits of women – childhood traumata – past experience of women – sexual abuse - dating convicted violent offenders – choice of partner – romantic relationship - Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (Bernstein & Fink,1998) - the 50 items Personality Questionnaire (Goldberg,1992) – prison
I would like to express my gratitude to my Dissertation Advisor Dr. Alina Perez for the useful comments, remarks and engagement through the learning process of this master thesis. Furthermore I would like to thank Harry for the support on the way. Also, I like to thank the participants in my survey, who have willingly shared their precious time during the process of answering the survey. I would like to thank my loved ones, especially my two sons Marcel and Manuel and my beloved man Klaus, as well as Katie and Sabine, who have supported me throughout entire process, by keeping me harmonious, being there in hard times and helping me putting pieces together. I will be grateful forever for your love. And finally a big thank you to my Grandparents Ruth and Fritz Burkhardt who financed and supported me from the first moment on.
Table of Content
Chapter 1- Introduction ... 3
1.1 Research Problem ... 5
1.2 Study Question and Objectives ... 5
1.3 Study Hypotheses ... 6
1.4 Nature of the Study ... 7
Chapter 2 - Literature Review ... 8
2.1 Literature Summary ... 8
2.2 Definition of personality and character ... 10
2.2.1 What is personality? ... 10
2.2.2 Innate or Environment? ... 11
2.2.3 The Big Five Theory ... 12
2.2.4 What is a Character? ... 13
2.3 Definition of sexual abuse, abuse and neglect ... 16
2.3.1 Abuse ... 16
2.3.2 Neglect ... 16
2.3.3 Effects of abuse and neglect ... 16
2.4 Personality disorder and choice of partner ... 17
Chapter 3 – Methods ... 20
3.1 Research Design ... 21
3.2 Participants ... 22
3.3 Sample size calculation ... 23
3.4 Procedure ... 23
3.5 Data Collection/Materials/Measurements ... 24
3.6 Statistical Analysis ... 27
3.7 Ethical Considerations ... 30
Chapter 4 - Results ... 31
Chapter 5 - Discussion ... 35
Chapter 6 -Conclusion ... 38
REFRENCES ... 39
APPENDIX ... 43
A: Childhood Traumata Questionnaire ... 43
B: 50-Item Set of IPIP Big-Five Factor Markers ... 47
C: Pilot test ... 51
D: 5 Questions – Sarah Burkhardt (2015) ... 52
Chapter 1- Introduction
“… „ there is no mental illness. I always knew that! I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As a child I simply was rebelling against a domineering mother (…)I think, because my mother showed me all the time a false picture of the world, I always longed to be dominated by a man. And that's why I find sex offenders and murderers attractive, because they behave properly dominant. And that I really like. Also, I never wanted to be successful or something, because my mother is very snooty. That is why I am keen on the perpetrators, which are in jail and in society at the bottom.“ (posted by Jule in the Hybristophilia online forum, 26.02.2008).
In November 2014, the 26-year-old Afton Burton made headlines as the bride of Charlie Manson, an 80-year-old serial killer imprisoned for the last 45 years (Focus Online, 2014). That women fall in love with a violent criminal is not an isolated phenomenon. Even mass murderers such as Anders Behring Breivik receive love letters en masse and marriage proposals (Focus Online, 2014). What the relationships give the detained men is clear: variety and the contact with the outside (Slavikova & Panza, 2014).
This leads to the question of why a woman is interested in seeking a romantic relationship to a convicted violent offender. The existing answers to this question are attributed to the fact that these women are perceived as emotionally disturbed or otherwise disturbed (Isenberg,1991; Seka, 2000). The empirical research in this field does practically not exist. The studies, which have focused on the relationships between women and convicted violent offender, mostly concentrated on feelings of guilt (Comfort, 2003) or on the problems which the conviction of the partner initiates. The results of previous studies, which summarize the background and personality characteristics of women in relationships with incarcerated men, show significant differences (Gelt-Preis, 2001; Slavikova & Panza, 2014). The age of the women in these studies is very different, with a range of 19-67 years (Gelt-Preis, 2001; Slavikova &Panza, 2014). More commonly, it was found that the women all had a difficult childhood and some studies report on physical and / or sexual abuse in childhood (Gelt-Preis, 2001). Not all studies examined the female participants to mental or physical health, but among those who did, there were no remarkable patterns in terms of psychological - or personality disorders.
Only the study of Gelt-Preis (2001) focused solely on women who have deliberately selected an imprisoned man for a romantic relationship. In this study, participants had to answer a self-report questionnaire and 26 women were interviewed. These women had all consciously contacted an imprisoned man after his conviction; it were all offenders who serve a life sentence or were waiting on death row (Gelt-Preis, 2001). These women were at the age of 41 and 67, had an average level of education and were all financially independent. Half of the women in this study described their childhood as difficult or chaotic; more than three-quarters report that they had a dominant and aggressive father, and a submissive mother; and almost 90% experienced a similar pattern of dominance and submission in previous marriages. In addition, a large percentage of women has experienced physical or verbal violence from their parents (Gelt-Preis 2001).
Haller (2002) found out that women engage in relations with prisoners, wait many years for the detained men. Haller (2002) identified in her study, that there are three groups of women who start relationships with detained violent offenders. According to Haller (2002), blame women with abuse experience themselves and try, through the relationship with a criminal, to better understand their own emotional state. Women with disturbed self-esteem evaluated their own personality on the relationship with a criminal. The third type consisted of women with very negative relationship experiences (Hall, 2002).
Such women are interested in having relationships which they can control. One of the only studies on this subject was conducted by Isenberg in 1991. Isenberg interviewed several women who were in a relationship with a convicted murderer. It was observed that the women concerned, had often lost their father in their childhood, for example through divorce, death, or frequent absences for various reasons. Later, these women made bad experiences in various partnerships that were often characterized by abuse and violence experiences. Isenberg (1991) concluded, that these women are attracted to extreme male dominance, which could be associated with the loss of their father, and now turn- for reasons of self-protection- to dominant men in detention because, due to deprivation of liberty, they cannot become dangerous.
1.1 Research Problem
Some women are entering into romantic relationships, including marriage, with convicted violent offenders even when the offenders might never be released. Some have suggested that the record 2.1 million people in American jails might explain why thousands of Americans have spouses who are in prisons (Fisher, 2005). Prison Staff have observed that offenders convicted of the most dangerous crimes seem to be more attractive to women (Fisher, 2005).
Women with past experiences of abuse or low self esteem might be more likely attracted to violent offenders (Haller, 2002; Isenberg, 1991; Slavikova &Panza, 2014). The reason is that, such women might feel more safe when the partner is incarnated because he cannot physically abuse them (Isenberg, 1991). However, there is no adequate evidence on the relationships between past experiences of abuse and interest in dating violent offenders (Fisher, 2005). It is important to understand the extent of past experiences of abuse that might be related to women’s interest in dating convicted violent offenders. The findings will extend research on mate selection considerations for women (Slavikova &Panza, 2014).
1.2 Study Question and Objectives
The aim of the study was to explore if there is a significant relationship between child abuse and/or previous domestic violence experiences and specific personality traits of women and their interest in dating a convicted offender. The current study tested the theory of Haller (2002), that experiences of abuse are related to dating violent offenders. The study was designed to answer this research question: Is there a significant relationship between child abuse and/or domestic violence experiences and specific personality traits of women and their interest in dating a convicted violent offender? The objectives of the study were:
· to examine the correlation between the experience of child abuse in women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
· to examine the correlation between the experiences of previous domestic violence in women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
· to examine the correlation between personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) of women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
1.3 Study Hypotheses
To achieve answer the research question and achieve the aim of the study, the following hypotheses have been formulated:
Ha0: There is no significant correlation between the experience of child abuse in women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
Ha1: There is a significant correlation between the experience of child abuse in women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
Hb0: There is no significant correlation between the experiences of previous domestic violence in women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
Hb1: There is a significant correlation between the experiences of previous domestic violence in women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
Hc0: There is no significant correlation between personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) of women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
Hc1: There is a significant correlation between personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism) of women and their interest in seeking romantic relationship with convicted violent offenders.
1.4 Nature of the Study
The current dissertation was intended to clarify which women feel attracted in particular to violent convicted offenders. Using a quantitative research design, the affection of some women to violent offenders was examined to determine which women would seek contact with violent convicted offenders. The data for the study was collected using the 50-Item Personality Test (Goldberg, 1992) in combination with an author-developed 5-item tool for collecting data on women’s interest in dating convicted violent criminals (Burkhardt, 2015). Data on the experiences of childhood abuse was collected using the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (Bernstein & Fink, 1998).
Chapter 2 - Literature Review
2.1 Literature Summary
Slavikova and Panza (2014) presented results from a survey of 89 women who sought and entered into a relationship with a man who was incarcerated. Demographic, clinical, and relationship characteristics revealed a diverse group of women with a moderate degree of childhood/family victimization and family member’s involvement with the legal system. Results from the Jesness Inventory-Revised, a measure of personality functioning, revealed two predominant personality subtypes among the women: the Manipulator/Pragmatist (31%) and the Neurotic, Anxious/Introspective (25%). Slavikova and Panza (2014) made their survey with women who they acquired at “Met while incarcerated”. The limitations of this study are the small number of participants (89 women) and that they did not have any control questions in their survey to verify the truthfulness of the answers. In a study by Giebel and Elbert (2012) men, who were more likely to be described as dominant or aggressive, were rated by the women as more exciting compared to the less dominant men who were more likely to be perceived as boring. But this relates only to short-term relationships in which women tend more likely to dominant partners. The theory of assortative pairing assumes that individuals tend to choose partners who are in some respects similar to them (positive assortative pairing) or dissimilar (negative assortative pairing). This mating behavior could be detected in animals (de Lanuza, Font, & Carazo, 2013). In humans, for example, could be shown that there are couples together that correlate in different skills such as verbal intelligence, size of the vocabulary and personality characteristics (Escorial & Martín-Buro, 2012). Dominance, as captured in the 16 personality factors test (16 PF), is highly correlated with sensation seeking (Zuckerman, 1979, p.154). Only one study has focused solely on women who entered into a relationship with a man after his incarceration. This study entailed the completion of self-report questionnaires and in depth interviews with 26 women, all of whom had entered into a committed romantic relationship with a man who was already serving a life sentence or who was on death row (Gelt-Price 2001).