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Just as with suicide, there are several possible pathways which may lead an individual to commit homicide, and these pathways may be viewed in personal construct theory terms, as may those which are associated with non-fatal violence (Winter, 2003). One such pathway was observed by Howells (1983), who found that the repertory grids of "one-off" violent offenders were characterised by a "positivity bias" in their construing of others. In Howells’ view, the negative poles of these individuals’ constructs were submerged, but in situations in which their construct systems were undermined they "slot rattled", taking a very negative view of, and committing extreme violence towards, their victim. Other personal construct studies of perpetrators of homicide have mostly focused upon single cases, some using repertory grid technique and others the analysis of narratives. There have also been reports of personal construct approaches to the treatment of violent offenders, including in some cases those who have committed homicide (Houston, 1998; Winter, 2003).

  • Houston, J. (1998). Making Sense with Offenders: Personal Constructs, Therapy and Change. Chichester: Wiley.
  • Howells, K. (1978). Social construing and violent behavior in mentally abnormal offenders. In J.W. Hinton ed., Dangerousness: Problems of Assessment and Prediction. London: Allen and Unwin.
  • Winter, D.A. (2003). A credulous approach to violence and homicide. In J. Horley (ed.), Personal Construct Perspectives on Forensic Psychology. London: Routledge.

David A. Winter

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004