Constructing ‘the Psychopath’: A Discourse Analysis of Psychologists’ Understandings of Psychopathy

Article


Clark-McGhee, Kitty and Castro, M. 2018. Constructing ‘the Psychopath’: A Discourse Analysis of Psychologists’ Understandings of Psychopathy. Asian Journal of Human Services. 14 (0), pp. 38-52.
AuthorsClark-McGhee, Kitty and Castro, M.
Abstract

Background: Psychopathy is a controversial psychological construct used within forensic settings to understand the psychology of forensic service users. Contemporary research into psychopathy indicates ontological confusion, limitations with assessment practices and the presence of a negative bias towards individuals identified as psychopathic. Aims: A moderate social constructionist epistemology underpins this study. Its purpose was to widen the clinical frame of psychopathy via sociological inquiry through an examination of how ‘the psychopath’ is constructed discursively by a particular group of specialists working directly with individuals with a psychopathy label. Methods: Subjects were eight clinical psychologists currently working throughout the UK in forensic mental health settings (low, medium and high-secure hospitals). Semi-structured interviews were conducted and the data were analysed qualitatively, using Discourse Analysis methods. Findings: Analysis demonstrated that persons with psychopathy are constructed as problematised individuals, located within four overarching, recurrent discursive sites: dangerous, challenging, manipulative, and psychologically deficient. Participants utilised ‘at risk’ and ‘trauma’ discourses to explain the aetiology of psychopathy and ‘intuition’ talk was employed as a marker of the presence of psychopathy. The findings of the study and their clinical implications are discussed.

JournalAsian Journal of Human Services
Journal citation14 (0), pp. 38-52
ISSN2186-3350
Year2018
PublisherAsian Society of Human Services
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.14391/ajhs.14.38
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.14391/ajhs.14.38
Publication dates
Online30 Apr 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited11 Dec 2018
Accepted11 Apr 2018
Accepted11 Apr 2018
Copyright information© 2018 Asian Society of Human Services
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/84857

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