Title page for ETD etd-09212010-153847

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Wharren, Michelle
Email michelle.wharren@gmail.com
URN etd-09212010-153847
Document Title A psychocriminological investigation into the role of narcissistic personality disorder in rage-type murder
Degree Master of Arts
Department Social Work and Criminology
Advisor Name Title
Prof C Bezuidenhout Supervisor
  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
  • narcissistic personality disorder
  • MMPI-2
  • NPD
  • object
  • observation
  • psychopathic deviance
  • Pa
  • Paranoia
  • PD
  • rage-type murder
  • self-image
  • self
  • self-esteem
  • grandiosity
  • mental disorders
  • diagnostic and statistical manual
  • text revision
Date 2010-09-03
Availability unrestricted

“The relationship between the criminal and victim is much more complicated than the law would care to acknowledge. The criminal and his victim work on each other unconsciously. We can say that as the criminal shapes the victim, the victim also shapes the criminal. The law differentiates distinctly between the attacker and the victim. But their relationship may be, and often is, quite close, so that their roles are reversed and the victim becomes the determining person, while the [victimiser] in the end becomes his own victim.” (Abrahamsen, 1973:35).

This research was directed at establishing whether narcissistic individuals will go to extreme levels of violence, specifically murder, if their self-image is threatened. The aim was to determine the extent of pre-existing narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) in these individuals and how this contributed to the murderous action they committed. Emphasis was placed on the psychological motivation of the perpetrator, as well as the relationship that existed between the perpetrator and the victim prior to the event.

As the subject of the research was a relatively unknown phenomenon, a qualitative research approach was used. The research focused on analysing specific cases of murder, more particularly cases where rage-type murders were committed. It endeavoured to identify the underlying personality dynamics to determine whether an association between rage-type murder and NPD exists.

Case studies illustrating rage-type murderers who had been admitted to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital for a 30-day observation period were identified and analysed. These cases were selected through reviewing the case history of each individual to determine whether the murder fitted the outlined definition of a rage-type murder. The cases that met the outlined requirements were deemed suitable for the purpose of the research, where after the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI-2) results of the selected cases were examined to determine the personality organisation of the individuals. This information was then used to determine the possible association between NPD and rage-type murder.

The MMPI-2 was selected as the assessment tool as it is the most widely used personality assessment available. For the purposes of this research a two-point code type was used to indicate the presence of narcissistic personality traits. A two-point code type implies an elevation of two scales, for the purposes of this research specifically the Pd (Psychopathic deviance) scale and the Pa (Paranoia) scale, also referred to as the 4-6/6-4 code type. As interpretation based only on a two-scale elevation was considered to be overly simplistic, all the MMPI-2 clinical scales were interpreted independently, and a clinical interpretation provided in the context of each individual’s background. The 4-6/6-4 code type individual was used to indicate whether the individuals did have narcissistic personality traits, and thus were classified as having NPD.

Nine cases were identified of individuals thought to be rage-type murderers, who were admitted for a 30-day period of psychiatric observation to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital in Pretoria. Only five cases were acknowledged as rage-type murders. All the cases selected were referred to Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital by order of the court and involved males over the age of 20 years. The individuals involved were admitted to the Forensic Unit of the hospital and were subjected to standard psychiatric hospital observations, which included psychiatric interviews, psychological interviews, psychological testing, as well as general behavioural observations in the ward. All the information obtained during the standard psychiatric hospital observations is held in the clinical case files in the archives at the hospital. All the standard psychiatric hospital observation evaluations were completed prior to the initiation of the research, and the case records had been closed.

Although more research is necessary, this research has established an association between the selected cases of rage-type murder and NPD and there is historic documented evidence suggesting that individuals with NPD will most likely react in a similar manner in similar circumstances, as a result of their underlying personality disorder. This suggests that incarceration in a correctional facility is not the most appropriate place to rehabilitate individuals. It also serves as support to why a person with NPD who commits a rage-type murder should be acquitted because of their personality disorder and subsequently be committed to a psychiatric facility as a patient of the state president.

© 2010, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Wharren, M 2010, A psychocriminological investigation into the role of narcissistic personality disorder in rage-type murder, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-09212010-153847/ >


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