Purpose: A clear understanding of an offender's criminal behaviour is a prerequisite for determining suitable treatment. In
the literature, several specific frameworks or therapeutic approaches that aim to explicate criminal behaviour can be distinguished
(e.g., cognitive analytic therapy, offence paralleling behaviour paradigm), but Schema Therapy (ST) is becoming an increasingly
popular paradigm. According to forensic ST's theoretical framework, criminal and violent behaviour can be explained by an
unfolding sequence of schema modes, or moment-to-moment states that represent emotions, cognitions, and behaviour. In this
study, we examine the validity of this theory and the relationship between schema modes, psychopathy, and institutional violence.
Schema modes were assessed retrospectively from descriptions of patients’ crimes in a sample of 95 hospitalized cluster B
personality disordered offenders. Psychopathy was rated with the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised and institutional transgressions
were coded from daily hospital reports.
Results: Our findings show that criminal behaviour is often preceded by schema
modes that refer to feelings of vulnerability and abandonment, loneliness, and states of intoxication. Criminal behaviour
itself is characterized by schema modes that refer to states of impulsivity, anger, and the use of overcompensatory strategies
involving threats, intimidation, and aggression. Schema modes involving bullying and manipulation were positively correlated
with the interpersonal facet of psychopathy; the vulnerable child mode was negatively correlated with the affective facet
of psychopathy. The schema modes in this study moderately predicted later institutional transgressions.
findings suggest that the schema mode concept is of explanatory value in understanding criminal and violent behaviour.