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The scenario:

  • A woman has been abducted. She is treated well and not abused. There is no immediate threat to her life, but the uncertainty of what awaits her. Suddenly there is a chance to kill her abductor. Only his death will set her free.

How does the personality of a woman who choses to be free by killing her abductor differ from the personality of a woman who cannot kill for her freedom?

I am not interested in the personality of a murderess, nor the personality of a woman killing to avoid rape or murder, but the personality of a woman who kills for what some might argue weighs less than the life of even a bad person, e.g. freeing herself from the power of that person.

Are there (case) studies in this or related areas?

There is research on female homicide offenders, usually linking the murder to mental disorders (e.g. Eronen, 1995; Putkonen et al., 2003), as well as on "battered women" killing an abusive spouse, which usually interprets the deed as self-defense and ultimately finds the cause not in the woman's personality but in the man's violence (e.g. Ewing, 1990). Both kinds of study relate to this question, but don't really answer it.

I am interested in the personality of a mentally healthy woman killing for a grave and fundamental but somewhat abstract goal such as her freedom, in the absence ofj abuse or a direct threat on her life, and without the justification of being a police or military person following an order or the law. I am interested in who can and who cannot carry out such a deed and what differentiates these two groups regarding their personality. Legal and moral issues are not the question here, and for the sake of the question we should assume that her peers and a court would absolve that woman of any guilt.

  • Eronen, M. (1995). Mental disorders and homicidal behavior in female subjects. The American journal of psychiatry.
  • Ewing, C. P. (1990). Psychological self-defense: A proposed justification for battered women who kill. Law and Human Behavior, 14(6), 579.
  • Putkonen, H., Komulainen, E. J., Virkkunen, M., Eronen, M., & Lönnqvist, J. (2003). Risk of repeat offending among violent female offenders with psychotic and personality disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160(5), 947-951.
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My first impression is that it would depend on the means (e.g., physical force vs. pulling a trigger), but that's hypothetical. –  Nick Stauner Jun 5 '14 at 7:21
Why make a sex distinction? –  babou Jun 5 '14 at 11:24
Because there is a difference in violent behavior of men and women. –  what Jun 5 '14 at 11:59
I suppose another benefit of focusing on women is the implicit confrontation of sex stereotypes that might lead to answers such as this. –  Nick Stauner Jun 5 '14 at 17:13
I am voting to close because a) the question is based on an extremely specific scenario which (no offense) does not seem on the level of abstraction that is interesting or informative to the audience of cogsci.se b) for the same reason it is unlikely that a scientific answer can be given, making this question opinion-based, c) the motivation of a central element of the question - the gender restriction - is unclear (there may be gender differences in violent behavior) but there is not rational for why and in what way they matter here –  MaríaAnt Jul 19 at 11:45

1 Answer 1

It seems to be impossible that a person kills another person without a certain trauma in her past. If she got already a trauma from a past case of violence (she or her family), she may decided to get never again in the role of a victim and to act instead with violence herself. "Violence may beget violence".

See also:

Mirror punishment


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Under certain conditions, police kill others, soldiers kill others. Many such people do not have trauma in their past. Some such people are female. –  Jeromy Anglim Jun 5 '14 at 8:11

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