FCRG member, Rachael Mason (lead author), in collaboration with FCRG members Michelle Smith, Dr Tochs Onwuegbusi,and Prof Amanda Roberts, have published a new paper entitled “New Psychoactive Substances and violence within a UK prison setting“.
The paper reports a study examining the use of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) and its association with violence within a sample of 158 men residing in a category C prison. During their current sentence, 23% reported NPS use, while 11% reported using “traditional substances” (TD), 23% reported using both, and 43% reported no substances. More participants used NPS exclusively than participants using TD exclusively. Further, the odds of violence against other prisoners, staff, and property were higher for NPS users, who were also more likely to be impulsive. The authors conclude that NPS was prevalent within the prison and impacted on levels of violence, influenced by impulsivity. These findings emphasise the need for tailored treatment and prevention initiatives for NPS users.
Mason, R., Smith, M., Onwuegbusi, T., Roberts, A. (2022). New Psychoactive Substances and violence within a UK prison setting. Substance Use and Misuse. Online first version. https://doi.org/10.1080/10826084.2022.2129999
FCRG member, Dr Georgina Gous, has recently lpublished a new paper entitled “The effects of witness mental illness and use of special measures in court on individual mock juror decision-making” in Psychology, Crime, and Law.
The paper reports a study using 204 members of the general public and student population who reported their attitudes towards mental illness before reading a mock trial vignette that differed in terms of witness mental illness (depression, schizophrenia, no mental illness) and the special measure used in court (screen, intermediary, no special measure). Following this, participants formulated judgments about the witness testimony provided (reliability, competency, credibility) and their likelihood of finding the defendant guilty. Results indicated that witnesses with depression were perceived as more competent than those with schizophrenia or no mental illness. Witnesses with depression were also perceived as being more competent than those with schizophrenia when a screen measure was used in court. The authors conclude that some awareness of these biases is needed in court, which may be aided by improving clarity about why special measures are used in court.
Gous, G., Azoui, M., Kramer, R. S., & Harris, A. (2022). The effects of witness mental illness and use of special measures in court on individual mock juror decision-making. Psychology, Crime & Law, 1-34.
Ross Bartels has published a co-authored a paper in the Journal of Sexual Aggression with graduated MSc student Cheye Willis. The study examines whether the phenomenology of sexual fantasies (arousal, vividness, absorption) is related to motivation to enact the fantasy, as well as whether the plausibility of sexual fantasy (both paraphilic and non-paraphilic) is associated with sexual fantasising and past enactment of the behaviour.
This study examined whether the phenomenology (vividness, absorption, sexual arousal) and plausibility of sexual fantasies are associated with behavioural motivation and enactment. An online sample (N = 254) completed a working memory capacity (WMC) questionnaire. They then envisioned an unenacted sexual fantasy and rated its phenomenological characteristics and their motivation to enact it. Next, a questionnaire measuring deliberate sexual fantasising, spontaneous sexual thoughts, behavioural enactment, and content plausibility was completed. Phenomenological characteristics were unrelated to WMC, but positively associated with motivation. Deliberate fantasising was associated with behavioural enactment for both non-paraphilic and paraphilic content. Spontaneous thoughts were associated with the plausibility of non-paraphilic and paraphilic content, while deliberate fantasising was only associated with plausible non-paraphilic content. Plausibility mediated the relationship between sexual thinking and behaviour for both types of content. The results suggest that the phenomenology and plausibility of sexual fantasises are important factors for understanding the sexual fantasy-behaviour link.
In May, Elizabeth Deehan (PhD student), along with Ross Bartels, published a new qualitative study examining somnophilia and dormaphilia in the Sexual Abuse journal.
Deehan, E. T., & Bartels, R. M. (2022). A qualitative exploration of sleep-related sexual interests: somnophilia and dormaphilia. Sexual Abuse, 10790632221098359.
Somnophilia is an under-researched paraphilia. Consequently, there are discrepancies in its definition and conceptual understanding. Also, literature regarding the sexual interest in being asleep during sexual activity (dormaphilia) is even more limited. As such, there is a need to understand these paraphilias more deeply. This study recruited 232 participants online to discuss the content, origin, sexual appeal, emotional appraisal, and behavioural enactment of their somnophilic and dormaphilic interests and fantasies. A Thematic Analysis led to the identification of four main themes: (1) Relevance of Sleep State; (2) Roles within Sleep Sex; (3) Enactment of Sleep Paraphilia and (4) Lack of Consent and Awareness. These four themes spanned across both those reporting somnophilic and dormaphilic fantasies. The Discussion explores the multi-faceted nature of the interests, and implications for the understanding of somnophilia and dormaphilia. This study provides the first qualitative exploration of sleep-related paraphilias, opening avenues for future research and practice.
Current MSc student, Megan Hartley, has recently published a study in the Sexual Abuse journal with Ross Bartels. The experimental study was focused on public attitudinal judgments of men who have committed child sexual abuse (CSA), specifically whether the relationship between the child and adult, as well as the degree of relational proximity, affected these judgments.
Hartley, M., & Bartels, R. M. (2022). Public perception of men who have committed intrafamilial and extrafamilial sexual offences against children. Sexual Abuse, 10790632211062188.
This study examined whether the attitudinal responses toward child sexual abuse (CSA) differ due to the person’s relationship with the victim (intrafamilial vs. extrafamilial) and/or proximity to the victim (close vs. distant). An online sample of 292 participants completed a measure assessing pre-existing attitudes toward people who commit sexual offenses, before being randomly presented with a vignette describing a CSA case committed by a biological father, biological uncle, babysitter, stranger, or stepfather. Participants then rated the perpetrator’s level of dangerousness and pedophilic interest, their own feelings of disgust, and their punitive judgments. Controlling for pre-existing attitudes, the extrafamilial cases (stranger and babysitter) were perceived to be more dangerous (large effects; ds > .50) and more pedophilic than the stepfather (large effects; ds > .60). Also, participants reported greater levels of disgust toward the stranger than both the babysitter and uncle (medium effects; ds > .30). The findings demonstrate the need to account for the established heterogeneity of men who commit CSA when studying the public’s attitudinal responses. Methodological limitations and suggestions for future research are also discussed.
In March 2022, Rachael Mason, Amanda Roberts, and Todd Hogue (along with several other colleagues) published a paper entitled “Ambulance attendance for substance and/or alcohol use in a pandemic: : Interrupted time series analysis of incidents” in Drug and Alcohol Review journal.
The ambulance attendance for substance and/or alcohol use in a pandemic (ASAP) study explores incidents during the COVID-19 lockdown in the East Midlands region of the United Kingdom (23 March–4 July 2020).
Retrospective cross-sectional count per day of ambulance attendances from the East Midlands Ambulance Service Trust. Ambulance attendances relating to alcohol or other drug use in the year prior, during lockdown and weeks following, were examined using interrupted time series analysis by patient demographics and geographical location.
A total of 36 104 records were identified (53.7% male, 84.5% ethnicity classified as White, mean age 38.4 years). A significant drop in the number of attendances per day at the start of lockdown (−25.24, confidence interval − 38.16, −12.32) was observed, followed by a gradual increase during the ongoing lockdown period (0.36, confidence interval 0.23, 0.46). Similar patterns were found across genders, age groups 16–64 and urban/rural locations.
Discussion and Conclusion
The pattern of ambulance attendances for alcohol or other drug use changed during the COVID-19 lockdown period. Lockdown significantly affected the use of ambulances for incidents involving alcohol or other drug use, impacting on health-care services. Further research into hazardous use of alcohol or other drugs during the lockdown periods is needed to inform policy, planning and public health initiatives.
In March 2022, Amanda Roberts and colleagues published a paper in ‘Addictive Behaviors’ entitled Predictors of suicide attempts in male UK gamblers seeking residential treatment.
Disordered gambling can have serious negative consequences for the individual and those around them. Previous research has indicated that disordered gamblers are at an increased risk of suicidal thoughts, ideation and attempts. The current study sought to utilise data from a clinical sample to identify factors that are associated with prior suicide attempts.
The sample included 621 patients entering a gambling-specific residential facility in the UK. A series of Chi-Square analyses and binary logistic regressions were run to identify clinical and sociodemographic variables associated with suicide attempts.
Of the 20 variables analysed using Chi-square statistics, five were significantly associated with the outcome variable (lifetime attempted suicide): loss of family relationships, loss of home, prior depression, prior suicidal thoughts, and medication use. Regression analysis showed that individuals were more likely to have reported suicide attempts if they had experienced loss of family relationships (1.65 times), loss of a home (1.87 times), prior depression (3.2 times), prior suicidal thoughts (6.14 times), or were taking medication (1.95 times) compared to those not reporting such individual events.
Disordered gamblers are vulnerable to suicide; a number of factors have been identified in the current study that predict an increased likelihood of attempted suicide. The factors mainly revolve around loss: not financial loss, but rather disintegration of an individual’s support network and deterioration in the individual’s mental health. Findings indicate that isolation and negative affect associated with gambling are most influential in attempted suicide and should therefore be more strongly considered when creating and providing the legislative, educational and treatment environments for those experiencing gambling related harm.
On the 25th Feb 2022, PhD student, Matthew King-Parker (along with with Ross Bartels and Tochukwu Onwuegbusi), published a paper entitled “The Burglary Cognitive Distortions Scale: Its association with burglary proclivity and other key variables” in the journal ‘Psychology, Crime, and Law’.
Cognitive distortions play a key role in offending but have not been researched in relation to burglary. Using the literature on offence-related cognition as a guide (which is primarily focused on sexual offending), the present two studies aimed to develop and validate the Burglary Cognitive Distortions Scale (BCDS). Drawing upon the burglary literature, an initial pool of 36-items was produced. Two online studies using community-based participants were then conducted. Each study involved administering the BCDS, along with measures of burglary proclivity, general criminal beliefs, empathy, and human needs. In Study 1 (N1 = 306), an exploratory factor analysis of the BCDS produced two factors: (1) Acquisitive Entitlement, and (2) Survive by any Means. In Study 2 (N2 = 266), confirmatory factor analysis confirmed the two-factor structure and helped refine the item pool. In each study, the 24-item CFA version of the BCDS was found to be associated with general criminal beliefs and burglary proclivity. Factor 1 of the BCDS, as well as general criminal beliefs, independently predicted proclivity scores. Future research should now aim to validate the BCDS using a sample of people who have committed burglary, as it holds promise for use in forensic settings and research.
On Feb 4th 2022, Lauren Smith and Amanda Roberts (along with Jim Rogers from the School of Health and Social Care, and Steve Sharman from Kings College London) submitted a response to the Ministry of Justice Prison Strategy White Paper calling for screening and support for gambling harms to be included in the strategy.
The response is also available on the repository.
Amanda Roberts, along with many other researchers, have published a paper entitled ‘Gambling disorder in the UK: key research priorities and the urgent need for independent research funding‘ in The Lancet Psychiatry. Summary of the paper is below:
Gambling in the modern era is pervasive owing to the variety of gambling opportunities available, including those that use technology (eg, online applications on smartphones). Although many people gamble recreationally without undue negative effects, a sizeable subset of individuals develop disordered gambling, which is associated with marked functional impairment including other mental health problems, relationship problems, bankruptcy, suicidality, and criminality. The National UK Research Network for Behavioural Addictions (NUK-BA) was established to promote understanding of, research into, and treatments for behavioural addictions including gambling disorder, which is the only formally recognised behavioural addiction. In this Health Policy paper, we outline the status of research and treatment for disordered gambling in the UK (including funding issues) and key research that should be conducted to establish the magnitude of the problem, vulnerability and resilience factors, the underlying neurobiology, long-term consequences, and treatment opportunities. In particular, we emphasise the need to: (1) conduct independent longitudinal research into the prevalence of disordered gambling (including gambling disorder and at-risk gambling), and gambling harms, including in vulnerable and minoritised groups; (2) select and refine the most suitable pragmatic measurement tools; (3) identify predictors (eg, vulnerability and resilience markers) of disordered gambling in people who gamble recreationally, including in vulnerable and minoritised groups; (4) conduct randomised controlled trials on psychological interventions and pharmacotherapy for gambling disorder; (5) improve understanding of the neurobiological basis of gambling disorder, including impulsivity and compulsivity, genetics, and biomarkers; and (6) develop clinical guidelines based on the best contemporary research evidence to guide effective clinical interventions. We also highlight the need to consider what can be learnt from approaches towards mitigating gambling-related harm in other countries.