Purpose – This paper aims to respond to a number of pleas for interdisciplinary – or integrative – approaches to psychology and criminology in exploring the value of simultaneously applying micro and macro analytical tools. Design/methodology/approach – The study reported in this paper applies both the revised psychopathy checklist (PCL‐R) and structural analysis to the historical case of Mary Ann Cotton, a nineteenth century British serial killer. Findings – Findings suggest that multi‐level approaches to analysis are valuable in developing holistic understandings into serial murder, which are appreciative of both the psychological characteristics of the individual offender and their location in the broader social and historical context. Micro analysis would now label Cotton a psychopath, but we need to broaden the analysis and to consider macro questions related to gender, poverty and the wider social structure in which Cotton operated. Research limitations/implications – In the absence of an interview with the offender, this study has supplemented alternative materials and as such, prompts debate into the application of contemporary tools to historical cases. Practical implications – The findings imply that the application of PCL‐R alongside structural analytical tools reveals more in‐depth and socially rooted insights into the study of historical cases of serial murder and as such, provide a valuable addition to both criminological and the psychological methodology frameworks. Originality/value – This research prompts academic debate within psychology and criminology into the potential value of a combined, integrative approach to historical cases drawing upon both micro and macro analytical tools.
Journal of Criminal Psychology – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 15, 2013
Keywords: Psychopathy; Integrative criminology; Macro‐micro; Serial murder; Gender; Criminology; Murder; Criminals; Individual behaviour