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  • Forensic Psychology Research Group

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The Forensic Psychology Research Group has several key areas of activity including sex differences in aggression, physical aggression between young men, family violence and women’s offending behaviour, interventions for other and self-directed violence, bullying and attributions towards sexual abuse.

Expertise and Subject Areas

The Forensic Psychology Research Group covers of the following areas, with both academic and applied impact:

Sex differences in aggression

This is a longstanding area that connects sex differences in violent behaviour with evolutionary theory, and investigates a number of mediating processes such as self-control, attitudes, and the need to control others’ behaviour (Archer; Thanzami; Graham-Kevan), and it has been extended to link general and family violence (see below), particularly partner abuse. This link is important both theoretically, to generate a general theory of aggression, and in terms of practice, to inform violence reduction programmes. The research has already been applied to the development of gender neutral aggression treatment programmes, such as Life Minus Violence-Enhanced (LMV-E: Mersey Care NHS Trust) (Graham-Kevan; J Ireland).

Family Violence

Most research on family violence has concerned violence between partners, and in particular assessing current theories of its nature and causes. Several studies have assessed Johnson’s partner violence typology, involving controlling behaviour (Archer; Graham-Kevan). A novel and robust finding from studies across samples in several nations is that a need to control the partner’s behaviour predicts violence towards them, for both men and women. These and other findings are of crucial importance for intervention programmes, which are currently based on a model that holds that this link occurs only for male perpetrators. Associated research is that involving ex-partner stalking, in both student and forensic populations. Research on family violence has also been extended more generally, in particular to sibling aggression and violence, in both general and forensic samples (Khan).

Honour related violence (HRV)

Experiences of ‘honour’ related violence (HRV) have been overlooked in terms of psychological research. Significantly, not one empirically-based psychosocial source can be located to inform on the aetiology, nature, or impact of HRV, either for victims or perpetrators. In response to this, a local project is in progress in conjunction with Lancashire Police Constabulary to explore the nature and severity of threats and violence used against and by British-born South Asian males and females residing in Preston. This builds on previous work which identified cross- and multi-agency HRV intervention and involvement in Scotland (Khan). There is a clear need for validated empirical evidence to inform and guide best practice and evidence based-policing in the UK. These findings also have the potential to inform other police forces nationwide. Existing research has already been applied to the development of a HRV training workshop (HRV: Psychosocial Perspectives, UCLan) (Khan).

Interventions for other and self-directed violence

The group is involved in evaluating the direct application of theory to practice by evaluating the effectiveness of long term violence therapy with high risk men detained in psychiatric care (N Graham-Kevan, JL Ireland); men under community supervision (N Graham-Kevan, VJ Willan); developing an understanding of the motivations of men involved in crisis situations (e.g. hostage taking and barricades) (C Ireland); developing models to understand self-injurious behaviour which have been applied in clinical practice (J Ireland); and examining how the environment within secure services can be altered to reduce inpatient hostility and aggression (J Ireland). This established and developing research base is informing clinical policy and clinical decision-making for the care of forensic clients.

Physical aggression between young men

This research involves questionnaire studies of hypermasculine (“macho”) values and its link with violence, and the link between bodily strength and violence among young men (Archer; Thanzami). Experimental studies have used the evolutionary concept of RHP (Resource Holding Power) to study the extent to which the apparent fighting ability of a protagonist influences the tendency to respond to strong provocation with physical aggression. Scenario studies have showed that this occurred in several samples, but not to samples of prisoners (Archer, JL Ireland), where the degree to which the person was regarded as a formidable opponent was of greater importance. Other studies have established a link between physical size and strength and a history of physical aggression among young men (Archer; Thanzami). All of these studies are of potential application in the area of public order.

Bullying in secure forensic settings and related behaviours

Earlier research on the nature and extent of bullying has largely given way to studies of the characteristics and motivations of those involved, derived from mainstream psychological theory (JL Ireland; N Graham-Kevan).. Research on methods to measure prison bullying is continuing and progressing. The research area is expanding to cover other topics, such as gang-related behaviour, due to its apparent close association with bullying behaviours (JL Ireland). The work has been used to develop policy on the management and intervention of bullying in secure settings (J Ireland), and is having both national and international applications within the secure forensic sector.


This research falls into two broad categories: attributions towards victims of sexual abuse and victim vulnerability. Attributional research began with studies of attributions of blame towards depicted adult rape and sexual assault victims, varying the sex of the victim and perpetrator, and sexuality of the victim sexuality. It has been extended to focus on attributions towards child victims of sexual abuse, as well as continuing the original research area. This research has shown how attributions differ in various samples, such as the general population and police workers who deal with rape on a regular basis (M. Lowe). The research informs practice in relation to vulnerable adolescents. Other studies concern the effects of rape on a community sample of British male survivors (M Lowe), and this has been used to inform victim-support groups and interventions. Victim vulnerability research includes an EU funded grant exploring prior trauma and revictimisation and factors relating to service engagement ( N Graham-Kevan; M Lowe, VJ Willan, R Khan).

Women's offending behaviour

This research compares the similarities and differences between men’s and women’s offending behaviour, and has developed a comprehensive women’s offending-antisocial behaviour scale (N Graham-Kevan).  

Evaluations of Offending Interventions

This research is concerned with evaluating the outcomes of interventions provided by criminal justice statutory and voluntary agencies to reduce the risk of reoffending. Intervention evaluations include general aggression (JL Ireland, N Graham-Kevan: ), partner violence (N Graham-Kevan, VJ Willan).


  • We publish high quality research in peer-reviewed international academic journals. Our publications range from academic research, papers professional commentaries and opinion pieces, to reports for industry and government bodies.
  • We also undertake consultancy projects with regard to the criminal justice system.
  • We deliver training to psychologists and professionals involved in the criminal justice system.
  • Lead British Psychological Society responses to government consultations on offending.

Courses and Postgraduate Study

Year 1

  • Crime and Psychology

Year 2

  • Introduction to Forensic Psychology

Year 3

  • The Psychology of Violent Behaviour
  • Victimology
  • Profiling Offenders
  • Forensic Psychology in Secure Settings
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Drugs and Behaviour

Year 4 MSc Forensic Psychology

  • Psychology and the Legal System
  • Personal Attributes of Offenders and Victims
  • Forensic Risk Assessment
  • Professional Practice: Forensic Consultancy and Supervision
  • Psychology, Investigation and the Courtroom
  • Violent and Sexual Offenders: Intervention
  • Forensic Mental Health

Related Projects

Centre for Studies in Applied Cognition

Centre for Health Psychology Research

Ashworth Research Centre

Cyberspace Research Unit

Assessing Vulnerable Victims