Women prisoners
Women psychopaths tend to start early and continue their criminal activity longer than non-psychopathic women -- representational image PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Studies have shown that there are fewer female psychopaths than male in the world, but the true occurrence rate of this mental condition in women in women is often underestimated because of behavioural differences between female and male psychopaths, causing several women to slip under the radar.

This is a tricky situation and the distinction is an important one to know as female psychopaths can be just as dangerous as their male counterparts. While research on the subject is limited, a Science Alert (SA) report points out certain traits of female psychopaths.

They generally do not take responsibility for their actions, are deceitful, cunning, controlling, and manipulative, notes the report. One of the main traits mentioned is that they lack a sense of empathy toward fellow humans.

They are also known to often be victims of bullying and their tendencies often manifest in their teenage years. Studies of women in prison have shown that psychopathic females tend to commit crimes at a much lower age than women without such traits.

Female inmates with psychopathic traits have also been found to commit crimes over a wider spectrum like robbery, drugs, and assault, for example. Most other female prisoners stick to one type of offence. Psychopathic women prisoners also seem to commit crimes that seem to be motivated by power and dominance more often than women prisoners who do not have this condition. Recidivism rates are also higher with psychopaths.

The differences between male and female psychopaths, however, are also quite pronounced. Female inmates with psychopathy make up only 11 to 17% of the prison population, while 25 to 30% of male prisoners display psychopathic tendencies.

One of the reasons mentioned in the report for this difference is that male psychopaths are likely to be physically violent and commit violent crimes. Women with this mental condition, on the other hand, are known to be relationally or verbally aggressive in their behaviour. However, psychopath women have been found to be less likely to commit murder than non-psychopath women, reports SA.

Threat and coercion and a sense of entitlement to live off other people were found to be prevalent in women with this condition. They can also be jealous and parasitic, notes the report. This is one of the reasons why the true nature of women psychopaths are rarely identified, but they can be just as violent, exploitative, and cunning as male psychopaths, but are a lot more covert and manipulative, notes the report.