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NCJ Number: 136814 Find in a Library
Title: Procedures and Problems in Conducting a Psychological Autopsy
Journal: International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology  Volume:36  Issue:1  Dated:(Spring 1992)  Pages:43-52
Author(s): T J Young
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 10
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses procedures and problems in the conduct of a psychological autopsy, which is an investigative technique used by social scientists to aid in determining the mode of death in equivocal cases.
Abstract: The psychological autopsy attempts to recreate the personality and lifestyle of the deceased and the known circumstances of his or her death. This procedure consists of interviews with friends, relatives and associates of the deceased, an analysis of public records and other documents, and cross-checking one data source with another. The kinds of information obtained in the course of this posthumous investigation include the life history of the deceased, recent life events, psychological data, clues to or communications of suicide, and any relevant miscellaneous data. The historical gestalt that emerges from the data can clarify the most probable mode of death. According to Ebert (1987), the psychological autopsy serves at least four purposes. In addition to clarifying the mode of death in equivocal cases, the psychological autopsy may determine why a death occurred at a particular time. The psychological autopsy may also obtain data that may be useful in the prediction of suicide and the assessment of the lethality of the suicidal person. Another purpose of psychological autopsies is to provide therapeutic value to survivors. This article outlines procedures of psychological autopsies recommended by various authors, although there are no standardized procedures. Some problems identified by critics of psychological autopsies are the variability in available data and the subjectivity and bias of some interpretations of the data. Actual cases illustrate the uses and problems of psychological autopsies. 15 references
Main Term(s): Psychological evaluation
Index Term(s): Homicide investigations; Investigative techniques
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