Violent Fantasies in Young Men With Autism Spectrum Disorders: Dangerous or Miserable Misfits? Duty to Protect Whom? (2015)

Int J Offender Ther Comp Criminol. 2015 Oct 28. pii: 0306624X15612719.

Palermo MT1, Bogaerts S2.


Predictability of dangerousness in association with mental disorders remains elusive, outside of a few relatively well-established risk factors for the prognostication of violence, such as male sex, the presence of a psychotic disorder, and comorbid substance abuse. In clinical practice, inquiry into the presence of aggressive or violent ideation, in the form of ideas of homicide or suicide, is part of a standard mental status examination. Nonetheless, fantasy life, when it concerns harm toward others, may not be as reliable an indicator of imminent danger as it may be in the case of self-harm.

Five cases of young Italian men with Asperger syndrome and recurrent and extremely violent femicide fantasies are presented. While there is no direct correlation between autism spectrum conditions and violence, as other humans, persons with an autistic condition are capable of committing crimes, including homicide.

All five had in common a number of characteristics and behaviors felt to be pathoplastic: All had been bullied, all had been romantically rejected, all were long-standing First Person Shooter (FPS) game players, and all were avid violent pornography consumers. The potential for an actual neurocognitive impact of violent video games, well documented in the literature, and its combination with personal life history and chronic habituation following long-standing violent pornography use is discussed in the context of social and emotional vulnerabilities.

While aggressive fantasies cannot and should not be underestimated, in countries where duty to protect legislation does not exist, a clinical approach is imperative, as, incidentally, should be anywhere.