Dr Agata Debowska

Department of Psychology
University of Sheffield
Cathedral Court
1 Vicar Lane, Sheffield, S1 2LT
Tel:  +44 (0)114 2226564
Email:  a.debowska@sheffield.ac.uk


BA (Hons) Psychology and Crime Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University
MSc Psychology and Investigation, University of Huddersfield
PhD in Criminal Psychology, University of Huddersfield
PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, University of Chester

Membership of Professional Bodies

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), British Psychological Society (BPS)
Full Member of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN)

Research Interests

My current research projects and publications focus on interpersonal violence against women and children, psychopathy, and criminal social identity.  I am a member of the None in Three Research Centre.

Interpersonal violence against women and children
My research examines the prevalence, internalising and externalising consequences of, as well as risk factors for victimisation among women and children worldwide.  I also investigate patterns of co-occurrence between different forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, in different populations. Another key aspect of my research is to identify factors which build resilience and can protect against negative effects of adverse childhood experiences. This research should have impacts on violence prevention strategies (such as media campaigns and school-based programmes), better identification of perpetrators and individuals at risk of being victimised, and relevant legislation.

Although psychopathy is a crucial concept in the criminal justice system, there is no consensus among researchers and practitioners as to what constitutes psychopathy construct. The main controversy pertains to the inclusion of criminal behaviour in psychopathy assessment, which could have led to an overestimation of the prevalence of psychopathy in prison population. My research group have developed a new model of psychopathy, along with an associated self-report measure for research purposes, which can predict antisocial behaviour, but does not treat criminality as an integral part of the disorder. We are currently working on developing a laboratory-based assessment of psychopathy for diagnostic purposes.

Criminal Social Identity
Identification with other criminals is a key aspect predicting offending and re-offending behaviour. I am interested in the roots and consequences of criminal social identity. My research group have proposed the Integrated Psychosocial Model of Criminal Social Identity (IPM-CSI), which elucidates risk and protective factors in the development of criminal social identity. To enable reliable measurement of the construct, we have recently developed the Measure of Criminal Social Identity – Revised (MCSI-R), which was validated within a large, systematically selected prison sample. We are currently working on validating both the model and measure among more diverse samples of youths and adults who offend. This research is important for the development of effective prison- and community-based intervention programmes aimed at breaking the cycle of re-offending.

Current Grants

Research Councils UK (Global Challenges Research Fund – RCUK Collective Fund). “None in Three (Ni3) - A Centre for the Development, Application, Research and Evaluation of Prosocial Games for the Prevention of Gender-based Violence”. With: Prof Adele Jones (PI), Prof Daniel Boduszek (PI), Prof Minhua Ma, Prof Paul Miller, & Dr Graham Gibbs. 2017-2021. My role: Co-Investigator and Work Package Leader. Funding: £4.3 million

Evaluation of Advocacy and Research Focused Programmes
None in Three (Barbados and Grenada) - funded by the European Union (PI: Prof Adele Jones). My role: Support in the implementation of the project publication strategy.

Interpersonal violence against women and children among national prison sample in Poland – project supported by the Polish Prison Service. My role: Principal Investigator.


  • Outstanding Reviewer Award in the Emerald Literati Network 2015 Awards for Excellence
  • Exceptional Research Output Award for the paper “The role of psychopathy and exposure to violence in rape myth acceptance” published in Journal of Interpersonal Violence
  • Academic Excellence Award, Manchester Metropolitan University

Journal Editorships

Associate Editor – Frontiers in Psychology (Forensic and Legal Psychology section) (01/2018 – present)
Editorial Board Member - Journal of Criminal Psychology (02/2016 – 01/2018)

Current PhD Students

Co-supervisor to Alisa Spink (School of Human and Health Sciences, University of Huddersfield)

Links to Other Web Profiles


Public Engagement

Public lectures and keynote addresses
“Understanding the link between different types of child maltreatment: Discussion of their consequences and potential risk factors”. Invited talk at Making Justice Work for Victims: Responding to Challenges for Victims of Child Abuse and Exploitation in the Criminal Justice System Conference, Leeds, UK (05/01/2018).

“Understanding child abuse and neglect: A focus on military populations”. Public talk at the Sexual Assault and Prevention Response British Expert Learning Day invited by the United States Air Force, RAF Lakenheath, Suffolk, England (11/12/2017).

“An innovative method of assessing psychopathic traits among prisoners and general population”. Public lecture with co-speaker, Professor Daniel Boduszek: National College of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland (05/12/2016).

“The impact of child abuse and prison environment on attitudes towards violence”. Keynote address at 13th International Symposium on Forensic Psychiatry, Wismar, Germany (02-03/09/ 2016).


A list of key publications can be found below.  For a full list of publications please click here

Journal articles