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Degree of psychopathy and patterns of personality traits: implications for treatment in male juvenile delinquents
University West, Department of Social and Behavioural Studies, Division of Psychology and Organisation Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8562-5610
NEUROTEC, Karolinska Institutet.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

We have assessed psychopathy in male juvenile delinquents, and examined the relationships between patterns of psychopathy-related personality traits and psychopathy (PCL-R). Our results are complemented by data regarding previous treatment occasions and reoffending, with the aim of discussing treatment strategies.

We studied 56 male juvenile delinquents whose ages ranged from 14 to 20 years, with a mean of 17 years (SD = 1.2) from four youth correctional institutions in Sweden. All of the young people had shown early onset of conduct disorder. The modified version of the Hare Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R), designed to be used with young people (Forth, Hart, & Hare, 1990), was used to assess psychopathy. Personality traits were measured along five dimensions: impulsiveness, monotony avoidance, socialization, verbal aggression, and somatic anxiety; scales were taken from the Karolinska Scales of Personality.

The mean PCL-R score was 29.3 in this sample (SD = 7.8), and 73% had scores between 27 and 40, indicating high degree of psychopathy; 59% of the participants had scores above 30, and, according to the manual, were classified as psychopaths. No significant correlations were found between the personality scale scores and the PCL-R scores. We discovered seven clusters; three of these were multi-psychopathological clusters (the members of these clusters had all traits deviant from what is normal), three of these consisted of participants for who the majority of traits were deviant (only one or two traits were within the normal range), and one of these consisted of participants for who all traits were within the normal range. We suggest that the classification will be helpful in managing therapeutic efforts.

The results indicate that psychopathy is common in male juvenile delinquents, and that personality profile may have implications for early intervention strategies in male adolescents with conduct disorder.

Keyword [en]
psychopathy (PCL-R), personality traits, classification by cluster analysis, juvenile delinquents
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences Social Sciences
Research subject
SOCIAL SCIENCE, Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-5049OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hv-5049DiVA: diva2:586080
Projects
Dyslexi bland tvångsomhändertagna ungdomar: Psykologiska, sociala och biologiska indikatorer“Dr. Jekyll och Mr. Hyde beteende” bland manliga kriminella ungdomar i samband med alkohol kombinerad med bensodiazepiner: Biologiska och psykologiska indikatorer
Note

Ingår i manuskriptform som Study IV i Anna Dådermans (Ph.D. i psykologi) doktorsavhandling "Personality traits and psychopathy (PCL-R) in male juvenile delinquents". Publicerades senare som 2 st artiklar i omskriven form.

Available from: 2013-01-10 Created: 2013-01-10 Last updated: 2014-01-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Personality traits and psychopathy (PCL-R) in male juvenile delinquents
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Personality traits and psychopathy (PCL-R) in male juvenile delinquents
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

 Abstract

 

State-administered correctional institutions in Sweden take care of approximately 600 juvenile delinquents every year. The treatment for these institutionalized young people is based mainly on environmental programs and milieu therapy.

Fifty-six conduct-disordered juvenile delinquents (mean age 17 years) from four institutions were studied with respect to their personality traits, and the prevalence of psychopathy (measured by the Hare Psychopathy Checklist – Revised, PCL-R). One objective was to study the reliability and validity of commonly used personality inventories. In particular, the validity of psychopathy-related personality traits, included in Schalling’s psychopathy model (1978), was examined by studying the relationships between personality traits and psychopathy (PCL-R), the occurrence of previous treatment occasions, and relapse into crime. Four groups, the delinquent participants, a group of high sensation-seekers (air force pilot recruits), normal male adolescent participants, and another group of normal young males, completed a number of personality inventories, which enabled us to obtain measures of personality traits. The personality inventories used were the Karolinska Scales of Personality (KSP), the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, and the Zuckerman Sensation-Seeking Scales. In addition, the delinquent participants were rated on psychopathy according to the modified version of the PCL-R, designed to be used with young people (Fort, Hart, & Hare, 1990). Both variable-oriented (factor analysis, MANOVA) and person-oriented statistical methods (cluster analysis) were applied.

As expected, most personality traits in the delinquent participants deviated from published norms and from our control groups. The delinquent participants showed a high level of pathology or vulnerability for developing mental disorders (such as substance abuse). About 60% of the delinquent participants had scores above 30 on the PCL-R, and were thus classified as psychopaths according to the manual. Further, 73% had scores between 27 and 40, indicating a high level of psychopathy. Delinquent participants showed a different pattern of sensation-seeking behavior than air force pilot recruits and normal adolescent participants, and differed also in other personality traits. They had a low level of socialization, indicating a lack of ability to take the role of the generalized other, and a tendency to impulsiveness, somatic anxiety and extraversion-sociability. The construct validity (convergent and divergent) of the KSP scales was found to be adequate. Some of the personality traits in delinquent participants, however, showed a different correlation pattern than that found in noncriminal people. Some of the basic scales from the KSP had high reliability, but many were not reliable when used on delinquent participants. Four factors were extracted using the maximum likelihood method. No significant correlations were found between the personality scale scores and the PCL-R scores. Finally, cluster analysis of the reliable and valid psychopathy-related personality scales from the KSP (Impulsiveness, Monotony avoidance, Socialization, Verbal aggression, and Somatic anxiety) identified seven different clusters of delinquent participants.

The uncertain validity of some personality traits (e.g., psychoticism or detachment), the poor reliability of many of the KSP scales (e.g., Guilt, Suspicion, and Inhibition of aggression) when used on this population, together with some minor limitations of the studies (e.g., sample size) are discussed.

In conclusion, the high prevalence of psychopathy in the present sample of male delinquent participants may have important clinical treatment implications, particularly since some researchers have suggested that milieu therapy increases relapse rates into crime in adult psychopaths. Hopefully, appropriate assessment of personality traits and psychopathy (in addition to obvious routine assessments of mental disorders, such as substance abuse or disabilities such as dyslexia), supervision, and the implementation of effective correctional programs, may prevent young people with deviant personalities from aggravating their deviant style of living.

 

Key words: Personality traits, psychopathy (PCL-R), juvenile delinquents, reliability, validity, assessment.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2002. 252 p.
Keyword
Personality traits, psychopathy (PCL-R), juvenile delinquents, reliability, validity, assessment
National Category
Psychology
Research subject
SOCIAL SCIENCE, Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hv:diva-5359 (URN)91-7265-396-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2002-01-25, Frescati, Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 08:54
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2013-05-29 Created: 2013-05-29 Last updated: 2014-01-10Bibliographically approved

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