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Psychopathy and Violent Behaviour in Abused and Neglected Young Adults

NCJ Number
Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health Volume: 6 Issue: 3 Dated: (1996) Pages: 253-271
Date Published
19 pages

Interrelationships among early childhood victimization, psychopathy, and violence were examined in a sample of 652 previously abused and neglected individuals and a matched control group of 489 individuals.


The sample of abused and neglected individuals was composed of substantiated cases of childhood physical and sexual abuse and/or neglect processed during the 1967-1971 period in a metropolitan area of the midwestern United States. Measures of psychopathy assessed using Hare's Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R) and violence based on official arrest and self-report information were included in a series of multivariate analyses. Individuals were traced approximately 20 years after their childhood victimization, and personal interviews were conducted between 1989 and 1994. It was found that victims of childhood abuse and neglect had significantly higher PCL-R scores than persons in the matched control group, despite controls for demographic characteristics and criminal histories. PCL-R scores predicted official and self-reported violence. Childhood victimization was a significant predictor of violence. When PCL-R scores were introduced, however, childhood victimization was no longer significant. Findings demonstrated a clear connection between early childhood victimization and psychopathy and suggested that the relationship between childhood victimization and violence in some individuals may be mediated through psychopathy. Several potential mechanisms are suggested to explain these linkages. 72 references and 4 tables

Date Published: January 1, 1996