Psychopathy and offending behaviour: findings from the national survey of prisoners in England and Wales

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Roberts, Amanda D.L. ; Coid, Jeremy W. (2007)

There is debate about whether the psychopath's criminal behaviour is a consequence of abnormal personality traits or a symptom of psychopathy. The aim of this study was to examine independent associations between offending behaviour over the lifetime and psychopathy in a representative sample of male and female offenders. A two-stage survey was carried out among prisoners in all prisons in England and Wales. Psychopathy was measured using the PCL-R in the second stage among 497 male and female prisoners. Independent relationships between the four factors of psychopathy and lifetime offences were examined using multiple regression. Two models of association were compared to test the effects of the fourth (antisocial) factor. Factor 1 (interpersonal) was not associated with any category of serious offending behaviour. Affective deficiency (Factor 2) was independently associated with violent and acquisitive offending in men. The contribution of the antisocial factor to associations with total PCL-R scores, together with its strong intercorrelations with Factor 3 (lifestyle), suggest that it is an integral component of the psychopathy construct. The findings also demonstrate the dilemma of colinearity between the third and fourth factors of psychopathy and their relationship with criminal behaviour, especially in men.\ud Keywords: Psychopathy; offending behaviour; prisoners; criminality; factor-structure; gender
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