Psychopathic traits and their relation to psychopathology in community, psychiatric outpatient and forensic psychiatric samples of Finnish adolescents

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The construct of psychopathy is formed by a constellation of specific interpersonal (lying, manipulation and grandiosity), affective (callousness, low emotion) and behavioral (irresponsibilty, impulsivity) traits. Current conceptualizations view psychopathy as a developmental neuropsychological disorder and as a malicious version of the extremes of normal personality traits. Psychopathic traits are relatively stable over time, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Thus, there has been an increase in interest to apply the construct of psychopathy to children and adolescents. The present study aimed:1)to study the psychometric properties of the Finnish versions of two self-assessments for psychopathic traits, 2)to explore gender differences in the traits, 3)to investigate relation of the traits to other forms of psychopathology, 4)to assess the prevalence of limited prosocial emotions (LPE) and the ability of this specifier to reveal adolescents high on psychosocial problems, 5)to compare self-assessed psychopathic traits between Finnish and Dutch community boys and girls, 6)to compare self-assessed psychopathic traits between female adolescent psychiatric outpatients and community girls, 7)to explore how those traits relate to psychiatric disorders in female outpatients, and 8)to assess psychopathic traits and related background variables in forensic psychiatry sample of girls charged with severe violent offenses in comparence with age- and offense-matched boys. The Finnish community data comprised 370 9th graders from secondary schools and 155 female students from vocational and high schools. Dutch data comprised 776 adolescents from the upper grades of secondary schools in the Netherlands. The outpatient data consisted of 163 female patients of adolescent psychiatric policlinics. The forensic psychiatric data comprised 25 girls and their age- and offense-matched male counterparts. The Youth Psychopathic traits Inventory (YPI), Antisocial Process Screening Device - Self Report (APSD-SR), Youth Self Report and Psychopathy Checklist - Youth Version were used. Forensic psychiatric examination reports and patient files were reviewed. Both the YPI and the APSD-SR are promising screening tools for psychopathic traits in community, though somewhat weak to catch the affective deficits; the YPI showed slightly better properties than the APSD-SR. Community boys scored significantly higher than girls in overall psychopathic traits. The traits correlated with externalizing and internalizing problems, similarly in boys and girls. LPE were common in community youth, and they did not designate those with psychosocial problems from those without. Culture-related differences in juvenile psychopathic traits seem to exis, but the research should be replicated in other cross-national samples before generalizing the conclusions. Psychiatric outpatient girls showed more impulsive and irresponsible lifestyles than community girls. Girls with externalizing psychopathology excibited more affective deficits than did girls in the community. Psychopathic traits in girls were associated with psychopathology and especially with externalizing psychiatric disorders. The psychiatric examination of outpatient girls would likely benefit from screening for psychopathy. In the forensic sample, approximately every third girl showed high traits of psychopathy, and no significant gender difference in the prevalence was observed. With regard to the underlying factor and item scores, girls were less antisocial than boys, but their interpersonal relationships were more unstable. Compared to boys, girls more often had a history of child sexual abuse, and their victims were more often family members or current or ex-partners. Interventions should take into account these special features of severely violent offending girls.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHelsinki
Print ISBNs978-951-51-3135-5
Electronic ISBNs978-951-51-3136-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)

Fields of Science

  • 3124 Neurology and psychiatry

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