[Contribution of psychopathic traits to delinquent behaviors in a sample of high-school male students]

C Saint-Martin, H Chabrol
L'Encéphale 2010, 36 (2): 155-8

UNLABELLED: The aim of this study was to evaluate the contribution of psychopathic personality traits to delinquent behaviour after controlling for borderline personality traits, depressive symptomatology, dissociation and cannabis use in male adolescent delinquent behaviour.

METHOD: A sample of 155 young male participants (mean age=17+/-1.5) completed self-report questionnaires. Delinquent behaviour was assessed with the Antisocial behavior scales (ABS, Schawb-Stone et al., 1999) which include three subscales assessing behavior problems of different severity: conduct problems, assessing relatively mild behavior problems; less severe delinquency, assessing non-violent antisocial behavior; severe antisocial behavior, exploring relatively serious aggressive and antisocial behavior. The respondents were asked to report on a 5-point scale how many times (ranging from "0 times" to "5 or more times") they were involved in the described behaviors during the past year. In this study, only the two subscales assessing less severe delinquency and severe antisocial behavior were used. Personality psychopathic traits were assessed with the Youth psychopathic traits inventory (YPI; Andershed et al., 2002). It consists in three scales assessing interpersonal, affective (with callousness, which is considered as the core dimension of a psychopathy) and lifestyle traits of the psychopathic personality (alpha=0.90, alpha=0.81 and alpha=0.77, respectively). Other questionnaires assessed borderline personality traits (Borderline personality features scale for children), depression (Center for epidemiological studies-depression scale), dissociation (Adolescent dissociative experience scale) (alpha=0.83, 0.88 and 0.92 respectively) and cannabis use.

RESULTS: In the present study, the frequency of antisocial behaviour was important (55%): 7% of the adolescents had stolen a bike or a car at least once, 11% had committed a theft at least once, 36% had started a fight at least once, and 25% had threatened someone seriously or beaten up somebody at least once, 15% had had hurt someone badly in a physical fight so they had to be treated by a doctor or a nurse at least once, 21% had carried a blade, knife or gun at least once, 9% had been involved in a gang fight at least once, and 12% had carried a blade, knife or gun in school. A multiple regression analysis predicting antisocial behaviour in the total sample with the psychopathic and borderline traits, depressive and dissociative symptoms, alcohol and cannabis use, showed that delinquent behaviours were only predicted by alcohol and cannabis use and the psychopathic trait "callousness".

DISCUSSION: This study suggests the importance of callousness in explaining adolescent delinquent behaviour. Other psychopathological variables did not appear to influence delinquent behaviour in this sample.

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