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J Abnorm Psychol. 1997 Aug;106(3):425-38.

Pursuing the psychopath: capturing the fledgling psychopath in a nomological net.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington 40506-0044, USA. drlynal@ukcc.uky.edu


The present article reports on an attempt to import the concept of psychopathy at the childhood level. Childhood psychopathy was assessed in 430 boys ages 12 and 13 years by using caretaker reports on a translation of an adult psychopathy assessment instrument. A systematic construct validation approach revealed that childhood psychopathy fits into the nomological network surrounding adult psychopathy. Children with psychopathic personalities, like their adult counterparts, were serious and stable offenders, impulsive, and more prone to externalizing than internalizing disorders. Childhood psychopathy also provided incremental validity in predicting serious stable antisocial behavior in adolescence over and above other known predictors and one other classification approach. These results suggest that psychopathy has a childhood manifestation that can be measured reliably. Implications and future directions are outlined.

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