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J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 2007 Apr-Jun;36(2):228-41.

Diagnostic labeling in juvenile court: how do descriptions of psychopathy and conduct disorder influence judges?

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Psychology Department, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA.


This study examined the influence of diagnostic criteria and diagnostic labels for psychopathy or conduct disorder on judicial decisions. A national sample of judges (N = 326) rendered hypothetical dispositions based on 1 of 12 mock psychological evaluations. The evaluations varied the presence of 2 sets of diagnostic criteria (antisocial behavioral history and psychopathic personality traits) and 3 diagnostic labels (conduct disorder, psychopathy, no diagnosis) to distinguish diagnostic criterion effects from diagnostic labeling effects. Results revealed substantial effects (Cohen's d = .33- 1.27 on 6 of 9 variables) for a history of antisocial behavior. Psychopathic personality features also appeared influential, albeit on fewer variables. There were no negative effects associated with conduct disorder or psychopathy labels. Results suggest that the criteria underlying labels, more than labels themselves, exert influence in juvenile justice contexts.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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