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Int J Law Psychiatry. 2008 Jun-Jul;31(3):189-98. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2008.04.003. Epub 2008 Jun 9.

Does the three-factor model of psychopathy identify a problematic subgroup of young offenders?

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Orebro University, Center for Research on Criminological Psychology, Orebro, Sweden.


The present study tests the utility of the personality-based three-factor model of psychopathy according to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV). This model of psychopathy excludes aspects of criminal behavior as opposed to other models of psychopathy. The main research question was to what extent the three-factor model of psychopathy can identify a problematic subgroup of young offenders. The sample consisted of 148 incarcerated young male criminal offenders, between 15 and 25 years of age (mean=19.07, SD=2.11) who were recruited from a central detention center for young offenders in a northern German county. Model-based cluster analysis of the three psychopathy factors showed that three different clusters labeled: (i) Unemotional/Impulsive-Irresponsible, (ii) Low traits, and (iii) Psychopathic personality, had the best fit to the data. The psychopathic personality cluster with high scores on all three factors of the PCL:SV exhibited, as expected, a significantly higher prevalence of conduct disorder and substance use problems, but was not significantly different from the other clusters on past criminality and previous incarcerations. In conclusion, the results showed that the three-factor model of psychopathy can be useful in identifying a problematic subgroup of young offenders.

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