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Personal Disord. 2012 Jul;3(3):209-27. doi: 10.1037/a0025084. Epub 2011 Aug 29.

Psychopathic personality traits and environmental contexts: Differential correlates, gender differences, and genetic mediation.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA.


Theorists have speculated that primary psychopathy (or Factor 1 affective-interpersonal features) is prominently heritable whereas secondary psychopathy (or Factor 2 social deviance) is more environmentally determined. We tested this differential heritability hypothesis using a large adolescent twin sample. Trait-based proxies of primary and secondary psychopathic tendencies were assessed using Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) estimates of Fearless Dominance and Impulsive Antisociality, respectively. The environmental contexts of family, school, peers, and stressful life events were assessed using multiple raters and methods. Consistent with prior research, MPQ Impulsive Antisociality was robustly associated with each environmental risk factor, and these associations were significantly greater than those for MPQ Fearless Dominance. However, MPQ Fearless Dominance and Impulsive Antisociality exhibited similar heritability, and genetic effects mediated the associations between MPQ Impulsive Antisociality and the environmental measures. Results were largely consistent across male and female twins. We conclude that gene-environment correlations rather than main effects of genes and environments account for the differential environmental correlates of primary and secondary psychopathy.

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