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Scand J Psychol. 2015 Dec;56(6):649-58. doi: 10.1111/sjop.12257.

Stability and predictors of psychopathic traits from mid-adolescence through early adulthood.

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Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.
Rosalind Franklin University, North Chicago, USA.
King's College, London, UK.
Université de Montréal, Canada.


High levels of psychopathic traits in youth are associated with multiple negative outcomes including substance misuse, aggressive behavior, and criminality. Evidence regarding stability of psychopathic traits is contradictory. No previous study has examined long-term stability of psychopathic traits assessed with validated clinical measures. The present study examined the stability of psychopathic traits from mid-adolescence to early adulthood and explored adolescent factors that predicted psychopathic traits five years later. The sample included 99 women and 81 men who had consulted a clinic for substance misuse in adolescence. At an average age of 16.8 years, the adolescents were assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL: YV) and five years later using the PCL-Revised (PCL-R). Additionally, extensive clinical assessments of the adolescents and their parents were completed in mid-adolescence. Among both females and males, moderate to high rank-order stability was observed for total PCL and facet scores. Among both females and males, there was a decrease in the mean total PCL score, interpersonal facet score, affective facet score, and lifestyle facet score. However, the great majority of females and males showed no change in psychopathy scores over the five-year period as indicated by the Reliable Change Index. Despite the measures of multiple family and individual factors in adolescence, only aggressive behavior and male sex predicted PCL-R total scores in early adulthood after taking account of PCL:YV scores. Taken together, these results from a sample who engaged in antisocial behavior in adolescence suggest that factors promoting high psychopathy scores act early in life.


Psychopathic traits; adolescence; change; predictors; stability

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