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The relationships between gender, psychopathic traits and self-reported delinquency: a comparison between a general population sample and a high-risk sample for juvenile delinquency

By L. E. W. Leenarts, C. Dölitzsch, T. Pérez, K. Schmeck, J. M. Fegert and M. Schmid


Abstract Background Studies have shown that youths with high psychopathic traits have an earlier onset of delinquent behavior, have higher levels of delinquent behavior, and show higher rates of recidivism than youths with low psychopathic traits. Furthermore, psychopathic traits have received much attention as a robust indicator for delinquent and aggressive behavior in both boys and girls. However, there is a notable lack of research on gender differences in the relationship between psychopathic traits and delinquent behavior. In addition, most of the studies on psychopathic traits and delinquent behavior were conducted in high-risk samples. Therefore, the first objective of the current study was to investigate the relationship between psychopathic traits and specific forms of self-reported delinquency in a high-risk sample for juvenile delinquency as well as in a general population sample. The second objective was to examine the influence of gender on this relationship. Finally, we investigated whether the moderating effect of gender was comparable in the high-risk sample for juvenile delinquency and the general population sample. Methods Participants were 1220 adolescents of the German-speaking part of Switzerland (N = 351 high-risk sample, N = 869 general population sample) who were between 13 and 21 years of age. The Youth Psychopathic traits Inventory (YPI) was used to assess psychopathic traits. To assess the lifetime prevalence of the adolescents’ delinquent behavior, 15 items derived from a self-report delinquency instrument were used. Logistic regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between gender, psychopathic traits and self-reported delinquency across both samples. Results Our results demonstrated that psychopathic traits are related to non-violent and violent offenses. We found no moderating effect of gender and therefore we could not detect differences in the moderating effect of gender between the samples. However, there was a moderating effect of sample for the relationship between the callous and unemotional YPI scale and non-violent offenses. In addition, the regression weights of gender and sample were, for non-violent offenses, reduced to non-significance when adding the interaction terms. Conclusions Psychopathic traits were found to be present in a wide range of youths (i.e., high-risk as well as general population sample, young children as well as adolescents, boys as well as girls) and were related to delinquent behavior. The influence of age and YPI scales on self-reported delinquency was more robust than the influence of gender and sample. Therefore, screening for psychopathic traits among young children with psychosocial adjustment problems seems relevant for developing effective intervention strategies

Topics: Pediatrics, RJ1-570, Psychiatry, RC435-571
Publisher: BMC
Year: 2017
DOI identifier: 10.1186/s13034-017-0202-3
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