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The relationship between psychopathy and indirect aggression in a commuity sample.

By Gemma Warren


This thesis sought to investigate the relationship between psychopathy and indirect\ud aggression use. Psychopathy has been strongly linked with increased levels of aggressive\ud behaviour and in particular violence (Porter & Woodworth, 2006). However, thus far\ud research has predominantly focused on direct forms of aggression with minimal research\ud considering indirect forms of aggression. On the basis of previous research, it was\ud hypothesised that not only would psychopathy be significantly related to indirect\ud aggression use, but that this relationship would remain after controlling for the shared\ud variance with direct aggression. It was also hypothesised that this relationship would be\ud mediated by deficits in affective empathy and moderated by both gender and levels of\ud social skills.\ud A series of quasi-experimental studies were conducted to test this hypothesis using\ud regression analysis and structural equation modelling. Study 1 sought to test the basic\ud relationship between psychopathy and indirect aggression using the Psychopathic\ud Personality Inventory - Revised and the Indirect Aggression Scale respectively on a sample\ud of 103 university students. Study 2 & 3 then expanded this and sought to investigate both\ud the role of empathy, using the Empathy Quotient (Study 2), and gender (Study 3) using a\ud sample of 201 university students, 83 males and 118 females. Study 4 used the Social\ud Skills Inventory in a sample of 107 students to test the hypothesised social skill moderation\ud of this relationship. Finally Study 5 and 6 sought to redress issues of both the limited\ud samples and use of self-report measures in the previous studies by replicating these\ud findings in a general community population of 204 (Study 5) and using behavioural\ud measures of empathy on a sample of 117 (Study 6).The results indicate that psychopathy is\ud significantly related to the use of indirect aggression, even after controlling for direct\ud aggression, and that this was driven predominantly by the impulsive antisociality and\ud coldheartedness factors. This relationship was found to be significantly mediated by\ud affective, but not cognitive, empathy deficits although only for males, not for females,\ud which may arguably point towards differences in the function of indirect aggression for\ud male compared to female psychopaths. Non-verbal social skills were found to significantly\ud moderate this relationship among students, however this finding could not be replicated.\ud These findings would appear to imply that psychopathy is related to a general increase in\ud aggression, rather than a specific increase in violence. This supports the theorisation of\ud non-criminal psychopathy as a moderated behavioural manifestation of the underlying\ud personality traits rather than a sub-clinical version of the disorder. The sex differences in\ud the relationship would seem to imply that the different types of aggression use may have\ud different underlying meanings for males and females high on psychopathic traits

Publisher: Psychology (York)
Year: 2009
OAI identifier:

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