Early temperamental and psychophysiological precursors of adult psychopathic personality
Emerging research on psychopathy in children and adolescents raises the question of whether indicators, such as temperament or psychophysiology, exist very early in life in those with a psychopathic-like personality in adulthood. This study tests the hypothesis that individuals who are more psychopathic in adulthood would be less fearful and inhibited and more stimulation seeking/sociable at age 3 and that they would also show reduced age 3 skin-conductance (SC) responsivity. In a community sample of 335 3-year-olds, behavioral measures of temperament were taken and electrodermal activity was recorded in response to both orienting and aversive tones. R. D. Hare's (1985) Self-Report Psychopathy scale (SRP-II) was administered at follow-up at age 28. Individuals scoring higher on the measure were significantly less fearful and inhibited, were more sociable, and displayed longer SC half-recovery times to aversive stimuli compared with controls at age 3. Contrary to predictions, they also showed increased autonomic arousal and SC orienting. Findings appear to be the first to suggest that a prospective link may exist between temperament and psychophysiology in very young children and psychopathic personality in adulthood.