An examination of the direct and indirect associations between adult psychopathy and childhood maltreatment

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University of Alabama Libraries

Psychopathy is a constellation of maladaptive personality traits such as callousness, dominance, pathological lying, a lack of empathy, and manipulativeness (Cleckley, 1942; Hare, 2003), which has been associated with both genetic and environmental etiological factors (e.g., Blair, Peschardt, Budhani, Mitchell, & Pine, 2006). One such environmental factor is childhood maltreatment, which has been previously found to predict psychopathy (e.g., Verona et al., 2005). The overall aim of this study was to examine the associations between four childhood maltreatment (sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect) predictor variables and two psychopathy facets (affective-interpersonal and social deviance). I also investigated the possibility of behavioral disconstraint and negative emotionality as mediators, and gender and the affective-interpersonal facet as moderators in these and variants of these associations. The findings suggest that sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect directly and/or indirectly predict psychopathy. The results also indicate that behavioral disconstraint and specific negative emotions mediate these associations, and that gender and the affective-interpersonal facet serves as moderators. These findings are important as they shed light on the etiology of psychopathy, as well as offer implications regarding differences in gender and the affective-interpersonal facet in these associations.

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Clinical psychology