A nomological network of psychopathy: elaboration on the construct validity of the triarchic model

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Over the past several decades, several different conceptualizations of psychopathy have emerged. These conceptualizations have had some common themes (e.g., a tendency to use others, lack of empathy), but have also differed in terms of how they include or emphasize particular features related to psychopathy (e.g., criminal behavior, positive adjustment features). The Triarchic model of psychopathy (Patrick, Fowles, & Krueger, 2009) is a relatively new conceptualization which attempts to synthesize many of these previous models, measured specifically in the three domains: Boldness, Meanness, and Disinhibition. The current study sought to elaborate on the Triarchic model by investigating its internal structure, criterion validity, and construct validity in a community sample. Results of a Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) indicated the factor structure of the Triarchic model (as measured by the Triarchic Personality measure [TriPM]) showed acceptable (although not excellent) fit in the current sample. In terms of criterion validity, the CFA indicated that each TriPM domain loaded on a separate factor with conceptually-relevant subscales of two other self-report psychopathy measures. Construct validity was examined by conducting correlation and regression analyses between the TriPM domains (and combinations thereof) with various psychological, neuropsychological, and psychosocial external criteria. Results indicated Boldness was associated with positive adjustment features (e.g., lack of psychopathology, fearlessness), poor facial emotion identification, cognitive flexibility and planning, and higher socioeconomic status. Meanness was associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, lack of empathy, lack of aggression, and better decision-making skills when under stress. Disinhibition was associated with antisocial and impulsive behavior, negative emotionality, history of outpatient mental health treatment, substance abuse, poor planning, history of being fired, and better identification of emotions. Combinations of TriPM domains also showed differential associations with external criteria (e.g., high Boldness and high Meanness was associated with increased aggression). These results indicate acceptable fit of factor structure and good convergent and discriminant validity for the Triarchic model in a community sample. Therefore, the present study suggests that this model appears to capture a wide range of features present in previous conceptualizations (e.g., positive adjustment features and antisocial behavior), and lends itself to examination of psychopathy subtypes based on combinations of psychopathy domains.

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Clinical psychology