Trajectories of Adolescent Psychopathic Traits

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Abstract

There is growing evidence that psychopathic traits are stable across the adolescent developmental period. Yet, no previous studies have examined the longitudinal course of these traits across adolescence. In this study, we examined joint developmental trajectories of grandiose-manipulative traits, callous-unemotional traits, and impulsive-irresponsible behavior and how these trajectories were related to changes in parental behavior and delinquency over time. Participants were 1,068 adolescents from a community sample, who were followed annually over 4 years. Overall, our results showed that a four-class latent class growth model best represented the developmental pattern of adolescent psychopathic traits. Although the majority of adolescents showed low or moderate initial levels that also decreased over time, there was a small group of adolescents who, despite significant decreases in two out of three dimensions, still maintained relatively high levels on all three dimensions. We also found that parental behavior and delinquency developed differently for the groups over time, with the high-decreasing group engaging in more delinquent behavior over time and experiencing more negative parental behavior than any other group. In sum, our findings suggest that there is a group of adolescents at particular risk for negative development.