Psychopathy and Crime: Recidivism and Criminal Careers

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Abstract

In this chapter we address two of the most significant methodological problems hampering predictions of criminal and violent behaviors: the lack of theoretically relevant predictor variables and weak criterion variables (Monahan & Steadman, 1994). To address the limitation of atheoretical predictor variables, we summarize the association between the construct of psychopathy and recidivism. Consistent with current clinical and research practice, our operational definition of psychopathy is the Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL; Hare 1980); its revision, the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 1991); a version of the PCL-R modified for use with adolescents (Forth, Hart, & Hare, 1990; Forth, Kosson, & Hare, in press); and a French translation of the PCL-R (Hare, 1996a). We also compare the predictive utility of the PCL/PCL-R with key demographic and criminal history variables, personality disorder diagnoses, and actuarial risk scales. To address the limitation of weak criterion variables, we describe two methods of measuring and analyzing criminal behaviors: survival analyses and Criminal Career Profiles (CCPs; Templeman, 1995; Wong, Templeman, Gu, Andre, & Leis, 1997). We emphasize the strengths of the newly developed CCP methodology for providing an overall measure of criminal behaviors. To illustrate the benefits of the CCP methodology for conceptualizing, coding, analyzing, and presenting criminal behaviors, we present 10-year outcome data from a random sample of federal offenders.