Psychopathic Traits Mediate the Relationship Between Exposure to Violence and Violent Juvenile Offending

  • Arielle R. Baskin-SommersEmail author
  • Deborah Baskin


Exposure to violence (ETV) has emerged as a key and stable predictor of violent offending. However, not all youth offenders who experience ETV go on to chronic violent offending. Consequently, it is possible that individual differences, such as psychopathic traits, may be an important factor in the link between ETV and violent offending. These traits are associated with exposure to violence and, separately, to violent offending. The present study used data from Pathways to Desistance, a multisite, longitudinal study of serious juvenile offenders (N = 1170, Meanage = 16.05, SD = 1.16) to explore these relationships, simultaneously. First, autoregressive cross-lagged path models were used to examine the longitudinal bivariate relations among violent offending, ETV, and psychopathic traits. Second, latent class growth analysis was used to determine trajectories ETV. And third, the mediating influence of psychopathic traits was examined. Results indicated that ETV predicted later engagement in violence, but there was some degree of reciprocity between ETV and violence over time. Additionally, respondents with stable high or increasing trajectories of ETV reported more instances of violent offending. Finally, psychopathic traits mediated the relationship between ETV and violent offending. Together these findings support the notion that individuals with psychopathic traits perceive and internalize their environment differently than others and that this difference guides their own violent offending. Given the importance of psychopathic traits for understanding the influence of ETV on violent offending, prevention and intervention strategies must be developed that take into account both individual differences and environmental factors.


Psychopathic traits Exposure to violence Violent offending Juvenile Trajectories 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Arielle R. Baskin-Sommers and Deborah Baskin declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Experiment Participants

The present study is a secondary analysis of data from Pathways to Desistance, a multisite, longitudinal study of serious juvenile offenders. Consent was obtained for all participants by the original research team.


  1. Andershed, H. A., Kerr, M., Stattin, H., & Levander, S. (2002). Psychopathic traits in non-referred youths: a new assessment tool. In E. Blauw, & L. Sheridan (Eds.), Psychopaths: current international perspectives (pp. 131–158). The Hague: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  2. Baskin, D., & Sommers, I. (2013). Exposure to community violence and trajectories of violent offending. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 1-19.Google Scholar
  3. Baskin-Sommers, A., Baskin, D. Sommers, I. Casados, A. Crossman, M. & Javdani, S. (2016). The impact of psychopathology, race, and environmental context on violent offending in a male adolescent sample. Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment. doi: 10.1037/per0000168.
  4. Baskin-Sommers, A. R., Curtin, J. J., & Newman, J. P. (2013). Emotion-modulated startle in psychopathy: clarifying familiar effects. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 122, 458–468.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  5. Baskin-Sommers, A. R., & Newman, J. P. (2012). Cognition–emotion interactions in psychopathy: implications for theory and practice. In H. Hakkanen-Nyholm & Nyholm (Eds.) Psychopathy and Law (pp. 79–98). Wiley: New York.Google Scholar
  6. Bendixen, M., Endresen, I. M., & Olweus, D. (2003). Variety and frequency scales of antisocial involvement: which one is better? Legal and Criminological Psychology, 8, 135–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blair, R. J. R. (2010). Neuroimaging of psychopathy and antisocial behavior: a targeted review. Current Psychiatry Reports, 12(1), 76–82.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  8. Blair, R. J. R., & Mitchell, D. G. V. (2009). Psychopathy, attention and emotion. Psychological Medicine, 39, 543–555.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Blair, R. J. R., & Lee, T. M. (2013). The social cognitive neuroscience of aggression, violence, and psychopathy. Social Neuroscience, 8, 108–111.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Blair, R. J. R., Peschardt, K. S., Budhani, S., Mitchell, D. G. V., & Pine, D. S. (2006). The development of psychopathy. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 262–276.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Bollen, K., & Curran, P. (2006). Latent curve models: A structural equation perspective. New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  12. Campbell, M. A., Porter, S., & Santor, D. (2004). Psychopathic traits in adolescent offenders: an evaluation of criminal history, clinical, and psychosocial correlates. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 22, 23–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Caputo, A. A., Frick, P. J., & Brodsky, S. L. (1999). Family violence and juvenile sex offending the potential mediating role of psychopathic traits and negative attitudes toward women. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 26(3), 338–356.Google Scholar
  14. Cuevas, C., Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Omrod, R. (2007). Juvenile delinquency and victimization: a theoretical typology. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22, 1581–1602.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Dolan, M. (2004). Psychopathic personality in young people. Journal of Continuing Professional Development, 10, 466–473.Google Scholar
  16. Edens, J. F., Skeem, J. L., Cruise, K. R., & Cauffman, E. (2001). Assessment of “juvenile psychopathy” and its association with violence: a critical review*. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 19(1), 53–80.Google Scholar
  17. Elliott, D. (1990). National youth survey. Denver, CO: University of Colorado, Institute of Behavioral Science.Google Scholar
  18. Fagan, A. (2005). The relationship between adolescent physical abuse and criminal offending:support for an enduring and generalized cycle of violence. Journal of Family Violence, 20, 279–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Forth, A. E., & Burke, H. C. (1998). Psychopathy in adolescence: assessment, violence, and developmental precursors. In D. Cooke, A. Forth, & R. Hare (Eds.), Psychopathy: theory, research and implications for society (pp. 205–229). Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frick, P. J. (2002). Juvenile psychopathy from a developmental perspective. Law and Human Behavior, 26, 247–253.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Glenn, A. L., & Raine, A. (2009). Psychopathy and instrumental aggression: evolutionary, neurobiological, and legal perspectives. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 32, 253–258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Halliday-Boykins, C., & Graham, S. (2001). At both ends of the gun: testing the relationship between community violence exposure and youth violent behavior. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 29, 383–402.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Hare, R. D. (2003). Manual for the revised psychopathy checklist multi-health systems. Toronto, ON, Canada.Google Scholar
  24. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  25. Haynie, D., Petts, R., Maimon, D., & Piquero, A. (2009). Exposure to violence in adolescence and precocious role exits. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 269–286.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Huizinga, D., Esbensen, F., & Weihar, A. (1991). Are there multiple paths to delinquency? Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 82, 83–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jones, S., Cauffman, E., Miller, J. D., & Mulvey, E. (2006). Investigating different factor structures of the psychopathy checklist: youth version: confirmatory factor analytic findings. Psychological Assessment, 18, 33.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Jones, B., Nagin, D., & Roeder, K. (2001). A SAS procedure based on mixed models for estimating develop- mental trajectories. Sociological Methods and Research, 29, 374–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kimonis, E. R., Frick, P. J., Munoz, L. C., & Aucoin, K. J. (2008). Callous-unemotional traits and the emotional processing of distress cues in detained boys: testing the moderating role of aggression, exposure to community violence, and histories of abuse. Development and Psychopathology, 20, 569–589.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. King, G. (1989). Variance specification in event count models: from restrictive assumptions to a generalized estimator. American Journal of Political Science, 33, 762–784.Google Scholar
  31. Lambert, D. (1992). Zero inflated Poisson regression with an application to defects in manufacturing. Technometrics, 34, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Marshall, L. A., & Cooke, D. J. (1999). The childhood experiences of psychopaths: a retrospective study of familial and societal factors. Journal of Personality Disorders, 13(3), 211–225.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Mead, H. K., Beauchaine, T. P., & Shannon, K. E. (2010). Neurobiological adaptations to violence across development. Development and psychopathology, 22(01), 1–22Google Scholar
  34. Mulvey, E., Steinberg, L., Fagan, J., Cauffman, E., Piquero, A., Chassin, L., et al. (2004). Theory and research on desistance from antisocial activity among serious adolescent offenders. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 2, 213–236.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Patchin, J., Huebner, B., McCluskey, J., Varano, S., & Bynum, T. (2006). Exposure to community violence and childhood delinquency. Crime and Delinquency, 52, 307–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 36, 717–731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Raine, A. (2002). Biosocial studies of antisocial and violent behavior in children and adults: a review. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 30, 311–326.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Reynolds, C., & Richmond, B. (1985). Revised children’s manifest anxiety scale. Western Psychological Services: RCMAS Manual. Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  39. Sampson, R. J. (2012). Great American city: Chicago and enduring neighborhood effect. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sampson, R. J., & Raudenbush, S. (1999). Systematic social observation of public spaces: a new look at disorder in urban neighborhoods. American Journal of Sociology, 105, 603–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Selner-O’Hagan, M., Kindlon, D., Buka, S., Raudenbush, S., & Earls, F. (1998). Assessing exposure to violence in urban youth. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 39, 215–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Shaffer, J., & Ruback, R. (2002). Violent victimization as a risk factor for violent offending among juveniles. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.Google Scholar
  43. Skeem, J. L., & Cauffman, E. (2003). Views of the downward extension: comparing the youth version of the psychopathy checklist with the youth psychopathic traits inventory. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 21, 737–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Skeem, J. L., Polaschek, D. L., Patrick, C. J., & Lilienfeld, S. O. (2011). Psychopathic personality bridging the gap between scientific evidence and public policy. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12, 95–162.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Vincent, G. M., & Hart, S. D. (2002). Psychopathy in childhood and adolescence: implications for the assessment and management of multi-problem youths. NATO Science Subseries I Life and Behavioural Sciences, 324, 150–163.Google Scholar
  46. Walden, T., Harris, V., Weiss, B., & Catron, T. (1995). Telling what we feel: self-reports of emotion regulation and control among grade school children. Indianapolis, IN: Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development.Google Scholar
  47. Wechsler, D. (1999). Wechsler abbreviated scale of intelligence. San Antonio: Psychological Corporation.Google Scholar
  48. Weinberger, D., & Schwartz, G. (1990). Distress and restraint as superordinate dimensions of self-reported adjustment: a typological perspective. Journal of Personality, 58, 381–417.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Zhang, L., Welte, J., & Wieczorek, W. (2001). Deviant lifestyle and crime victimization. Journal of Criminal Justice, 29, 133–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology and Department of SociologyLoyola UniversityChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations