Psychopathy and Functions of Aggression in Emerging Adulthood: Moderation by Anger Rumination and Gender

  • Roberto C. Guerra
  • Bradley A. White


Psychopathy has been previously identified as a risk factor for aggression (Porter and Woodworth 2006). However, few studies have considered specific relationships with functional subtypes of aggression, or how gender and anger rumination affect these relationships in emerging adulthood. We hypothesized that primary psychopathy would be uniquely related to proactive aggression (PA) and secondary psychopathy to reactive aggression (RA), and that these relationships would be amplified by anger rumination, and potentially influenced further by gender. Undergraduate students (N = 610; 73.3 % female) ages 18–20 completed self-report measures of anger rumination, psychopathy, and aggression, and hypotheses were tested using hierarchical regression. As predicted, anger rumination enhanced the association between secondary psychopathy and RA. It also amplified the relationship between primary psychopathy and PA, but only at very high levels of anger rumination. Gender moderated interactions between primary and secondary psychopathy on aggression. For men, primary psychopathy attenuated the secondary psychopathy – RA relationship, but not for women. These findings fill an important gap in the literature by demonstrating how tendencies to ruminate on anger and psychopathic traits interact to influence functional subtypes of aggression in young men versus women.


Psychopathy Aggression Anger rumination Gender Moderation 


Compliance with Ethical Standards


This study was not supported by any extramural funds or grants to the authors.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors, Roberto Guerra and Bradley White, declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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