Psychopathic Personality Traits as Protective Factors against the Development of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in a Sample of National Guard Combat Veterans

  • Joye C. Anestis
  • Tiffany M. Harrop
  • Bradley A. Green
  • Michael D. Anestis


Military personnel often experience post-traumatic stress symptoms following exposure to combat. Personality traits have been identified as possible protective and risk factors in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and examination of the association between PTSD and personality characteristics provides further insight into this heterogeneous disorder. Psychopathy, frequently conceptualized as collection of pathological personality disturbances relating to deficits in emotionality, empathy, and inhibitory control, includes within its defining features components that may be adaptive in certain situations. In the current study, we sought to expand upon the literature related to personality and PTSD by exploring psychopathic traits as resiliency factors in a military sample. Specifically, facets of psychopathy were analyzed as moderators of the association between combat experience and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder within a sample of 292 combat-exposed National Guard and Reserve (NGR) service members. Results indicated that the relationship of combat exposure with PTSD decreased as rates of interpersonal-affective psychopathic traits increased. Impulsive-antisocial traits were also found to moderate the association between combat experience and PTSD, though interestingly there was a similar decrease in magnitude with higher levels of these traits. These findings suggest that particular components of psychopathy may serve as protective factors against the development of PTSD symptomatology within this population.


Psychopathy Post-traumatic stress disorder Protective factors Military personnel Combat 



This work was in part supported by the Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC), an effort supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs under Award No. (W81XWH-10-2-0181). This award was received by authors Michael D. Anestis and Bradley A. Green. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the MSRC or the Department of Defense.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

All authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Experiment participants

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.

Informed Consent

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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joye C. Anestis
    • 1
  • Tiffany M. Harrop
    • 1
  • Bradley A. Green
    • 1
  • Michael D. Anestis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA

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