Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 11, pp 1397–1408 | Cite as

Disentangling the Role of Psychopathic Traits and Externalizing Behaviour in Predicting Conduct Problems from Childhood to Adolescence

  • Laura López-Romero
  • Estrella Romero
  • M. Ángeles Luengo
Empirical Research


Child and youth conduct problems are known to be a heterogeneous category that implies different factors and processes. The current study aims to analyze whether the early manifestation of psychopathic traits designates a group of children with severe, pervasive and persistent conduct problems. To this end, cluster analysis was conducted in a sample of 138 children (27.6 % female), aged 6–11 at the first wave of the study (T1) and 12–17 in a follow-up carried out 6 years later (T2). Results allowed the identification of four distinctive clusters: Primarily externalizing, Externalizing-psychopathic, Primarily psychopathic and Non-problematic. As was expected, the Externalizing-psychopathic cluster showed the most severe and persistent pattern of behavioral, temperamental and social disruptions across the 6 years of the study. Early psychopathic traits seemed also to be relevant in predicting higher levels of conduct problems in T2, even when conduct disorders had not manifested in T1. These results highlight the role of psychopathic traits in predicting adolescent psychosocial disorders and the relevance to analyze them at early developmental stages.


Conduct problems Psychopathic-like traits Childhood Adolescence Cluster analysis 



This research was in part supported by the Spanish Ministries of Health (National Plan on Drugs), and Education (grant BS02003-10340, and the Teacher Training University Program, Programa de Formación de Profesorado Universitario, FPU: AP2009-0714).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura López-Romero
    • 1
  • Estrella Romero
    • 1
  • M. Ángeles Luengo
    • 1
  1. 1.Departamento de Psicología Clínica y PsicobiologíaFacultad de PsicologíaSantiago de CompostelaSpain

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