Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 1022–1036 | Cite as

Interpersonal Relationships as Protective and Risk Factors for Psychopathy: A Follow-up Study in Adolescent Offenders

  • Heidi Backman
  • Taina Laajasalo
  • Markus Jokela
  • Eeva T. Aronen
Empirical Research


Friendships and romantic relationships may function as protective and risk factors for psychopathic traits. To better understand potential causal associations, we investigated whether within-individual changes in relationship characteristics were related to changes in psychopathic traits over time. Data were derived from ten repeated measurements of the Pathways to Desistance longitudinal study of 1354 offending adolescents (14.3% female; 40.1% Black). Analyses were adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, self-reported offending and living facilities. Relationships of high quality were associated with lower psychopathic traits, whereas antisocial behavior and antisocial influence in relationships were related to higher psychopathic traits. Within-individual analysis indicated that time-invariant individual characteristics did not confound these associations. The findings suggest that the quality and antisocial activities of interpersonal relationships can affect positively or negatively on the levels of psychopathy.


Psychopathy Adolescent delinquency Protective factors Romantic relationships Friendships Within-individual analysis 



Special thanks to Alyce Whipp for the language revision.


The study was supported by the Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation (grant 6767).

Authors’ Contributions

H.B. had a major role in conceiving of the study and the current usage of the Pathways to Desistance study data, planning and carrying out statistical analysis and interpreting the results. She drafted the manuscript. T.L. planned the study and participated in interpretation of results, and writing the article. M.J. participated in the design, planned the statistical analysis and participated in interpretation of results. He also revised the manuscript. E.T.A. planned the study and participated in revising the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

The current study utilized the Pathways to Desistance data that were originally collected using informed consent procedures (parent consent was obtained for all youth under the age of 18 at the time of enrollment).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heidi Backman
    • 1
  • Taina Laajasalo
    • 1
    • 2
  • Markus Jokela
    • 1
  • Eeva T. Aronen
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and LogopedicsFaculty of Medicine, University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of Child PsychiatryForensic Psychology Center for Children and Adolescents, Children’s Hospital, Helsinki University Central HospitalHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Child Psychiatry and Pediatric Research Center, Laboratory of Developmental PsychopathologyHelsinkiFinland

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