Complex Relations Between Psychopathy and Fitness May Indicate Adaptive Trade-Offs

  • Janko MeđedovićEmail author
Research Article


In order to assess the potential of psychopathy to increase evolutionary fitness, we examined the relations between psychopathy and fitness indicators (number of children and grandchildren, problems in physical health both in parents and offspring) in a sample of post-reproductive individuals (N = 187; Mage = 66.52). Specifically, we explored the possibility that psychopathy traits are involved in evolutionary trade-offs: both positive and negative relations with different fitness components. Psychopathy was measured via three traits—interpersonal, affective, and lifestyle characteristics, which are operationalized by proxy scales derived from the HEXACO-PI-R inventory. Research findings showed that interpersonal traits were positively related to the number of children and negatively to the number of grandchildren and problems in physical health; lifestyle characteristics were positively associated with problems in physical health in participants’ offspring. The data are in line with previous studies which explored the relations between psychopathy and fitness. The findings extend on previous studies by suggesting that psychopathy may be involved in evolutionary trade-offs, especially the quantity-quality trade-off. These trade-offs may in return maintain inter-individual variation in psychopathy.


Psychopathy Fitness Reproductive success Physical health Evolutionary trade-offs 



Author would like to express his gratitude to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Funding Information

The work on this manuscript was financed by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development in the project 47011, realized by the Institute of Criminological and Sociological Research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Criminological and Sociological ResearchBelgradeSerbia

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