Juvenile Psychopathic Personality Traits are Associated with Poor Reading Achievement


The current study sought to further the understanding of the linkage between maladaptive behavior and cognitive problems by examining the relations between psychopathic personality traits and reading comprehension performance. Data were derived from a study of 432 predominately African-American and Hispanic middle-school students. Dependent variables consisted of three measures of reading comprehension. Psychopathy measures included the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional traits (ICU—teacher rated) and the self-reported Youth Psychopathic traits Inventory (YPI). Findings from regression models indicated that self-report and teacher ratings of psychopathy were statistically significant inverse predictors of reading performance. Specifically, affective facets of psychopathy were potent predictors of reading comprehension over and above ADHD, IQ, and an impulsivity component of psychopathy. Study results extend the utility of psychopathy construct generally and affective traits specifically to reading achievement, which has broad implications. Findings are discussed with respect to future research and prevention.

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Youth Psychopathic traits Inventory


Inventory of Callous Unemotional traits


Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills


Group Reading Assessment and Diagnostic Evaluation


Woodcock-Johnson III Reading Comprehension


Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test-2


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This research was supported by grant P50 HD052117 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. The authors are grateful for support from the Greater Texas Foundation and the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk. The contents of the article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Michael G. Vaughn.

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Vaughn, M.G., DeLisi, M., Beaver, K.M. et al. Juvenile Psychopathic Personality Traits are Associated with Poor Reading Achievement. Psychiatr Q 82, 177–190 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11126-010-9162-y

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  • Youth psychopathy
  • Reading comprehension
  • Academic achievement
  • Callous-unemotional
  • Psychopathic traits