Are There Ethnic Differences in Levels of Psychopathy? A Meta-Analysis

Abstract

Although considerable research on psychopathy has been conducted over the past 30~years, relatively few studies have examined key issues related to potential ethnic differences in this constellation of socially maladaptive personality traits. Given recent sociopolitical and scientific developments, an issue of considerable debate is whether Black individuals possess “more” traits of psychopathy than do Whites. To address this issue, a meta-analysis of differences between these groups' scores on the Psychopathy Checklist—Revised (PCLR; Hare, 1991) was performed, using 21 studies (N = 8,890) of correctional, substance abuse, and psychiatric samples. Blacks exceeded Whites by an average of less than 1 point on the PCLR total score. Effect sizes for core interpersonal and affective traits of psychopathy (Factor 1) were sufficiently homogeneous to clearly interpret, although other features manifested statistically significant heterogeneity. Our finding that Blacks and Whites do not meaningfully differ in their levels of core psychopathic traits is consistent with community-based findings for self-report measures of psychopathy and clinical diagnoses of antisocial personality disorder.

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Skeem, J.L., Edens, J.F., Camp, J. et al. Are There Ethnic Differences in Levels of Psychopathy? A Meta-Analysis. Law Hum Behav 28, 505–527 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:LAHU.0000046431.93095.d8

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  • psychopathy
  • ethnicity
  • racial differences
  • antisocial behavior