Psychopathy in Adolescence: Assessment, Violence, and Developmental Precursors

  • Adelle E. Forth
  • Heather C. Burke
Part of the NATO ASI Series book series (ASID, volume 88)


Psychopathy is a serious personality disorder that first manifests itself early in life and persists throughout most of the lifespan. Most clinicians and researchers agree that psychopathy is associated with a constellation of affective, interpersonal, and behavioral characteristics, central to which are a profound lack of remorse or guilt and a callous disregard for the feelings, rights, and welfare of others (Cleckley, 1976; Hare, 1991; Tennent, Tennent, Prins, & Bedford, 1990). Individuals with this disorder are typically described as impulsive, selfish, deceitful, sensation-seeking, and irresponsible. Given these characteristics it is not surprising that psychopaths commit a disproportionate amount of serious repetitive crime and violence and frequently come into contact with the criminal justice system. Despite a substantial body of work dealing with psychopathy in adults, surprisingly little work has focused on the precursors of this disorder. Understanding the antecedents of psychopathy may lead not only to a better understanding of its etiology but also its treatment and perhaps, ultimately, its prevention.


Family Background Psychopathic Trait Young Offender Conduct Disorder Symptom Inconsistent Discipline 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. American Psychiatric Association. (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed. rev.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  4. Bailey, D. (1994). Assessment of psychopathy in young offenders. Unpublished Honours thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.Google Scholar
  5. Bifulco, A., Brown, G.W., & Harris, T. (1994). Childhood experiences of care and abuse (CECA): A retrospective interview measure. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 35, 1419–1435.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burke, H.C., & Forth, A.E. (1996). Psychopathy and familial experiences as antecedents to violence: A cross-sectional study of young offenders and nonoffending youth. Unpublished manuscript, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Ontario.Google Scholar
  7. Butcher, J.N., Williams, CL., Graham, J.R., Tellegen, A., Ben-Porath, Y., & Kaemmer, B. (1992). MMPI-A (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-Adolescent Manual for adminstration, scoring, and interpretation. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  8. Chandler, M., & Moran, T. (1990). Psychopathy and moral development: A comparative study of delinquent and nondelinquent youth. Development and Psychopathology, 2, 227–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cleckley, H. (1976). The mask of sanity. (5th ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.Google Scholar
  10. Cornell, D.G, Warren, J, Hawk, G, Stafford, E, Oram, G., & Pine, G. (1996). Psychopathy in instrumental and reactive violent offenders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 783–790.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davies, W., & Feldman, P. (1981). The diagnosis of psychopathy by forensic specialists. British Journal of Psychiatry, 138, 329–331.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dempster, R.J., & Hart, S.D. (1996, March). Utility of the FBI’s Crime Classification Manual: Coverage, reliability, and validity for adolescent murderers. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society (APA Div. 41), Hilton Head, South Carolina.Google Scholar
  13. Dempster, R.J., Lyon, D.R., Sullivan, L.E., & Hart, S.D. (1996, August). Psychopathy and instrumental aggression in violent offenders. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Ontario.Google Scholar
  14. DiLalla, D.L., Carey, G., Gottesman, I.I., & Bouchard, T. J., Jr. (1996). Heritability of MMPI personality indicators of psychopathology in twins reared apart. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 491–499.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. DeVita, E., Forth A.E., & Hare, R.D. (1990). Family background of male criminal psychopaths.[Abstract]. Canadian Psychology, 31, 346.Google Scholar
  16. Douglas, J.E., Burgess, A.W., Burgess, A.G., & Ressler, R.K. (1992). The crime classification Manual: A standard system of investigating and classifying violent crimes. New York: Lexington.Google Scholar
  17. Farrington, D.P., Ohlin, L.E., & Wilson, J.Q. (1986). Understanding and controlling crime: Toward a new research strategy. New York: Springer-Verlag.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forth, A.E. (1995a). Psychopathy and young offenders: Prevalence, family background, and violence. Program Branch Users Report. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Minister of the Solicitor General of Canada.Google Scholar
  19. Forth, A.E. (1995b, November). Psychopathy in adolescent offenders: Assessment, family background, and violence. Lecture presented at the NATO ASI on Psychopathy: Theory, research, and implications for society, Alvor, PortugalGoogle Scholar
  20. Forth, A.E., Brown, S.L., Hart, S.D., & Hare, R.D. (1996). The assessment of psychopathy in male and female noncriminals: Reliability and validity. Personality and Individual Differences, 20, 531–543.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Forth, A.E., Hart, S.D., & Hare, R.D. (1990). Assessment of psychopathy in male young offenders. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2, 342–344.Google Scholar
  22. Forth, A.E., Kosson, D.S., & Hare, R.D. (1994). The Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version. Unpublished test manual, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario.Google Scholar
  23. Frick, P., O’Brien, B., Wootton, J., & McBurnett, K. (1994). Psychopathy and conduct problems in children. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 103, 700–707.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Garbarino, J., & Plantz, M.C. (1986). Child abuse and juvenile delinquency: What are the links? In J. Garbarino, C. J. Schellenbach & J.M. Sebes (Eds.), Troubled youth, troubled families (pp. 27–39). New York: Aldine deGryter.Google Scholar
  25. Gough, H. (1957). Manual for the California Psychological Inventory. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press.Google Scholar
  26. Gray, K.C., & Hutchinson, H.C. (1964). The psychopathic personality: A survey of Canadian psychiatrists’ opinions. Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 9, 452–461.Google Scholar
  27. Gretton, H., McBride, M., Lewis, K., O’Shaughnessy, R., & Hare, R.D. (1994, March). Patterns of violence and victimization in adolescent sexual psychopaths. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society (Div. 41 of the American Psychological Association), Santa Fe, New Mexico.Google Scholar
  28. Hare, R.D. (1970). Psychopathy: Theory and research. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
  29. Hare, R.D. (1980). A research scale for the assessment of psychopathy in criminal populations. Personality and Individual Differences, 1, 111–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hare, R.D. (1991). The Hare Psychopathy Checklist–Revised. Toronto Ontario: Multi-Health Systems.Google Scholar
  31. Hare, R.D. (1996). Psychopathy: A clinical construct whose time has come. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 23, 25–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hare, R.D., Forth, A.E., & Strachan, K. (1992). Psychopathy and crime across the lifespan. In R. DeV. Peters, R. J. McMahon, & V. L. Quinsey (Eds.), Aggression and violence throughout the life span (pp. 285–300). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Hare, R.D., Harpur, T.J., Hakstian, A.R., Forth, A.E., Hart, S.D., & Newman, J.P. (1990). The Revised Psychopathy Checklist: Reliability and factor structure. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2, 338–341.Google Scholar
  34. Hare, R.D., Forth, A.E., & Hart, S.D. (1989). The psychopath as prototype for pathological lying and deception. In J.C. Yuille (Ed.), Credibility assessment (pp. 24–49). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  35. Hare R.D., & McPherson L.M. (1984). Violent and aggressive behavior by criminal psychopaths. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 7, 35–40.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hare R.D., McPherson, L.M., & Forth A.E. (1984). Early criminal behavior as a function of family background. Unpublished manuscript, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.Google Scholar
  37. Hare, R.D., McPherson, L.E., & Forth, A.E. (1988). Male psychopaths and their criminal careers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 710–714.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Harpur, T.J., Hakstian, R., & Hare, R.D. (1988). Factor structure of the Psychopathy Checklist. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 741–747.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E., & Cormier, C.A. (1991). Psychopathy and violent recidivism. Law and Human Behavior, 15, 625–637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hart, S.D., Forth, A.E., & Hare, R.D. (1991). The MCMI-II as a measure of psychopathy. Journal of Personality Disorders, 5, 318–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hart, S.D., & Hare, R.D. (1989). Discriminant validity of the Psychopathy Checklist in a forensic psychiatric population. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1, 211–218.Google Scholar
  42. Hart, S.D., & Hare, R.D. (in press). Psychopathy: Assessment and association with criminal conduct. In D. M. Stoff, J. Brieling, & J. Maser (Eds.), Handbook of antisocial behavior. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  43. Hathaway, S.R., & McKinley, J.C. (1940). A multiphasic personality schedule (Minnesota): I. Construction of the schedule. Journal of Psychology, 10, 249–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Hemphill, J. (1992). Psychopathy and recidivism following release from a therapeutic community treatment program. Unpublished Master’s thesis. University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.Google Scholar
  45. Hemphill, J., Hart, S.D., & Hare, R.D. (1994). Psychopathy and substance use. Journal of Personality Disorders, 8, 169–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Huesmann, L.R., Eron, L.D., Lefkowitz, M.M., & Walder, L.O. (1984). Stability of aggression over time and generations. Developmental Psychology, 20, 1120–1134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kosson, D.S., Smith, S.S., & Newman, J.P. (1990). Evaluation of the construct validity of psychopathy in Black and White male inmates: Three preliminary studies. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 250–259.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Kosson, D.S. (1996). [PCL:YV scores from a probation sample]. Unpublished raw data. Finch University of Health Sciences, Chicago, Illinois.Google Scholar
  49. Laroche, I. (1996). Les composantes psychologiques et comportementales parentales associées à la psychopathie du contrevenant juvénile. Unpublished doctoral thesis. University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec.Google Scholar
  50. Laroche, I., & Toupin, J. (1996, August). Psychopathic delinquents: A family contribution? Paper presented at the XXVI International Congress of Psychology, Montreal, Quebec.Google Scholar
  51. Lay, P. (1995): The Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) User Survey. Unpublished Honours thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario.Google Scholar
  52. Lewis, D.O., Shanok, S.S., Pincus, J.H., & Glaser, G.H. (1979). Violent delinquents. Psychiatric, neurological, psychological, and abuse factors. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 18, 307–319.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lilienfeld, S.O. (1994). Conceptual problems in the assessment of psychopathy. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 17–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Loeber, R., & Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (1986). Family factors as correlates and predictors of juvenile conduct problems and delinquency. In M. Tonry & N. Morris (Ed.), Crime and Justice (Vol. 7, pp. 219–339). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  55. Lynam, D.R. (1996). Early identification of chronic offenders: Who is the fledging psychopath? Psychological Bulletin, 120, 209–234.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Marshall, L., & Cooke, D. (1995, November). The role of childhood experiences in the etiology of psychopathy. Paper presented at NATO Advanced Studies Institute on Psychopathy, Alvor, Portugal.Google Scholar
  57. McBride, M E& Hare, R.D. (1996). Precursors of psychopathy and recidivism. Unpublished manuscript, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.Google Scholar
  58. McCord, W., & McCord, J. (1964). The psychopath: An essay on the criminal mind. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand.Google Scholar
  59. Millon, T. (1987). Manual for the Milien Multiaxial Inventory-II (2nd ed.). Minneapolis: National Computer Systems.Google Scholar
  60. Moffit, T.E. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental typology. Psychological Review, 106, 674–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Ogloff, J., Wong, S., & Greenwood, A. (1990). Treating criminal psychopaths in a therapeutic community program. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 8, 81–90.Google Scholar
  62. Paulhus, D.L. (1991). Balanced Inventory of Socially Desirable Responding. Unpublished test, University of British Columbia, British Columbia, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  63. Rice, M.E., Harris, G.T., & Cormier, C.A. (1992). An evaluation of a maximum security therapeutic community for psychopaths and other mentally disordered offenders. Law and Human Behavior, 16, 399–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Robins, L.N. (1966). Deviant children grown up: A sociological and psychiatric study of sociopathic personality. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins.Google Scholar
  65. Serin, R.C. (1991). Psychopathy and violence in criminals. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 6, 423–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Serin, R.C. (1996). Violent recidivism in criminal psychopaths. Law and Human Behavior, 20, 207–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Serin, R.C, Peters, R.D., & Barbaree, H.E. (1990). Predictors of psychopathy and release outcome in a criminal, population. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2, 419–422.Google Scholar
  68. Smith, S.S., & Newman, J.P. (1990). Alcohol and drug abuse/dependence disorders in psychopathic and nonpsychopathic criminal offenders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 99, 430–439.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Straus, M. (1979). Measuring family conflict and violence: The Conflict Tactics Scale. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 41, 75–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sullivan, L.E. (1996). Assessment of psychopathy using the MMPI-A: Validity in male adolescent forensic patients. Unpublished Master’s thesis, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.Google Scholar
  71. Tellegen, A., Lykken, D.T., Bouchard, T.J., Wilcox, K.J. Segal, N.J. & Rich, S. (1988). Personality similarity in twins reared apart and together. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1031–1039.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Tennent, G., Tennent, D., Prins, H., & Bedford, A. (1990). Psychopathie disorder: A useful clinical concept? Medicine, Science, and the Law, 30, 38–44.Google Scholar
  73. Tolman, R.M. (1989). The development of a measure of psychological maltreatment of women by their partners. Violence and Victims, 4, 159–177.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Toupin, J., Mercier, H., Déry, M., Côté, G., & Hodgins, S. (1995, November). Validity of the PCL-R for adolescents. Paper presented at the NATO ASI on Psychopathy: Theory, research, and implications for society, Alvor, PortugalGoogle Scholar
  75. Trevethan, S.D., & Walker, L.J. (1989). Hypothetical versus real-life moral reasoning among psychopathic and delinquent youth. Development and Psychopathology, 1, 91–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. West, D.J., & Farrington, D.P. (1973). Who becomes delinquent. London: Heineman Educational Books.Google Scholar
  77. White, J.L., Moffit, T.E., Earls, F., Robins, L., & Silva, P.A. (1990). How early can we tell?: Predictors of childhood conduct disorder and adolescent delinquency. Criminology, 28, 507–533.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Widom, CS. (1989). Does violence beget violence: A critical examination of the literature. Psychological Bulletin, 106, 3–28.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Widom, CS., & Shepard, R.L. (1996). Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization: Part 1. Childhood physical abuse. Psychological Assessment, 8, 412–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Williamson, S.E., Hare, R.D., & Wong, S. (1987). Violence: Criminal psychopaths and their victims. Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, 19, 454–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Wolfgang, M.E., Figlio, R.M., & Sellin, T. (1972). Delinquency in the birth cohort. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  82. Wong, S. (1984). Criminal and institutional behaviors of psychopaths. Program Branch Users Report. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Minister of the Solicitor General of Canada.Google Scholar
  83. Wootton, J.M., Frick, P.J., Shelton, K.K., & Silverthorn, P. (in press). Ineffective parenting and childhood conduct problems: The moderating role of callous-unemotional traits. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.Google Scholar
  84. Zinger, I., & Forth, A.E. (1996). Psychopathy and Canadian criminal proceedings: A review of case law and psychological research. Unpublished manuscript, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adelle E. Forth
    • 1
  • Heather C. Burke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

Personalised recommendations