Examining Psychopathic Traits in Children Using the Child Psychopathy Scale – Revised

Rosanna Breaux, Dara E. Babinski, Michael T. Willoughby, Sarah M. Haas, Erika K. Coles, William E. Pelham, James G. Waxmonsky, Daniel A. Waschbusch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Applying the affective dimension of psychopathy to youth has advanced understanding of conduct problems in youth, leading to suggestions that other aspects of psychopathy may do the same. This was addressed in the present study by examining the structure and validity of psychopathic traits in elementary-age children as rated by mothers and teachers on the Child Psychopathy Scale – Revised (CPS-R). Participants were 222 children (80.2% male; Mage = 8.92), the majority (71.6%) of whom met criteria for both ADHD and conduct problems. Confirmatory factor analysis supported a four-factor model consisting of prosocial-empathic (PE), grandiose-manipulative (GM), emotionally volatile (EV), and attentive-planful(AP) factors. The CPS-R demonstrated good criterion validity with well-established measures of child behavior problems and callousness. The EV and AP factors demonstrate incremental validity by moderating the relation between conduct problems and impairment. Latent profiles supported a three-profile solution for mothers and a four-profile solution for teachers, with profiles consisting of one group low, one group moderate, and one high on all measures for both informants, and a fourth group that was high on all measures except CD and limited PE. Profiles differed significantly from each other on callousness and impairment, with limited PE being the best differentiator of youth highest in antisocial behavior based on mother and teacher report. Findings suggest that mothers and teachers may be able to identify children at risk for a more negative trajectory of antisocial behavior, that it is worthwhile to examine multiple psychopathy dimensions (rather than just the affective dimension), and that the CPS-R may be useful to screen for youth who are most likely to display more severe antisocial behavior and impairment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-263
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Volume48
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2020

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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