Are there ethnic differences in levels of psychopathy? A meta-analysis

Law Hum Behav. 2004 Oct;28(5):505-27. doi: 10.1023/b:lahu.0000046431.93095.d8.


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 (PCL-R; 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 PCL-R 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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / ethnology*
  • Black People / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / psychology*