Longitudinal evidence that psychopathy scores in early adolescence predict adult psychopathy

J Abnorm Psychol. 2007 Feb;116(1):155-65. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.116.1.155.


This study examined the relation between psychopathy assessed at age 13 by using the mother-reported Childhood Psychopathy Scale (D. R. Lynam, 1997) and psychopathy assessed at age 24 by using the interviewer-rated Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV; S. D. Hart, D. N. Cox, & R. D. Hare, 1995). Data from over 250 participants of the middle sample of the Pittsburgh Youth Study were used to examine this relation; approximately 9% of the sample met criteria for a possible PCL:SV diagnosis. Despite the long time lag, different sources, and different methods, psychopathy from early adolescence into young adulthood was moderately stable (r=.31). The relation was present for the PCL:SV total and facet scores, was not moderated by initial risk status or initial psychopathy level, and held even after controlling for other age 13 variables. Diagnostic stability was somewhat lower. Both specificity and negative predictive power were good, and sensitivity was adequate, but positive predictive power was poor. This constitutes the first demonstration of the relative stability of psychopathy from adolescence into adulthood and provides evidence for the incremental utility of the adolescent psychopathy construct. Implications and future directions are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / epidemiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder* / psychology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Early Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male