Prevalence and correlates of psychopathic traits in the household population of Great Britain

Int J Law Psychiatry. Mar-Apr 2009;32(2):65-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ijlp.2009.01.002. Epub 2009 Feb 24.

Abstract

There are no previous surveys of psychopathy and psychopathic traits in representative general population samples using standardized instruments. This study aimed to measure prevalence and correlates of psychopathic traits, based on a two-phase survey using the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL: SV) in 638 individuals, 16-74 years, in households in England, Wales and Scotland. The weighted prevalence of psychopathy was 0.6% (95% CI: 0.2-1.6) at a cut score of 13, similar to the noncriminal/nonpsychiatric sample described in the manual of the PCL: SV. Psychopathy scores correlated with: younger age, male gender; suicide attempts, violent behavior, imprisonment and homelessness; drug dependence; histrionic, borderline and adult antisocial personality disorders; panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders. This survey demonstrated that, as measured by the PCL: SV, psychopathy is rare, affecting less than 1% of the household population, although it is prevalent among prisoners, homeless persons, and psychiatric admissions. There is a half-normal distribution of psychopathic traits in the general population, with the majority having no traits, a significant proportion with non-zero values, and a severe subgroup of persons with multiple associated social and behavioral problems. This distribution has implications for research into the etiology of psychopathy and its implications for society.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Comorbidity
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Prevalence
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult