Psychopathy and instrumental violence: facet level relationships

J Pers Disord. 2009 Aug;23(4):416-24. doi: 10.1521/pedi.2009.23.4.416.


The relationship between psychopathy and violence is well established. However, the extent to which psychopathy is related to different types of violent behavior warrants further study. We examined the relationship between instrumental violence, psychopathy, and psychopathic traits among 248 European American and African American adult male county jail inmates. We assessed instrumentality based on subjective motivations for respondent-identified acts of violence. Psychopathy was assessed using the PCL-R based on interview and file review. We controlled for potentially important covariates, namely IQ and prior violence. Results were in part consistent with findings from studies with adolescents, in that we identified a positive relationship between instrumentality of violence and manipulative interpersonal style. Results differed from youth studies with regard to relationships between instrumentality and other facets of psychopathy. The implications of our study are discussed with regard to treatment and the developmental stability of the relationship between psychopathic traits and instrumental violence.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Criminals / psychology
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Psychopathology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Young Adult