Searching for a vulnerable dark triad: comparing Factor 2 psychopathy, vulnerable narcissism, and borderline personality disorder

J Pers. 2010 Oct;78(5):1529-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2010.00660.x. Epub 2010 Jul 20.


Paulhus and Williams (2002) identified a "Dark Triad" comprising the following related personality styles: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. The heterogeneity found in narcissism and psychopathy raises the possibility of a second triad made up of emotional vulnerability and dark traits (i.e., the vulnerable dark triad; VDT). Along with vulnerable narcissism and Factor 2 psychopathy, the third member of the hypothesized VDT is borderline personality disorder (BPD). Using a sample of 361 undergraduates, we examine the relations between these constructs and their relations with criterion variables, including personality, environmental etiological factors (e.g., abuse), and current functioning (e.g., psychopathology, affect). The results suggest that the VDT constructs are significantly related to one another and manifest similar nomological networks, particularly vulnerable narcissism and BPD. Although the VDT members are related to negative emotionality and antagonistic interpersonal styles, they are also related to introversion and disinhibition. Ultimately, it seems there is a "dark continuum" of pathological personality traits that differ primarily in relation to negative and positive emotionality and disinhibition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Borderline Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Machiavellianism*
  • Male
  • Narcissism*
  • Psychological Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Desirability
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperament*
  • Young Adult