Evaluating the construct validity of psychopathy in black and white male inmates: three preliminary studies

J Abnorm Psychol. 1990 Aug;99(3):250-9. doi: 10.1037//0021-843x.99.3.250.


Although Black inmates represent almost half the population of United States prisons and have been included in several studies of psychopathy, there appear to be no published studies to date addressing the validity of the psychopathy construct in Black inmates. Three studies were conducted to assess the validity of the construct in Black male inmates using Hare's Psychopathy Checklist (PCL). In Study 1, we examined the internal structure of the PCL and the relation of checklist scores to several constructs relevant to psychopathy. We observed differences between Blacks and Whites in the distribution of psychopathy scores, in the relation of psychopathy to measures of impulsivity, and in the congruence of the underlying factor structure of the PCL. In Study 2, Black psychopaths were found to manifest a pattern of passive avoidance deficits similar but not identical to that reported for White psychopaths in Newman and Kosson's study. Study 3 demonstrated that psychopaths of both races receive more criminal charges in a wider variety of offense categories than do nonpsychopaths. The psychopathy construct appears tentatively applicable to Blacks, although its components may be somewhat different than for Whites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Whites / psychology