The interplay of gender, parental behaviors, and child maltreatment in relation to psychopathic traits

Child Abuse Negl. 2018 Sep;83:120-128. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.07.013. Epub 2018 Jul 17.


Many studies have reported an effect of childhood maltreatment and parenting behavior with the future development of psychopathic traits. However, there is a limited amount of research on parenting behavior and adult psychopathic traits as possible identifiers of childhood maltreatment. The aim of this study is three-fold (1) identify specific parenting behaviors and adult psychopathic traits that predict forms of childhood maltreatment, (2) explore gender differences, and (3) expand on other studies on psychopathy by focusing on a representative sample of the community. There are significant associations between recalled childhood maltreatment and parenting behavior, and psychopathic traits. Parental rejection was the most recurrent predictor of childhood maltreatment with a significant positive relation to almost all its forms. Paternal overprotection was positively associated with sexual abuse, while the opposite was true for maternal overprotection. Psychopathic traits displayed in adulthood were also strong indicators of childhood maltreatment; females with high levels of boldness were more likely to have experienced sexual abuse in childhood, and those high in disinhibition were more likely to have experienced physical neglect and sexual abuse. While males were generally higher in terms of psychopathic traits, females reported more childhood abuse and negative parental behaviors. These findings provide support for using parenting behavior and psychopathic traits as markers of childhood maltreatment.

Keywords: Childhood abuse; Parenting behavior; Psychopathic traits.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Rejection, Psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult