Psychopathy in instrumental and reactive violent offenders

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996 Aug;64(4):783-90. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.64.4.783.


Can violent offenders who commit acts of instrumental aggression for goal-oriented purposes such as robbery be distinguished from those who commit acts of reactive (or hostile) aggression in response to provocation? Because violent offenders often have a history of both instrumental and reactive aggression, this study distinguished between offenders with a history of at least 1 instrumental violent offense and offenders with a history of reactive violent offenses. Two studies tested the hypothesis that instrumental offenders would score higher than reactive offenders and nonviolent offenders on R. D. Hare's (1991) Psychopathy Checklist. The first study sample consisted of 106 violent and nonviolent offenders recruited from a medium-security correctional facility. The second study sample consisted of 50 violent offenders referred for pretrial forensic evaluation. In both samples, instrumental offenders could be reliably distinguished from reactive offenders on the basis of violent crime behavior and level of psychopathy. Group differences could not be attributed to participant age, race, length of incarceration, or extent of prior criminal record.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Violence*