Subtypes of adolescent offenders: affective traits and antisocial behavior patterns

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Adolescent; Adult; *Affect; Antisocial Personality Disorder; Child; Cluster Analysis; Female; Follow-Up Studies; Humans; Interpersonal Relations; Juvenile Delinquency; Male; Questionnaires




Etiological models of life-course persistent offending often emphasize behavioral explanations. Suggestions that persistent offenders have psychopathy ignore the distinct non-behavioral features of the psychopathy disorder. Using a three-factor model of the PCL-YV and cluster analysis with 259 incarcerated adolescents, we identified four distinct juvenile subtypes on the basis of affective, interpersonal, and behavioral dimensions. Prospective and retrospective comparisons of antisocial behavior patterns found the cluster comprising all three psychopathy dimensions to be the most chronic and severe. Impulsive features alone were strongly associated with severe antisocial behaviors retrospectively, but not prospectively. Findings rebut the proposal that disruptive behavioral and impulsive symptoms can identify "fledgling psychopaths." Assessments that disregard callous-unemotional traits will likely result in high false positive rates among serious adolescent offenders. Implications for developmental models of chronic offending are discussed in light of the need for further follow-up into adulthood.

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Citation: Behav Sci Law. 2003;21(6):695-712. Link to article on publisher's site

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