Youth with psychopathy features are not a discrete class: a taxometric analysis

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Adolescent; Antisocial Personality Disorder; Factor Analysis, Statistical; Female; Humans; *Interview, Psychological; Juvenile Delinquency; Male; Prisoners


Health Services Research | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


BACKGROUND: Recently, researchers have sought to measure psychopathy-like features among youth in hopes of identifying children who may be progressing toward a particularly destructive form of adult pathology. However, it remains unclear whether psychopathy-like personality features among youth are best conceptualized as dimensional (distributed along a continuum) or taxonic (such that youth with psychopathic personality characteristics are qualitatively distinct from non-psychopathic youth).

METHODS: This study applied taxometric analyses (MAMBAC, MAXEIG, and L-Mode) to scores from two primary measures of youth psychopathy features: the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (N = 757) and the self-report Antisocial Process Screening Device (N = 489) among delinquent boys.

RESULTS: All analyses supported a dimensional structure, indicating that psychopathy features among youth are best understood as existing along a continuum.

CONCLUSIONS: Although youth clearly vary in the degree to which they manifest psychopathy-like personality traits, there is no natural, discrete class of young 'psychopaths.' This finding has implications for developmental theory, treatment, assessment strategies, research, and clinical/forensic practice.

DOI of Published Version



J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007 Jul;48(7):714-23. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of child psychology and psychiatry, and allied disciplines

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID