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PERSONALITY and PSYCHOPATHY – Identifying associations between Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) dimensions and PCL-R psychopathy facets in young male offenders

Authors Emma Bolund Lauenstein
Malin Hildebrand Karlén
Thomas Nilsson
Published in 13th Nordic Symposium on Forensic Psychiatry
Publication year 2019
Published at Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Department of Psychiatry and Neurochemistry
Department of Psychology
Centre for Ethics, Law, and Mental Health
Language en
Keywords Psychopathy, Personality nosology, Dimensional personality, Personality disorder, the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R), Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI).
Subject categories Psychiatry, Other Medical Sciences


Personality is a wide concept and how to best capture and describe personality depends on the purpose of the investigation. When to investigate whether an individual has psychopathic features, use of Hare Psychopathic Checklist-Revised (PCL‑R) is common. However, this kind of instrument emphasizes personality traits and socially deviant behaviors which together may form maladaptive characteristics, but leaves other personality traits unspecified. Evidence-based personality assessments recommends to use a comprehensive design, collecting data from multiple theoretical perspectives and data sources to prevent bias and trawling for supporting evidence (Bornstein, 2017). This is especially problematic when it comes to differential diagnosis within personality disorders, due to the considerable overlap of traits between these disorders (Ryder et al., 2007) as well as poor interrater reliability (Kotov et al., 2017). The  aim was to investigating the extent of construct overlap between dimensional personality traits according to TCI and psychopathy according to PCL-R among young violent offenders. The study cohort consists of male offenders, aged 18-25 years, convicted for hands-on violent and/or sexual criminality and sentenced to prison in western Sweden between March 2010 and July 2012. The response rate was 71% (n=270, mean age: 22.3 years), and of all these had 148 given valid answers to Cloninger’s Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI), while 146 had been assessed with the PCL-R. A canonical correlation analysis (CCA) was used to explore how personality traits (TCI) were related to psychopathic traits (PCL-R) in this sample. The CCA entails three steps: 1) zero-order correlations; 2) unique associations based on regression, and 3) investigating the multivariate shared relationship between the different PCL-R facets and TCI-traits with a CCA. The overlap found in the CCA consisted of four functions, but only two were significant. Since only the first two functions were significant only these were interpreted, and shared approximately 49% of the variance. Function 1. Illustrated a conceptual overlap consisting of being intolerant, selfish and vindictive, being practical, distanced, cold and socially insensitive, as well as having a proneness to violate society’s rules and norms and the propensity for unethical behaviour. Function 2. Illustrated a conceptual overlap consisting of being superficially charming, grandiose, having an inflated ego and being voluble, deceitful and manipulative but also being grounded, strong, determined, purposeful, bold and exploratory. Both temperamental and character dimensions contributed to the observed overlap with psychopathy, of which Harm Avoidance and Novelty Seeking stood out among the former and Cooperativeness and Self-Directedness among the latter. However, compared to the considerably larger overlap found between personality disorders (DSM-IV-TR) and PCL-R facets (89%, see Daver, 2018), the results imply that a broader and not only pathological focus when assessing personality can contribute with important information. The results supports the importance of a broad focus in personality assessments, and to use a dimensional approach when describing personality features. The former can lead to a more complete picture of the assessed person, and the latter to a more versatile interpretation. Together, it can diminish stigma and may open up for more treatment options.

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