Relation Between Developmental Maturity and Measures of Psychopathy: Intial Findings From a Cross-Sequential Study

Elizabeth Cauffman, University of Pittsburgh
Jennifer Skeem, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

The advent of "waiver" statutes and the burgeoning number of adolescents in the juvenile justice system have increased research and public policy interest in the construct of "juvenile psychopathy." Because adolescence is a time of enormous developmental change, it is imperative that we learn more about the stability, nature, and manifestations of psychopathy during the adolescent years before embracing the use of this construct as a valid component in the evaluation of juvenile offenders. A compelling place to begin this investigation is with psychopathy as operationalized by the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) measures: high scores on these measures have become virtually equated with psychopathy in clinical practice, and the measures have been recommended explicitly for use with juveniles. In this presentation, we describe the relation between the PCL measures of psychopathy and measures of developmental maturity by comparing samples of 100 adolescent offenders and 100 adult offenders. The goal of this presentation is to describe the extent to which psychopathy, as assessed by the PCL measures, is a valid, stable, and useful personality construct when applied to adolescent offenders. Because wavier decisions can affect a youth's development and have long-term, serious consequences, it is imperative that the assessments be based on accurate and valid indicators.

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Updated 05/20/2006