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Title: The relationship between psychopathic traits and adolescent offending trajectories
Author: Amberton, Catriona
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 8183
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2018
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AIMS: There is an emerging body of evidence to support the notion that psychopathic traits assessed in adolescence can predict future offending. Few studies have specifically examined the relationship in terms of long-term patterns of offending. The purpose of this study was to assess the power of psychopathic traits in adolescence to predict long-term patterns of offending. Such knowledge may provide information necessary to determine the timing and method of intervention to interrupt these pathways. METHOD: This study ran a secondary data analysis of the Systemic Therapy for At-Risk Teens study, a randomised controlled trial which compared the effects of Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST) to management-as-usual (MAU) in reducing conduct problems in 684 adolescents (82% male; age 11-18 at baseline) over an 18-month period. The current study used the Inventory of Callous Unemotional Traits (ICU) to examine psychopathic traits and offending trajectories were measured using official and self-reported delinquency data. Semi-parametric group-based modelling (SPGM) was used to identify unique trajectories. RESULTS: SPGM found four unique offending and four unique delinquency trajectories. Most adolescents followed a stable trajectory. Whilst almost half of the sample (46.5%) was found to have not offended at all during the trial, a small proportion followed a fairly stable offending trajectory. Psychopathy was found to predict membership of the moderate stable offending trajectory and the high delinquency trajectory groups. Gender, comorbid emotional disturbance, and impulsivity were found to be significant covariates and important factors for predicting membership of the moderate offending and high delinquency trajectories. CONCLUSION: Psychopathic traits present more frequently amongst adolescents who follow stable versus low offending or delinquency trajectories. This factor remains an important characteristic to consider. However, its relationship to offending is clearly nuanced and influenced by other factors such as gender and comorbid impulsivity and emotional difficulties. Suggestions for early intervention and risk management of offenders are discussed. Future research is needed to further understand factors influencing patterns of offending in young people.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available