Psychopathic-like-traits and aggression in suspended mainstream school children and adolescents

Robin Cordin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] The overall aim of the research reported in this thesis was to explore the viability and utility of the construct of psychopathy and aggression in children and adolescents. Specifically, by taking a developmentally informed approach it sought to develop new instrumentation which measured psychopathic-like-traits, and verbal proactive and reactive aggression in non-referred mainstream school children and adolescents. To achieve this, four separate yet interrelated studies were conducted. Study One comprised three phases relating to the development and validation of two new instruments. In Phase One the instruments currently used to measure psychopathy were reviewed and items relevant to young persons were selected for inclusion in a draft version of the new psychopathy screening instrument. Phase Two, which sought to further explore the construct of psychopathy in children and adolescents, comprised a series of interviews with school principals, deputy principals, psychologists, and education officers at the main juvenile detention centre in Perth, Western Australia. These interviews provided information relating to the behaviour and characteristics of children and adolescents who present with psychopathic-like-traits. As a consequence of the feedback from the Phase Two data, Phase Three reviewed the instrumentation currently used to measure aggression in children and adolescents. From this items were selected for possible inclusion in an aggression questionnaire. The data gathered over these three phases resulted in 117 psychopathy related items being generated for the new instrument, which were subsequently reduced to 56 when duplicated items were identified and the extant knowledge of the construct applied. The 56 items were retained in a draft version of the newly developed instrument, which was named the Child and Adolescent Psychopathy Screening Instrument (CAPSI). The Study One data revealed the instrumentation used to date provided few measures of physical and verbal aggression - a characteristic of psychopathic-like behaviour. Thus, a review of instrumentation together with the information from the interviews resulted in 63 aggression items being generated. ... Study Four utilised information from the CAPSI and the CASA in conjunction with in-depth interviews to generate case studies to further elucidate the characteristics of children and adolescents with psychopathic-like-traits and extreme aggression. Case studies were undertaken with seven male students ranging in age from 8 to 15 years who had been suspended from mainstream schools. All boys scored very highly on the new instruments. All presented with extreme aggression, with some exhibiting proactive or premeditated aggression combined with a superficially engaging personality, insincere charm, lack of remorse, and lack of empathy. The findings from all four research studies are discussed in the light of the literature reviewed and the aims of the research. Implications are then drawn for researchers and clinicians, and directions for further research are suggested.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


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