Western Undergraduate Psychology Journal

Article Title

Overstepping Our Bounds: A Critical Examination of Youth Psychopathy


Recent research highlights the importance of callous-unemotional traits (CU Traits; i.e., lack of guilt, remorse, or concern for others) for causal models of aggressive and violent behaviour in youth; accordingly, a new specifier to the diagnosis of conduct disorder (CD) was included in the DSM-5 (i.e., “limited prosocial emotions”; APA, 2013). In addition, several measures have been developed to directly extend the construct of psychopathy to youth samples, most notably the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL: YV; Forth, Kosson, & Hare, 2003). Although the incremental utility of CU traits and measures of psychopathy to measurement of youth aggression and violence has been documented within the extant literature base, there is little focus to the pejorative effects of such a diagnosis of CD, including the potential stigmatization, and the developmental insensitivity of measures. Therefore, the present review outlines three main limitations of extant literature pertaining to youth psychopathy; specifically, the negative labeling effect of being classified a psychopath, the developmental inappropriateness of several PCL: YV items, and the lack of clear stability of psychopathy from childhood to adulthood. Future research examining childhood and adolescent psychopathy from a developmental psychopathology perspective (Cicchetti & Cohen, 2006) is necessary, and warranted.

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