Assessment of “juvenile psychopathy” and its association with violence: a critical review*


  • *

    Portions of this paper previously were presented as part of a symposium at the 2000 convention of the American Society of Criminology, San Francisco, CA.


Interest in the construct of psychopathy as it applies to children and adolescents has become an area of considerable research interest in the past 5–10 years, in part due to the clinical utility of psychopathy as a predictor of violence among adult offenders. Despite interest in “juvenile psychopathy” in general and its relationship to violence in particular, relatively few studies specifically have examined whether operationalizations of this construct among children and adolescents predict various forms of aggression. This article critically reviews this literature, as well as controversies regarding the assessment of adult psychopathic “traits” among juveniles. Existing evidence indicates a moderate association between measures of psychopathy and various forms of aggression, suggesting that this construct may be relevant for purposes of short-term risk appraisal and management among juveniles. However, due to the enormous developmental changes that occur during adolescence and the absence of longitudinal research on the stability of this construct (and its association with violence), we conclude that reliance on psychopathy measures to make decisions regarding long-term placements for juveniles is contraindicated at this time. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.