Associations between psychopathic traits and mental disorders among adolescents with substance use problems

Authors

  • Malin Hemphälä,

    Corresponding author
    1. Research Centre for Adolescent Psycho-Social Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Dependence Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Anders Tengström

    1. Research Centre for Adolescent Psycho-Social Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Dependence Research, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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Correspondence should be addressed to Ms Malin Hemphälä, FORUM, Maria Ungdom, St Görans Sjukhus, PO Box 500, SE-112 81 Stockholm, Sweden (e-mail: malin.hemphala@sll.se).

Abstract

Objectives. The aim of this study was to examine the association between psychopathic traits and mental disorders and to study associations between psychopathic traits and familial problems across gender.

Design. This is a cross-sectional study.

Methods. One hundred and Eighty adolescents seeking help at a substance abuse treatment clinic (99 girls, 81 boys) and their parents (165 mothers, 90 fathers) were studied. The assessment included Psychopathy checklist: Youth version (PCL-YV) and SCID I/II or Kiddie-Sads-Present and Lifetime Version (K-SADS-PL).

Results. Across gender, there was a positive correlation between externalizing symptoms and PCL-YV score. Among boys, there was a positive correlation between internalizing symptoms and PCL-YV score. Further, the behavioural dimension of psychopathy was predictive of externalizing symptoms across gender. The interpersonal and affective dimension of psychopathy predicted oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)-symptoms among girls. Parent problem behaviour predicted PCL-YV score amongst girls only.

Conclusions. Psychopathic traits do not only exist among adolescents who are identified because of their criminal behaviour. There were gender differences in the association between symptoms and psychopathic traits. It is suggested that different dimensions of psychopathy predisposed substance use for girls and for boys, and that ODD is particularly important in the expression of psychopathic traits among girls. This study showed transmission of antisocial behaviour between two generations among girls.

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