DPPP: Juvenile Psychopathy


One enduring aspect of our research is an attempt to import the construct of psychopathy into childhood and adolescence. We hope that by examining the construct earlier in the life course we might be able to intervene earlier and more effectively, and gain a clearer picture of the etiology of psychopathy. In this work, we have developed an explicit measure of the psychopathic personality for use in assessing children--the Childhood Psychopathy Scale (CPS; Lynam, 1997). The CPS was developed to operationalize, in childhood and adolescence, the personality traits found in the PCL-R (Hare, 1991). Using descriptions of the PCL-R constructs and items collected previously from caregivers, 12 of the 20 PCL-R constructs were operationalized using items selected from the CLQ (Caspi, et al., 1992) and an extended version of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL; Achenbach, 1991). These scales included: glibness, untruthfulness, manipulation, lack of guilt, poverty of affect, callousness, parasitic lifestyle, behavioral dyscontrol, lack of planning, impulsiveness, unreliability, and failure to accept responsibility. Two PCL-R items, criminal versatility and juvenile delinquency, were not included so that the CPS might serve as a pure measure of personality. The operationalization was successful; 8 of the 12 construct scales had alphas above .60 and 10 of the 12 were above .50. The reliability of the total scale was .91. Boys who scored high on the CPS were the most consequential offenders at ages 10 and 13 and the most stable offenders across the two ages; they were more impulsive according to a multimethod, multisource battery, prone to externalizing disorders, and comparatively immune to internalizing disorders. Additionally, scores on the CPS predicted serious delinquency beyond other known predictors (previous delinquency, SES, IQ, and impulsivity). Moreover, additional research provides additional construct validation for the CPS and the construct of juvenile psychopathy more generally :

Adolescent high scorers on the CPS show the same electrodermal hyporesponsivity seen in adult psychopaths (Fung, Raine, Loeber, Lynam, Steinhauer, Venables, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 2005).

The CPS bears the expected relations to basic dimensions of personality (Lynam, Caspi, Moffitt, Raine, Loeber, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 2005).

The content of the CPS converges very well with the content of other approaches to assessing psychopathy in its juvenile form (Lynam, Derefinko, Caspi, Loeber, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 2007).

Scores on the CPS are quite stable across adolescence (Lynam, Charnigo, Moffitt, Raine, Loeber, & Stouthamer-Loeber, in press).

Scores on the CPS at age 13 predict psychopathy in young adulthood, 11 years later ( Lynam, Caspi, Moffitt, Loeber, & Stouthamer-Loeber, 2007). This stability is generally unmoderated by demographic, contextual, and familial factors, and by other individual differences (Lynam, Loeber, & Stouthamer-Loeber, (2008).

Several versions of the CPS and their scoring keys are available for use by other researchers. Simply click on the relevant links below.


Caregiver Version: Scale and Key

Self-report Version: Scale and Key

Return to DPPP Homepage