Associations Among Early Abuse, Dissociation, and Psychopathy in an Offender Sample

Theorists have postulated that some variants of psychopathy result from childhood abuse and neglect. Dissociative symptoms are also thought to arise from abuse. To date, the conjoint associations among abuse, dissociation, and psychopathy have not been examined systematically. Some have hypothesized that abuse relates primarily to the affective symptoms of psychopathy, with dissociative experiences mediating this relationship. Others have suggested that abuse more directly affects the impulsive lifestyle features of psychopathy. The authors used structural equation modeling to examine these hypotheses in a sample of 615 male offenders who had completed a retrospective self-report measure of childhood abuse, the Dissociative Experiences Scale, and R. D. Hare’s (2003) Psychopathy Checklist—Revised. Abuse exerted no direct or indirect effect on the core interpersonal and affective features of psychopathy but was directly related to the facet of psychopathy associated with an impulsive and irresponsible lifestyle. Implications for psychopathy subtypes are discussed.