Psychopathic personality or personalities? Exploring potential variants of psychopathy and their implications for risk assessment

Although psychopathy typically has been construed as a relatively uniform construct, seminal theories and contemporary research suggest that it may be heterogeneous. In this article, the most promising literature is distilled to distinguish among potential variants of antisocial personality disorder (APD) that can be derived from, and informed by, modern conceptions of psychopathy. This analysis suggests that there are primary and secondary variants of psychopathy, which may be distinguished based on the extent to which they are heritable and are characterized by affective deficits, impulsivity, trait anxiety, and characteristics of borderline and narcissistic personality disorders (NPD). These variants also may differ in their patterns of violence and responsivity to treatment. If variants of psychopathy can be identified reliably and supported empirically, psychopathy may be transformed from a global label to a set of more specific constructs that improve our ability to understand, manage, and treat individuals who have largely been regarded as dangerous and untreatable.