Using a Five-Factor Lens to Explore the Relation Between Personality Traits and Violence in Psychiatric Patients

Recent work suggests that predictors of violence are similar for individuals with and without mental illness. Although psychopathy is among the most potent of such predictors, the nature of its relation to violence is unclear. On the basis of a sample of 769 civil psychiatric patients, the authors explore the possibility that measures of psychopathy provide a glimpse of higher order personality traits that predispose individuals toward violence. Results indicate that general traits captured by a measure of the 5-factor model, particularly antagonism, were relatively strongly associated with violence and shared most of their violence-relevant variance with a leading measure of psychopathy. Because interpersonal and affective features of psychopathy are less important than basic traits of antagonism in postdicting violence, it may be appropriate to broaden focus in risk assessment to patients’ basic personality traits.