Victimization History and Posttraumatic Stress: An Analysis of Psychopathy Variants in Male Juvenile Offenders

Theory and empirical research suggest that psychopathy may be disaggregated into primary and secondary variants. In practice, individuals with high scores on psychopathy measures are treated as a homogenous group. In this study, interviewers recruited 355 incarcerated youth to assess potential differences in trauma history, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, and dissociative symptoms among high-anxious (secondary) and low-anxious (primary) variants of psychopathy. Results indicate that youth with secondary psychopathy report a greater history of traumatic experiences and past PTSD symptoms—but not dissociative symptoms—than primary variants. These results suggest that youth with high scores on measures of psychopathy are a heterogeneous group, necessitating nuanced assessment and treatment practices.