Psychopathy and low self-control are useful constructs for understanding antisociality/criminality. The triarchic model of psychopathy in particular is a recent and promising conceptualisation, composed of boldness, disinhibition, and meanness – three personality traits that have never been studied in tandem with low self-control.
To test relationships between the triarchic personality traits of boldness, disinhibition and meanness and low self-control with delinquent or antisocial acts.
In a cross-sectional, self-report study a schools’ cohort of 14- to 18-year-olds (Mean 15.91 years, SD = 0.99 years) was recruited from regions in South Portugal and Lisbon, representative of the general population of this age in sex distribution and education. After parental consent, teenage volunteers in small groups completed psychopathy and self-control self-rating scales and then a questionnaire about their criminal or delinquent activities, all on one single occasion and in confidence from school staff or parents. Path analysis was used to test relationships.
567 young people, 256 (45%) of them girls, completed all ratings, 89% of those invited to do so. Low self-control had the strongest relationship with antisocial/criminal acts, followed by the disinhibition or meanness traits of the triarchic psychopathy construct. The boldness trait of the triarchic psychopathy construct had the weakest relationship.
Our findings suggest that the most effective targets for intervention to prevent or limit antisocial behaviours by young people are likely to be self-control and disinhibition. Behavioural interventions that improve social skills and verbal problem-solving that encourage listening and waiting in response to environmental stimuli are likely to effect reduction of impulsive and aggressive reactions to others and so reduce conduct problems. Since disinhibition and self-control are such overlapping constructs, improvements in one area will generally facilitate improvements in the other area.