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Psychopathic traits in community groups – associations with risk behaviors and neighborhood factors

The multidisciplinary PSYCOM-project (’Psychopathic traits in community groups’) aims to explore associations between psychopathic personality traits (e.g. deficient impulse control, stress immunity and lack of empathy and guilt) and deviant behaviors in different community groups. The deviant behaviors include intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance abuse.

Current projects

Validation of emergent self-report measures

To date, only few international studies have investigated psychopathic traits in different community samples. This paucity of research is partly due to the lack of well-validated assessment instruments for psychopathic traits in non-criminal adults. Our research group has translated the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R: Lilienfeld & Widows, 2005), which is an extensively researched self-report measure for psychopathic traits in criminal-and non criminal adults. Given that the PPI-R has not been previously used in Sweden, we investigated the validity of the PPI-R in non-criminal Swedish males, by exploring its relation to the interview based psychopathy instrument (PCL:SV), as well as self-report measures of empathy, emotional regulation and anxiety. Overall, the results support the reliability and validity of the PPI-R in the Swedish context. We have also translated the recently formulated American instrument ’Triarchic Psychopathy Measure’ (TriPM; Patrick, 2010). The TriPM will be used in several of our upcoming studies at KI, which will include participants from the community but also clients from correctional and forensic psychiatric services. Moreover, we have conducted a so called prototypicality analysis, investigating to what degree Swedish practitioners perceive symptoms from the newly formulated model Comprehensive Assessment of Psychopathic Personality (CAPP; Cooke, Hart, & Michie, 2004), as well as attitudinal statements (encompassing perceptions about etiology, violence proneness, treatability), indicative of their perception of a typical psychopath (Sörman et al., 2014).

Psychopathic traits and intimate partner violence (IPV)

PSYCOM encompasses a survey-based study of intimate partner violence (IPV), including males with problematic violent behaviors in intimate relationships. Collaboration is established with various domestic violence perpetrator programs in Stockholm. Violent behavior is assessed with the revised version of Conflict Tactic Scale (CTS2; Straus et al, 1996), which encompasses questions on physical, psychological and sexual violence, violence related physical injuries and the ability to solve conflicts.

Neighborhood factors

Another research track within the PSYCOM-project is to investigate how different neighborhood factors (e.g. degree of graffiti, vandalization, deteriorated buidlings, intoxicated people, but also social organization and trust between neighbors) affect health-related aspects, violent behavior as well as perceptions of safety. In an initial validation study, we translated the American cheklist Systematic Social Observation tool (SSO; Sampson & Raudenbush, 1999) into Swedish, and used it to conduct systematic observations in two pairs of neighborhoods in Stockholm. Within each pair, the neighborhoods were located in close geographic proximity, however they differed with respect to area-based socioeconomic status (SES). In that study, associations between the systematic observations and reported crime incidents were investigated on a street level. The preliminary results demonstrate that the Swedish translation of the SSO can be used to detect differences between neighborhoods with varying SES. Moreover, the systematic observations correlated with several crime variables.

Future research aims and community relevance

A future goal is to replicate the PSYCOM-studies in urban settings with varying SES, in Sweden as well as abroad. The results are expected to contribute to an improved understanding of factors important for different community interventions, including crime prevention and urban planning.