Violence exposure mediates the relation between callous-unemotional traits and offending patterns in adolescents.
This study investigated the 6-year stability and predictive validity of adolescent psychopathy features during the transition to young adulthood. It represents one of the longest outcome studies of youth psychopathy to date, and therefore addresses a primary criticism of the research area (i.e., lack of demonstrated associations between child and adult psychopathy features). Recruited participants were 475 males enrolled in the Minnesota Twin and Family Study who had completed a research-based measure of psychopathy features consisting of separate emotional detachment (or affective) and antisocial tendencies (or behavioral) subscales. These psychopathy features and various externalizing symptoms (i.e., conduct problems, impulsivity, and substance use disorder) were assessed through rating scales and structured diagnostic interview at an intake assessment (ages 16-18) and 6-year follow-up. Consistent with prediction, adolescent psychopathy features displayed moderate stability across the transition from adolescence to adulthood [intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) = 0.40-0.41]. The antisocial tendencies subscale was uniquely related to most externalizing symptoms both in adolescence and in adulthood, whereas the emotional detachment subscale showed appropriate discriminant validity in its lack of association with externalizing symptoms. These findings suggest that psychopathy features are relatively stable from adolescence to adulthood and provide possible insights into the development and maintenance of externalizing difficulties during the adult transition.