Marielena P. Tecce is a 2014 graduate of the PsyD Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England.


instrumental aggression, reactive aggression, psychpathy, juveniles

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Over the past decade, the profusion of literature examining the downward extension of psychopathy to juvenile populations has been met with much debate and controversy. The focus remains on the accuracy of assessment and the negative effects from the premature application of labeling a juvenile a psychopath. The current study investigated the relationship between psychopathy and aggression by exploring the relationship between types of aggression (instrumental and reactive) and psychopathic traits in juvenile offenders. This study examined archived file information for male and female (N = 134) juvenile offenders (ages 13-17) referred for diagnostic and psychological evaluation services by the department of juvenile probation. A mixed gender sample was utilized to explore gender differences in the manifestation of psychopathy and aggression. Based on Cornell et al's (1996) aggression coding system, this study identified three groups: (a) instrumental offenders (IO), (b) reactive offenders (RO) and (c) combined offenders (CO; both instrumental and reactive aggression). These groups were compared on psychopathic traits utilizing the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory for Adolescents (MMPI-A; Butcher et al., 1992) scale 4, Psychopathic deviate (Pd) as a measure of psychopathic traits. Consistent with previous research on adult populations, results support the predictive utility of instrumental aggression in assessing psychopathic traits in juvenile offenders. Gender differences revealed that female offenders demonstrate higher rates of psychopathic traits regardless of aggression group.