Psychopathy has been linked to violent behavior in previous research. However, until recently, few studies have looked at how ethnicity influences this relationship. Zach Walsh of the Centre for the Advancement of Psychological Science and Law (CAPSL) at the University of British Columbia led a new study that compared how psychopathy increased the risk for violent behavior in a group of racially diverse male inmates. For his study, Walsh looked at interpersonal factors, impulsivity, irresponsibility, and other contributing aspects of psychopathy in 424 European American (EA), African-American (AA), and Latin American (LA) incarcerated men. Walsh theorized that cultural differences would moderate the effect between psychopathy and violence in some of the men.
Using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised, Walsh looked at the violence arrest records of the men and found that in the EA men, psychopathy was a strong predictor of violence. This same link was found, albeit weaker, among the AA inmates. But no data suggested that psychopathy increased violent criminal behavior in the LA participants. Upon further examination, Walsh found that impulsive, affective, and antisocial elements were most indicative of violent behavior in the EA men, whereas interpersonal aspects did not seem to increase criminal violence. These findings imply that perhaps the lack of predictive power of psychopathy on violence is not limited to AA and LA men, but may extend to other minority individuals as well.
Walsh did not look at family history, abuse, or other conditions which could strengthen the likelihood of violence in these men with psychopathy. He believes future work should address these limitations and include a more culturally diverse sample of participants. Also, Walsh hopes that research explores LA men more, especially with respect to socioeconomic status and the role of immigration status on psychopathy and violence, as these factors could have a significant effect on future results. “Nonetheless, the present findings provide broad support for the consideration of ethnicity in the study of psychopathy and violence,” he added.
Walsh, Z. (2012). Psychopathy and criminal violence: The moderating effect of ethnicity. Law and Human Behavior. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/lhb0000017
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