Ethnicity and Its Role in the Psychopathy/Violence Relationship

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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  • Louisa


    December 4th, 2012 at 3:55 PM

    I find it to be lacking to not even consider the impact that family history is bound to play on how violence and anger and abuse are a part of pretty much any relationship plagued by these issues. It is a known fact that if someone has seen this kind of behavior when they are growing up, then there is a markedly greater chance that they too will act this out in their own future adult relationships. To ignore this fact, no matter what the other data suggests, to me is clearly overlooking an element to these relationships that can’t be ignored.

  • jennifer Martin

    jennifer Martin

    December 5th, 2012 at 3:41 AM

    We all have these stereotypes that one cultural group is more violent or whatever, but I think that when it all coems down to it. each group in society is faced with their own different needs, and the things that set them off could be far different from thsoe that worry others.

    I don’t think that anymore we need to have this boil down to ethnic differences, but concentrate on the fact that this kind of harm and violence are ra,pant period, and that we need to do a better job when it comes to lving and trusting and respecting one another.

  • Peter


    December 6th, 2012 at 12:00 AM

    I’m not convinced at all. For those with psychopathy,the level of their disorder would play a bigger role and would supersede any effect that race may have.Also the historical experiences these individuals have had would play a big role.Looking for a link between race and violence is unnecessary and they should first look at how they can bet treat those with psychopathy as havig a disorder rather than criminals.

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