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Secondary psychopathy and borderline personality disorder in males

20 July 2012


The concept of secondary psychopathy has an extensive history in the literature, and there are several domains where secondary psychopathy is proposed to differ from primary psychopathy. The very areas that differentiate secondary psychopathy from primary psychopathy represent the areas of most overlap between secondary psychopathy and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in males. The purpose of this study was to clarify the relationship between secondary psychopathy and BPD in males. Participants included 42 first-time male inmates from a state prison facility. Model-based cluster analysis was utilized in determining primary and secondary subtypes of psychopathy based on Skeem et al.’s (2003) model. Diagnosis of Borderline Personality traits was based on DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) criteria. Groups of inmates classified as primary and secondary psychopaths with and without BPD traits were then compared on measures of psychopathic traits, overt and covert narcissism, depression, anxiety, anxiety-related disorders, somatic complaints, and borderline features. Psychopathy subtype explained the between-group differences on the measures of psychopathic traits, narcissism, and psychopathology without contribution from the BPD group variable. However, many of the group means were in the expected direction, as participants classified as secondary psychopaths with and without BPD traits scored higher than those classified as primary psychopaths with and without BPD traits on a measure of covert narcissism and the majority of measures of psychopathology. Implications, limitations, and future directions for research are discussed.


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