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Relational Aggression and Psychopathy Among Male and Female Inmates

23 July 2010


The construct of psychopathy has long been applied to individuals who callously and remorselessly use others or execute severe antisocial behaviors to get what they want. Although there has been a plethora of empirical literature that has shed light on this type of individual, most of what is known applies more to male than female populations. However, more research is emerging showing that females may express psychopathic features differently than males. A body of research has also shown that females engage in a qualitatively different type of aggression that focuses on deliberately deconstructing a person’s social relationships, namely relational aggression. The current study examined the relationship between psychopathy and relational aggression in 235 inmates to help build on explanations of the differential expression of psychopathy. Results indicated that relational aggression had a significant positive relationship with PCL-R Factor 1 (e.g., affective/interpersonal characteristics) of psychopathy before controlling for age for female, but not male inmates. However, all other findings were non-significant, and the significant relationship between Factor 1 and relational aggression disappeared after controlling for age. In sum, relational aggression may be an important construct in explaining the differences in the manifestation of psychopathy between male and female inmates. Strengths, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.


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