Psychopathy, institutional behaviour and motivation to change in adolescent offenders

Cooper, Susan (2008) Psychopathy, institutional behaviour and motivation to change in adolescent offenders. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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This thesis exarrunes the nature and extent of psychopathy in adolescent offenders with a history of physical aggression, and the implications of psychopathy for institutional behaviour and motivation to change. The sample included female participants.
There were three parts to the study. Part 1 examined the nature and extent of psychopathy in the sample using the Psychopathy Checklist-Youth Version (pCL-YV; Forth, Kosson & Hare, 2003) (n=79). Scores were lower than found in previous studies with adolescents. There was no significant relationship between age and psychopathy, nor were there significant gender differences in total PCL-YV scores. There was a significant positive correlation between
psychopathy and previous offending behaviour.
Part 2 of the study (n=74) examined institutional misconduct. There was a significant relationship between psychopathy and institutional misconduct, physical aggression, verbal aggression and breach of rules. The predictive validity of the PCL-YV was compared with the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youths (SA VRY; Borum, Bartel & Forth, 2003) and the Youth Level of Service Inventory/Case Management Inventory (YLSI/ CMI; Hoge and Andrews, 1994) in relation to institutional misconduct. The SA VRY emerged as the strongest predictor, supporting the utility of this tool as a short-term predictor of risk. The predictive validity of these tools was not supported for female participants. This highlights the need for gender-sensitive approaches to risk assessment.
The nature and extent of bullying was examined usmg the Direct and Indirect Prisoner Behaviour Checklist Hospital Version (Revised) (Ireland, 2004). (n=66). There was a significant relationship between psychopathy and self-reported bullying in females, but not in males. This suggests there are gender differences in the expression of psychopathy, with psychopathy being strongly related to the perpetration of psychological harm in females.
Part 3 of the study examined the relationship between psychopathy and motivation to change, as measured with the Stages of Change Scale (n=66). No significant relationship was found. A follow up interview study of high and low psychopathy participants (n=28) explored adolescent offenders' attitudes to change. Although the responses of low and high
psychopathy participants were similar, high psychopathy participants more often reported difficulties applying skills learned. This highlights the need to design treatment that emphasises the application of skills with high psychopathy offenders.
Overall, the findings suggest that psychopathy is evident in adolescents and is related to antisocial behaviour, although this may be expressed differently in males and females.
Psychopathic offenders appear to express motivation to change so attempts should be made to offer treatment to this group and reduce their risk of harm to others

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