ArticlePDF Available

The Relationship Between Attachment and Psychopathy: A Study with a Sample of Violent Offenders

Authors:

Abstract

This study used a mixed quantitative-qualitative methodology to investigate the relationship between attachment and psychopathy. The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare 2003) was administered to 139 Italian offenders who were convicted of violent crimes (murder, rape, child sexual abuse, armed robbery, assault causing bodily harm). First, we explored whether the two PCL-R items theoretically denoting devaluation of attachment bonds (promiscuous sexual behavior and many marital relationships) were able to predict PCL-R total, factor and facet scores. Subsequently, we analyzed the transcripts of the 10 participants who obtained the highest PCL-R scores in the sample, assessing their childhood experiences and their current attachment representations and attachment styles. Results of the analyses showed that the PCL-R items denoting devaluation of attachment bonds were able to predict the PCL-R scores; moreover, most of the participants who obtained the highest PCL-R scores also reported severe abuse during their childhood and showed indicators of disorganized attachment. Findings of the study suggest that the exploration of past and current attachment relationships can be crucial for the understanding of violent behavior.
RUNNING HEAD: ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
1
The Relationship between Attachment and Psychopathy:
A Study with a Sample of Violent Offenders
Adriano Schimmenti1, Alessia Passanisi1, Ugo Pace1, Sergio Manzella1,
Giovanbattista Di Carlo2, & Vincenzo Caretti2
1 Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, UKE - Kore University of Enna
2 Department of Psychology, University of Palermo
(This is a pre-print version of the article. The final publication is available at link.springer.com)
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
2
!
ABSTRACT
This study used a mixed quantitative-qualitative methodology to investigate the relationship
between attachment and psychopathy. The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare, 2003)
was administered to 139 Italian offenders who were convicted of violent crimes (murder, rape, child
sexual abuse, armed robbery, assault causing bodily harm). First, we explored whether the two
PCL-R items theoretically denoting devaluation of attachment bonds (promiscuous sexual behavior
and many marital relationships) were able to predict PCL-R total, factor and facet scores.
Subsequently, we analyzed the transcripts of the 10 participants who obtained the highest PCL-R
scores in the sample, assessing their childhood experiences and their current attachment
representations and attachment styles. Results of the analyses showed that the PCL-R items
denoting devaluation of attachment bonds were able to predict the PCL-R scores; moreover, most of
the participants who obtained the highest PCL-R scores also reported severe abuse during their
childhood and showed indicators of disorganized attachment. Findings of the study suggest that the
exploration of past and current attachment relationships can be crucial for the understanding of
violent behavior.
Keywords: Psychopathy, Attachment, Child abuse, Criminal behavior, Mixed-method
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
3
The Relationship between Attachment and Psychopathy:
A Study with a Sample of Violent Offenders
Introduction
Attachment refers to the human ability to form bonds of affection and love toward significant
others. Attachment is considered a motivational system that plays a significant role in every life
stage. Infants need to maintain proximity with their caregivers in order to be protected from threat
and danger (Bowlby 1969/82): in fact, on the evolutionary level the “safe haven” role of the
caregivers can increase the chance of survival. Later on, the child’s interactions with his or her
caregivers will determine whether or not the child will develop a sense of security: the “secure
base” deriving from positive interactions with caregivers helps the child to develop integrated
mental states and behaviors, creating a positive template for future interactions in the social world
(Schimmenti and Bifulco 2013). Indeed, secure attachment bonds help the immature brains of
children in organizing mental processes and behavioral states through the use of social biofeedback
from parents (Gergely and Watson 1996). In adolescence and adulthood, secure attachment leads
individuals to seek a safe haven and a secure base in close and intimate relationships; it combines
together with other motivational systems (especially the motivational systems related to caregiving,
sexuality and cooperation) for generating romantic attachments: this can be considered a part of the
biological endowment of our species, which allows it to persist over time (Diamond and Marrone
2003).
Classical depictions of attachment styles include three major classifications: secure
attachment, anxious attachment and avoidant attachment (Ainsworth et al. 1978; Bifulco and
Thomas 2012). As adults, those who are securely attached tend to enjoy intimate and close
relationships; they are also able to share feelings with others and to seek social support in case of
necessity. On the contrary, those showing anxious attachment have a high desire for closeness and
intimacy, but they are often ambivalent about their desire because they worry that people will not
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
4
reciprocate their feelings; on the opposite side, those with avoidant attachment are usually not
interested in close relationships and they are unwilling or unable to share thoughts and feelings with
others (Bartholomew and Horowitz 1991; Feeney and Noller 1991; Pace and Zappulla 2010;
Schimmenti and Bifulco, 2013). Some individuals who were exposed to interpersonal abuse in
childhood may also show disorganized or dual attachment, i.e. they could present unresolved
trauma and/or the conflicting characteristics of both anxious and avoidant attachment together with
an inconsistent pattern of responses to attachment-related stimuli (Bifulco and Thomas 2012; Di
Carlo et al. 2011; Main 1991; Schimmenti et al. 2012).
Psychopathy is a well-known personality disorder in the psychological and criminological
fields. It is characterized by a cluster of interpersonal, affective, lifestyle and antisocial features,
including egocentricity, grandiosity, deceptiveness, shallow emotions, lack of empathy, guilt, or
remorse, impulsivity, irresponsibility, and the ready violation of social and legal norms and
expectations (Hare 1998, 2003). Psychopathy has been demonstrated to be strictly related to both
violent crimes and recidivism (Rice and Harris 1992).
On a theoretical level, an important aspect of psychopathy concerns the inability to form and
maintain strong relational bonds, as observed in early psychological and sociological studies on this
construct (e.g., Cleckley 1976; Greenwald 1974; Henderson 1939; McCord and McCord 1964).
Several authors—mostly from the psychoanalytic tradition—have suggested that the psychopath’s
inability to form strong attachment bonds derives from childhood experiences of neglect, abuse,
deprivation, and inconsistent discipline (Akhtar 1992; Bird 2001); other authors have instead
emphasized the role played by genetic and temperamental influences in psychopathy—for instance,
the presence of callous-unemotional traits since childhood (Frick 2002). While the causal role of
childhood trauma in predisposing individuals to criminal behaviour has been demonstrated (e.g.
Maxfield and Widom 1996), the link between attachment experiences and psychopathy remains
controversial (DiLalla and Gottesman 1991).
The incapability of psychopaths to form attachment bonds is reflected in at least two items of
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
5
the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare 2003), the most used clinician-report measure for
the assessment of psychopathy. These PCL-R items are: “Item 11. Promiscuous sexual behavior”
and “Item 17. Many short-term marital relationships”. Interestingly, these two items were not
included in the two factor-four facets structure of the PCL-R, as they did not load to any of its
facets. This was in line with previous findings on PCL-R factor structure: several studies showed
that these items load differently across samples, thus generating inconsistent schemes of
associations with respect to PCL-R facets (e.g., Hare 1991; Cooke and Michie 2001); nonetheless,
item response theory analyses demonstrated that these items are informative and discriminating for
the construct of psychopathy (e.g. Hare 1991, 2003). Thus we might postulate theoretically that
these items address another important facet of psychopathy, since they could be considered typical
indicators of “devaluation of attachment bonds” (DAB). In fact, while there are other items in the
PCL-R that likely relates to adult attachment problems (e.g. “Item 8. Callous/Lack of empathy”),
the two DAB items reflect a socio-emotional detachment as observed in a crucial evolutionary
dimension, i.e. the sexual behaviors (Hare 1998). In the Darwinian evolutionary theory (Darwin
1859), behavioral traits survive within a population if they have individual or collective survival
value with regard to the surrounding environments. This applies also to sexual behaviors: human
males and females have evolved different, yet complementary mating strategies to guarantee the
reproduction of the specie (Duntley and Shackelford 2008). Every father and mother knows that
childrearing requires a lot of material, emotional, and financial efforts, and this might conflict with
the male’s reduced biological effort in the reproduction of his genes, which requires only sexual
intercourse. Eventually, a male’s mating strategy for reproduction could be having sex with as many
females as possible, but this will dramatically reduce the chance of survival in children: it should be
noted that for most of human history, a mateless female might be unable to provide for her own
material needs, even less for a baby she is carrying or children she is raising. Thus a male mate who
is able and willing to provide resources for his family could literally be a matter of life and death for
the woman and the baby (Miller 2013). Nature helps resolve this problem through the attachment
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
6
system. In fact, across human cultures, sexual behavior is consistently associated with pair bonding,
although sex is neither necessary nor sufficient for human pair bond formation (Fisher 1992).
Attachment, of course, is not a thing but a process that is biologically manifested by different
behaviors depending on the external (e.g., social) or internal (e.g., endocrine) context (Insel 1997).
Concerning pair bond formation and the subsequent romantic attachment, even these dimensions
involve mates’ seeking proximity and a response to separation, with sexuality playing a relevant
role in the process. In fact, neurobiological research shows that two neuropeptides, vasopressin and
oxytocin, are implicated in the central mediation of attachment: these neuropeptides are released
into plasma during human sexual behavior during the arousal and the resolution phases (Murphy et
al. 1987), and one might speculate that the coordinated release of these neuropeptides into specific
neural pathways during sexual intercourse facilitates the formation of a pair bond (Insel 1997;
Macdonald 2013).
Therefore, the impersonal sexual behavior and the indiscriminate mating strategies of
psychopaths could reflect an inability to form romantic relationships and a devaluation of
attachment bonds, which may constitute a core aspect in the psychopathic personality. In fact, on a
strictly clinical level, detachment is considered a crucial psychological domain which should be
taken into account for diagnosing the psychopathic variant of the Antisocial Personality Disorder in
the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association 2013). Moreover, the very origin of attachment
theory (Bowlby 1944, 1963/82) and the recent advances in affective neuroscience research (Schore
2003) suggest that the devaluation of attachment bonds derives from childhood interpersonal trauma
and its effect on the attachment system. In the light of the aforementioned considerations, we
conducted a mixed quantitative-qualitative study to explore the role of the attachment system in the
development of psychopathic personalities.
Method
Participants
Participants were 139 Caucasian inmates (83% males, n=116) ages 20 to 71 (M=43.0; SD=
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
7
11.1) who were convicted of violent crimes (murder, rape, child sexual abuse, armed robbery,
assault causing bodily harm). They were recruited from Italian prisons (75%, n=104) and forensic
psychiatric units (25%, n=35). Gender was similarly distributed across the two groups: 75% (87)
among those in prisons were males; similarly, 83% (29) among those in forensic psychiatric units
were males (χ2(1)=.01, p=.91, ns). Most of the participants were not married (82%, n=114) and had a
low level of education (74%, n=103, with 8 years or less of education). Participants were recruited
for a comprehensive research programme commissioned by the Italian Ministry of Justice and
aimed at the evaluation of psychopathic traits among Italian violent offenders (Caretti et al. 2011a).
Procedure
Sixteen researchers were involved in this national research programme and supplied ratings
for this study: they were fully trained in the administration and scoring of the PCL-R and had taken
Hare’s accredited training course. All participants were introduced to the purpose of the study, and
it was explained that data would be recorded according to a strict procedure to guarantee
confidentiality. They had to sign an informed consent prior to undertaking the study; additionally
they were told that they would not receive any legal or material benefit for their voluntary
participation in the study. Interviews took place individually in the room where prison educators
usually interview the inmates. For security reasons, a police officer was ready to appear in case of
necessity.
The study was conducted between June 2008 and June 2011: it was ethically cleared by the
Italian Ministry of Justice and by the prison’s internal ethics committee.
Measures
The Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R; Hare 2003) was used to assess the psychopatic
traits among the offenders. The PCL-R is a rating scale that uses a semistructured interview, case
history information, collateral information, and predetermined scoring criteria to rate 20 items on a
3-point scale, according to the extent they apply to a given individual. Eighteen of the items form
four dimensions: Interpersonal (e.g. grandiose sense of self worth); Affective (e.g. lack of remorse
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
8
or guilt); Lifestyle (e.g. irresponsibility); and Antisocial (e.g. juvenile delinquency). The
Interpersonal/Affective dimensions and the Lifestyle/Antisocial dimensions comprise, respectively,
the higher-order PCL-R Factors 1 and 2. The remaining two items (i.e. “Item 11. Promiscuous
sexual behavior”; “Item 17. Many short-term marital relationships”), which we postulated
theoretically as indicating a devaluation of attachment bonds, do not load on any facet but
contribute to the total PCL-R score. Total PCL-R scores can vary from 0 to 40, reflecting the degree
to which the individual matches the prototypical psychopath. In the present study, participants were
administered the entire PCL-R interview format recommended by Hare (2003), and detailed
collateral information (e.g. criminal records, psychiatric records, prison records) were available;
interviews were audio-recorded and lasted from less than 1 hour to more than 5 hours, depending on
the participants’ style of communication. Cronbach’s alpha was .85 for the PCL-R full scale (Factor
1=.82; Factor 2=.79; Interpersonal=.79; Affective=.78; Lifestyle=.74; Antisocial=.74); moreover,
the first author of this study rated 34 random cases (25%) blind to PCL-R scores supplied by other
researchers to test inter-rater reliability, obtaining an average intraclass coefficient correlation (ICC)
of .98 for the PCL-R total score, with ICC ranging from .89 (Affective) to .98 (Antisocial) for
factors and facets, and a mean Cohen’s k for individual items of .85 (SD=.10).
Furthermore, since the PCL-R interview entails several questions reflecting important
attachment issues (e.g. “What was your relationship like with your parents?”; “Were you ever
physically, sexually, or emotionally abused?”; “Have you ever felt deeply in love with anyone?”),
the interview transcripts of the 10 participants who obtained the highest scores on the measure were
analyzed in order to select the excerpts where attachment topics were discussed. Subsequently,
these excerpts were qualitatively analyzed following two classical rules applied to adult attachment
research with semi-structured interviews: (1) the analysis of states of mind regarding attachment,
based on the individual’s narratives about parental behavior and concordance with Grice’s maxims
(1975), as in the psychodynamic tradition of the Adult Attachment Interview (AAI; Main et al.
1985); and (2) the analysis of attachment styles based on behavioral attachment attitudes and the
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
9
ability to make and maintain close relationships, as in the psychosocial tradition of the Attachment
Style Interview (ASI; Bifulco et al. 2002). These two clinician-rated measures of adult attachment
can be considered complementary, since the first investigates the attachment representations,
whereas the latter investigates the attachment styles.
Specifically, in the AAI the coherence of the transcript is assumed to reflect the coherence of
mind with respect to attachment representations. Coherent discourse is based on what the linguistic
philosopher Grice (1975) called the ‘Cooperative Principle’, based on four maxims, namely (a)
Quality (be truthful and have evidence for what you say); (b) Quantity (be succinct, yet complete);
(c) Relevance (be relevant with respect to the topic of the discourse); (d) Manner (be clear, brief
and orderly). In the AAI, people with insecure attachment representations show incoherent
discourses when discussing their relationships with attachment figures during childhood, while
disorganized speech, lapses in the monitoring of discourse and failures in reasoning when
discussing experiences of loss or abuse testifies to attachment disorganization (Di Carlo et al. 2011;
Main 1991). Specifically, the analysis of transcripts allows the scoring of five scales of inferred
experiences with parents during childhood (i.e. loving, rejecting, involving/role reversal, neglect,
pressuring to achieve), and the interviewee’s way of discussing these experiences allows the scoring
of scales for states of mind (idealization, lack of recall, dismissing derogation, fear of loss,
involving/preoccupying anger, passivity of discourse, unresolved loss, unresolved abuse, coherence
of transcript, metacognitive monitoring, overall coherence of mind), on the basis of the
concordance with Grice’s maxims. Through these scales it is possible to categorize individuals into
four categories with respect to attachment representations: F (Free/Autonomous) individuals show a
coherent, internally consistent, non-defensive discourse, and they value attachment relationships
describing them in a balanced way and as influential; Ds (Dismissing) individuals show defensive
discourse, can openly devaluate the attachment relationships, and often violate the maxims of
quality and quantity, being too succinct in their answers and offering contradicted or unsupported
positive descriptions of attachment relationships; E (Preoccupied) individuals experience continuing
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
10
preoccupation with their own parents in the present, which is reflected in incoherent, often lengthy
and irrelevant sentences where all of Grice’s maxims are usually violated; U/D
(Unresolved/Disorganised) category can be applied in addition to any of the organized categories
described above, when the individual shows severe lapses in the monitoring of discourse resulting
from unresolved loss or abuse. Moreover, a CC (Cannot Classify) category is applied when the
analysis of the transcript shows competitive internal working models of attachment, and when a
very uncommon mix of dismissing and preoccupied strategies that produces highly incoherent
discourse is observed (Schimmenti et al., 2012).
In the ASI, overall adult attachment style is assessed by seven attitudinal scales related to
general aspects of insecure attachment (mistrust), specific facets of avoidant attachment (attitudinal
constraints on closeness; high self-reliance; dismissing anger) and specific facets of anxious
attachment (fear of rejection, fear of separation, high desire for engagement with others);
moreover, when an insecure attachment is observed, the ASI allows to assess the degree of
insecurity of attachment (‘marked’, ‘moderate’ or ‘mild’ levels), based on the individual’s ability to
make and maintain close relationships. The styles reflected included Secure, Anxious (enmeshed or
fearful) or Avoidant (angry-dismissive or withdrawn); thus insecure attachment styles (i.e. the
Avoidant style and the Anxious style ) are rated in contrast to Secure style. Also, a
Dual/Disorganised classification of attachment style is applied when the individual’s answers show
conflicting attachment attitudes that indicate a severe instability or a quick succession in the
organization of attachment styles, e.g. these individuals may show during the same interview high
fear of separation and high dismissing anger (Bifulco et al. 2002; Bifulco and Thomas 2012).
Data analysis
Quantitative analysis was performed examining the associations between the two PCL-R
“devaluation of attachment bonds” (DAB) items (“Item 11. Promiscuous sexual behavior” and
“Item 17. Many short-term marital relationships”) and PCL-R total score (with DAB item
removed), as well as its factors and facet scores. Also, a logistic regression analysis was performed
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
11
to check whether the two lack of attachment items significantly predicted the classification of
participants into the psychopathic (PCL-R30) versus non-psychopathic (PCL-R<30) groups.
Qualitative analysis was performed on excerpts of transcripts of the 10 participants who
resulted in the highest PCL-R scores. For each transcript, the excerpts concerning attachment issues
were selected independently by two of the authors (AS and VC), with consensus team checks for
reliability blind to PCL-R scores of the participants. By means of these excerpts, it was possible to
individuate the developmental adversities experienced by these participants. Moreover, two of the
authors (AS and GDC) independently analyzed these excerpts according to the established criteria
for scoring the AAI states of mind regarding attachment (on 1 to 9 scales, consistent with the
procedure for AAI scoring) and the ASI attachment styles (on 1 to 4 scales, consistent with the
procedure for ASI scoring), applying the AAI and ASI scales where appropriate. Satisfactory ICC
between the two raters was obtained for all the scales (from .70 to .95); also, disagreements between
the two raters were always in the range of ±3 for the AAI scales and ±1 for the ASI scales, and there
was only a case in which the differences in ratings generated two different AAI classifications (this
concerned scores on the AAI scale about unresolved loss in the fifth case presented in Table 2; the
disagreement was quickly resolved after one of the raters specified to the other the excerpt of the
transcript qualifying that case as unresolved/disorganised).
Results
PCL-R scores were normally distributed in the sample (no significant skewness or kurtosis).
The PCL-R average score was 21.69 (SD=8.18); Factor 1 mean score was 10.09 (SD=4.08) and
Factor 2 mean score was 9.92 (SD=4.81). In our study, male participants scored slightly higher than
female participants (M=22.26, SD=8.03, and M=18.83, SD=8.52, respectively: t(137)=1.85, p=.07).
This trend in difference derived from higher Factor 1 scores among males (t(137)=2.33, p=.02),
whereas Factor 2 scores were similar across groups (t(137)=0.77, p=.45, ns). Twenty-four participants
(17% of the entire sample) showed high levels of psychopathy (PCL-R Total score of 30 or above)
according to the most used PCL-R scoring interpretation criteria (Hare, 2003). Among them, there
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
12
were 22 males and 2 females (Fisher’s exact test p=.37, ns)
The mean score of PCL-R Item 11 was 1.12 (SD=.90), that of Item 17 was .56 (SD=.71).
PCL-R Item 11 and 17 (the DAB items) were intercorrelated between them (r=.25, p=.003;
Cronbach’s alpha=.40), with the size of correlation suggesting that the two DAB items assess
different features of attachment behaviors. Table 1 shows the Pearson’s r correlations between the
DAB items and the PCL-R total score (with the DAB items removed), factor scores and facet
scores. As expected, the sum of DAB items was highly intercorrelated with each of the two items it
comprised (r=.84 with Item 11 and r=.73 with Item 17, respectively).
(Table 1 about here)
The sum of the DAB items significantly and positively predicted the PCL-R total scores with
DAB items removed (AdjR2=.32; F(1,137)=66.85, p<.001; β=.57, t=8.17, p <.001), the PCL-R factor
scores (AdjR2=.14, β=.38, p<.001, and AdjR2=.15, β=.39, p<.001 for the Interpersonal-Affective
and the Social Deviance factors, respectively), and its facet scores (with variance explained ranging
from 7% of the lifestyle facet to 13% of antisocial facet, all p<.01). The two items show differential
associations with PCL-R scales: both of them predicted the PCL-R total score (β=.43 for Item 11
and β=.29 for Item 17, both p<.001), the Social Deviance factor (β=.25, p=.003 for Item 11, and
β=.24, p=.003 for Item 17, respectively), and the Antisocial facet (β=.30, p<.001 for Item 11, and
β=.17, p=0.034 for Item 17, respectively); only item 11 predicted the Interpersonal-Affective factor
(β=.35, p<.001) and its related facets (β=.29, p=.001 for both the Interpersonal and the Affective
facets); and only item 17 predicted the Lifestyle facet (β=.24, p=.006).
The sum of the DAB items also predicted the classification of participants into the group who
scored 30 or above on the PCL-R (Pseudo-R2=.30; Wald(1)=19.25, O-R=3.00, p<.001), with a
goodness-of-fit of 83.5%. Another logistic regression analysis showed that both of the two items
contributed to predicting the classification of participants into the psychopathic group (Pseudo-
R2=.35, p<.001), with item 11 giving the strongest contribution (Wald(1)=10.03, Exp(B)=8.24,
p=.002), while item 17 showing only a weak predictive ability (Wald(1)=3.82, Exp(B)=1.92,
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
13
p=.049).
The 10 participants who obtained the highest PCL-R scores in the entire sample (M=35.8;
SD=1.55) also obtained very high scores on the DAB items: mean score of Item 11 was 1.90
(SD=.31), that of Item 17 was 1.60 (SD=.70). As expected, their scores on the DAB items were
higher than those of the other participants (Item 11: t(137)=2.51, p=.01; Item 17: t(137)=4.07, p<.001),
and this result remained consistent even when tests for differences were applied only with respect to
individuals who showed at least a medium degree of psychopathy (PCL-R total scores of 20 or
above) according to the PCL-R interpretation criteria (Item 11: t(87)=2.82, p=.01; Item 17: t(87)=2.77,
p=.02).
Results of qualitative analyses, summarized in Table 2, showed that none of these ten
participants could be classified as having a secure attachment: their discussion of attachment topics
was always rated as insecure with both the AAI and ASI criteria, whose independent classifications
demonstrated a total concordance for the organized attachment strategy (Secure/Free;
Anxious/Preoccupied; Dismissing/Avoidant). Moreover, there were indicators of dual and/or
disorganised attachment in 7 cases—i.e., transcripts showed competitive internal working models of
attachment including both anxious/preoccupied and avoidant/dismissing attitudes, and/or
unresolved abuse and unresolved loss.
(Table 2 about here)
When looking at adverse childhood experiences in this subsample, the majority of the
participants (7/10) have also experienced multiple and severe relational trauma: these are
considered as risk factors able to threat the attachment system (Bifulco and Moran 1998), and
included loss of a parent, living for more than a year in residential care, extreme neglect, rejection,
physical, psychological and sexual abuse from parents, witnessing violence in the household, and so
on.
For example, subject n. 9 in Table 2 was a violent offender who killed three women. He
showed disorganized speech and failures in the monitoring of discourse related to loss and abuse in
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
14
a number of sentences, including when he discussed the death of his father who constantly
humiliated him when he was a child, forcing him to show his hypospadias in front of many female
relatives. He showed high levels of fear of rejection and desire for engagement with others, as he
stated that he suffered very much and thought many times about suicide due to his inability to have
many friends and to be accepted by women, but at the same time there were disturbing sentences in
the PCL-R excerpts, such as “I can do everything I want”, which denotes a very extreme level of
self-reliance, or “Women are useless; the most I’ve met in my life were only bitches”, which
denotes an angry-dismissive attitude.
Another subject (n. 4 in Table 2) was a highly manipulating and seductive woman who was
severely exposed to parental violence during her childhood, after which she went to a residential
care structure where she was sexually abused. As an adolescent, she developed indiscriminate
sexual behaviors and even psychotic symptoms, and eventually she killed a relative. She showed
attachment disorganization when discussing the experience of sexual abuse, and even rapid
fluctuation of attachment representations: she idealized her father who had neglected her and was
violent toward her mother, while she talked about the relationship with her mother showing
indicators of deep enmeshment and involving preoccupation. She was very fearful and anxious
about close and intimate relationships, showing high levels of mistrust (“I’m sure that people who
were close to me did not like me. They used me but they did not like me. Even my mother did not
like me, even my former mates did not like me. There’s something essentially wrong with me”), but
at the same time she was withdrawn in her relational attitudes, stating that she did not need anyone
because she loved to stay alone and she felt good about that.
As we have stated before, even when there was no evidence of overt neglect of abuse, the
discussion of attachment representations and attachment attitudes in this subsample was always
scored as severely insecure. For example, the subject n. 2 in Table 2, one of the two “top- scorers”
of the PCL-R, was an infamous killer and rapist who grew up in a wealthy family where he always
got everything he wanted. He clearly showed derogation of attachment, an indicator of highly
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
15
dismissive, avoidant attachment. When the interviewer asked about his most infamous crime during
his youth (together with his friends, he raped two girls for an entire day and killed one of them
while the other eventually survived), he shockingly answered: “When you speak about that episode,
I have to say that it was absolutely normal for me, I didn’t even remember, it was nothing unusual...
These two girls seemed like nothing to me. It isn’t the truth that they were nothing to me because
they were suburbanites... All bullshit… They seemed like nothing to me because I considered even
my mother nothing, even my brother nothing, even people living in my district nothing. I lived my
own world, in my own idea of myself. I thought that was what I had to do”. He also showed
extreme self-reliance: for instance, when asked about his experiences in prison, he answered that
now he was suffering a bit for being incarcerated, but that imprisonment was even “funny” at the
beginning (“The first time was fun. I was young, but already a little don. So I found a young boy
who was quite pretty and I ordered him to give me a blowjob. He obeyed.”).
Results of qualitative analysis therefore suggest that many psychopathic offenders show
insecure or even disorganized attachment styles and representations, and that in many cases their
states of mind regarding attachment and their adult attachment attitudes have been generated by
early negative experiences and disrupted interactions with caregivers.
Discussion
The findings of the study show that the attachment system is an important variable to take into
account for understanding psychopathy. The PCL-R items we argued denoting devaluation of
attachment bonds (promiscuous sexual behavior and many marital relationships) were indeed able
to predict PCL-R scores in the sample; moreover, these two items showed differential associations
with PCL-R factor and facets scores, suggesting that both of them are relevant for understanding the
role played by attachment (at least as it is reflected in sexual behavior and mating strategies) in the
development of psychopathic personality. In detail, the promiscuous sexual behaviour showed the
strongest associations with the interpersonal and affective traits of psychopathy, whereas the many
marital relationships were more related to the lifestyle dimension of psychopathy, with its parasitic,
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
16
irresponsible and impulsive traits.
The investigation of attachment experiences in the subsample of the most severe psychopaths,
who showed very high average scores on the items denoting devaluation of attachment bonds,
further suggested that insecure and disorganized attachment styles and representations are very
common among violent offenders, and that adverse childhood environments likely play a relevant
role in the development of psychopathic personalities, as indicated by early studies on psychopathy
and confirmed by some recent empirical evidence (Craparo et al. 2013; Frodi et al. 2001; Lang et al.
2002).
In summary, it is possible to assume that there are cases of psychopathic personality whose
origins are rooted in the failure of the attachment system during childhood and their negative effects
on self and relationships (Caretti et al. 2012; De Zulueta 2009). It is likely that severe experiences
of loss, abuse and neglect from parents can combine with temperamental traits (e.g. the callous-
unemotional traits or the low reward dependency), deeply damaging the developing brain, the
attachment system, and the possibility to feel and share affective states (Schimmenti 2012; Schore
and Schore 2008).
The findings of our study must be read in light of several limitations. Although our results can
be considered in line with recent findings that have extensively illustrated the role played by a
negative quality of attachment on the onset of maladaptive development, the recent position no
longer conceives quality of attachment as a ‘totalizing’ construct that alone can explain the
trajectories of individual development, but in a less deterministic position, as an important factor
among others (Guzzo et al. 2013). In this sense, further research should be conducted to study those
psychosocial factors that, in combination with the failure of the attachment system, can lead to
criminal behavior (Schimmenti et al., 2014). Moreover, this study would have benefit from external
measures of psychopathy and attachment: this could help in discriminating the unique and shared
contribution of the DAB items in the assessment of attachment issues and psychopathic traits.
Lastly, the authors who scored the AAI and the ASI scales have participated in the official courses
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
17
of these measures and are reliable in their scoring; however, the use of excerpts from PCL-R
transcripts for scoring the AAI and the ASI scales, even if theoretically possible, should be viewed
as preliminary, and future studies using the full AAI and ASI interviews are needed to replicate
results and generalize findings to the criminal population. Conversely, this study also has a number
of strengths, including the mixed methodology that allowed a deeper illustration of the role played
by attachment problems in psychopathy, and the exploratory use of two complementary methods of
transcript analysis to investigate these problems. In fact, to the best of our knowledge, this is the
first time that the AAI and the ASI criteria for assessing attachment were used together, resulting in
highly concordant classifications.
Conclusions
In spite of its limitations, this study showed that exploring past and current attachment
relationships can result in particular importance for understanding the psychological origins of
violent behaviors. Furthermore, the present study may have important implications for the
development of preventative strategies and intervention programmes for violent offenders. In fact,
results showed that most of the participants who obtained the highest PCL-R scores also reported
several childhood adversities and were classified as having disorganized attachment; therefore, it is
possible that treatments addressing disorganised states of mind and childhood trauma during
detention might reduce the risk of violent behaviors and recidivism; also, a close investigation of
attachment styles and representations could be particularly relevant in the forensic assessment of
offenders who committed violent crimes, especially for criminal offences where the dimension of
romantic attachment is likely to be involved, as with stalking behaviors (Caretti et al. 2011b); on a
more social level, our findings support the idea that a combined assessment of attachment styles and
psychopathic traits among offenders can be crucial for assessing the risk of recidivism and may help
in the choice of the best treatment, rehabilitation or resocialization programme for a specific
offender.
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
18
References
Ainsworth, M.D.S., Blehar, M.C., Waters, E., Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A
psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Akhtar, S. (1992). Broken structures: Severe personality disorders and their treatment. Northvale,
NJ: Jason Aronson.
American Psychiatric Association (2013). DSM-5. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders – Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
Bartholomew, K., Horowitz, L. M. (1991). Attachment styles among young adults: A test of a four
category model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 226–244.
Bifulco, A., & Thomas, G. (2012). Understanding adult attachment in family relationships:
Research, assessment and intervention. London, UK: Routledge
Bifulco, A., Moran, P. M., Ball, C., Bernazzani, O. (2002). Adult attachment style. I:Its relationship
to clinical depression. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37, 50-59.
Bird, H. R. (2001). Psychoanalytic perspectives on theories regarding the development of antisocial
behavior. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 29,
57–71.
Bowlby, J. (1944). Forty-four juvenile thieves: Their character and home-life. International Journal
of Psychoanalysis, 25, 19-52.
Bowlby, J. (1969/82). Attachment and loss, Vol. 1: Attachment. London, UK: Hogarth Press.
Caretti, V., Ciulla, S., Schimmenti, A. (2011b). Stalking: definition of the construct,
phenomenological facets, and related behaviors. Italian Journal of Psychopathology, 17, 5-
12.
Caretti, V., Ciulla, S., Schimmenti, A. (2012). La diagnosi differenziale nella valutazione della
psicopatia e del comportamento violento [Differential diagnosis in the assessment of
psychopathy and violent behaviors]. Rivista Sperimentale di Freniatria, 136, 139-157.
Caretti, V., Manzi, G. S., Schimmenti, A., Seragusa, L. (2011a). PCL-R. Hare Psychopathy
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
19
Checklist-Revised [Italian edition]. Firenze, IT: OS Giunti.
Cleckley, H. (1976). The mask of sanity (Vth ed.). St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Cooke, D.J., Michie, C. (2001). Refining the construct of psychopathy: Towards a hierarchical
model. Psychological Assessment, 13, 171-188.
Craparo, G., Schimmenti, A., Caretti, V. (2013). Traumatic experiences in childhood and
psychopathy: a study on a sample of violent offenders from Italy. European Journal of
Psychotraumatology: 21471. DOI: 10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.21471
Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of
favoured races in the struggle for life. London, UK: John Murray.
Di Carlo, G., Schimmenti, A., Caretti, V. (2011). Uso clinico dell’Adult Attachment Interview: un
approfondimento [The clinical use of the Adult Attachment Interview: a closer look].
Psichiatria e Psicoterapia, 30, 181-197.
Diamond, N., Marrone, M. (2003). Attachment and intersubjectivity. London, UK: Whurr
Publishers.
DiLalla, L.F., Gottesman, I.I. (1991). Biological and genetic contributors to violence-Widom’s
untold tale. Psychological Bulletin, 109, 125-129.
Duntley, J. D., & Shackelford, T. K. (2008). Evolutionary forensic psychiatry: Darwinian
foundations of crime and law. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Feeney, J.A., Noller, P. (1991). Attachment style and verbal descriptions of romantic partners.
Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 8, 187–215.
Fisher, H. (1992). The anatomy of love. New York, NY: WW Norton.
Frick, P. J. (2002). Juvenile psychopathy from a developmental perspective: Implications for
construct development and use in forensic assessments. Law and Human Behavior, 26, 247-
253.
Frodi, A., Dernevik, M., Sepa, A., Philipson, J., and Bragesjö, M. (2001). Current attachment
representations of incarcerated offenders varying in degree of psychopathy. Attachment &
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
20
Human Development, 3, 269–283.
Gergely, G., Watson, J.S. (1996). The social biofeedback theory of parental affect-mirroring. The
development of self-awareness and self-control in infancy. International Journal of
Psychoanalysis, 77, 1181-1212.
Greenwald, H. (1974). Treatment of the psychopath. In H. Greenwald (Ed.), Active psychotherapy
(pp. 363-377). New York, NY: Jason Aronson.
Grice, H.P. (1975). Logic and conversation. In P. Cole and J.L. Morgan (Eds.), Syntax and
semantics III: Speech acts (pp. 41–58). New York, NY: Academic Press.
Guzzo, G., Lo Cascio, V., Pace, U. (2013). The role of individual and relational characteristics on
alcohol consumption among Italian adolescents: a discriminant function analysis. Child
Indicators Research, 6, 605–618
Hare, R.D. (1998). Without conscience: The disturbing world of psychopaths among us. New York,
NY: Guilford Press.
Hare, R.D. (1991). Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R). Toronto, ON: Multi-Health
Systems.
Hare, R.D. (2003). Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised (PCL-R) - Second Edition. Technical
Manual. Toronto, ON: Multi-Health Systems.
Henderson, D. K. (1939). Psychopathic states. New York, NY: WW Norton.
Insel, T. R. (1997). A neurobiological basis of social attachment. American Journal of Psychiatry,
154, 726-735.
Lang, S., Klinteberg, B., Alm, P.O. (2002). Adult psychopathy and violent behavior in males with
early neglect and abuse. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 106, 93-100.
Macdonald, K. S. (2013). Sex, receptors, and attachment: a review of individual factors influencing
response to oxytocin. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 6:194. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2012.00194.
Main, M. (1991). Metacognitive knowledge, metacognitive monitoring and singular (coherent)
versus multiple (incoherent) models of attachment: Findings and directions for future
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
21
research. In C. M. Parkes, J. Stevenson-Hinde, and P. Marris (Eds.), Attachment across life
cycle (pp.127-159). London-New York: Routledge.
Main, M., Kaplan, N., and Cassidy, J. (1985). Security in infancy, childhood and adulthood: a move
to the level of rappresentation. Monographs of the society for research in child development,
50(1-2), 66-104.
Maxfield, M. G., Widom, C. S. (1996). The cycle of violence: Revisited six years later. Archives of
Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 150, 390–395.
McCord, W., & McCord, J. (1964). The psychopath: An essay on the criminal mind. Princeton, NJ:
Van Nostrand.
Miller, L. (2013). Sexual offenses against children: Patterns and motives. Aggression and Violent
Behavior ,18, 506–519.
Murphy, M. R., Seckl, J. R., Burton, S., Checkley, S. A., Lightman, S. L. (1987). Changes in
oxytocin and vasopressin secretion during sexual activity in men. The Journal of Clinical
Endocrinology and Metabolism, 65, 738–741.
Pace, U., Zappulla, C. (2010). Relations between suicidal ideation, depression, and emotional
autonomy from parents in adolescence. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 19, 747-756.
Pace, U., Zappulla, C. (2013). Detachment from parents, problem behaviors, and the moderating
role of parental support among Italian adolescents. Journal of Family Issues, 34, 768–783.
Rice, M.E., Harris, G.T. (1992). A comparison of criminal recidivism among schizophrenic and
non-schizophrenic offenders. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 15, 397-408.
Schimmenti, A. (2012). Unveiling the hidden self: developmental trauma and pathological shame.
Psychodynamic Practice, 18, 181-194.
Schimmenti, A., Bifulco, A. (2013). Linking lack of care in childhood to anxiety disorders in
emerging adulthood: The role of attachment styles. Child and Adolescent Mental Health.
DOI: 10.1111/camh.12051.
Schimmenti, A., Caprì, C., La Barbera, D., Caretti, V. (2014). Mafia and psychopathy. Criminal
ATTACHMENT AND PSYCHOPATHY!
!
22
Behaviour and Mental Health. DOI:10.1002/cbm.1902.
Schimmenti, A., Guglielmucci, F., Barbasio, C., Granieri, A. (2012). Attachment disorganization
and dissociation in virtual worlds: a study on problematic Internet use among players of
online role-playing games. Clinical Neuropsychiatry, 9, 195-202.
Schore, A.N. (2003). Affect dysregulation and disorders of the self. New York, NY: WW Norton.
Schore, J.R., Schore, A.N. (2008). Modern attachment theory: The central role of affect regulation
in development and treatment. Clinical Social Work Journal, 36, 9-20.
... Securely attached adults exhibit trust in the availability and responsiveness of their attachment figures and they seek and value intimate relationships with others while insecure attachments are characterized by two distinct attachment dimensions: anxiety and avoidance (Brennan & Shaver, 1998). Avoidant individuals view others as undependable and tend to rely on themselves for personal needs, avoid forming intimate relationships or they appear to be emotionally uninvolved in their interpersonal relationships, preferring distance and independence (Christian et al., 2017;Schimmenti et al., 2014). In contrast, individuals high on the anxiety dimension have a negative view of self and because of the fear of abandonment the main attachment goal is proximity, closeness, while demonstrating high levels of anxiety regarding other's availability and maintaining intimacy with others (Christian et al., 2017;Schimmenti et al., 2014). ...
... Avoidant individuals view others as undependable and tend to rely on themselves for personal needs, avoid forming intimate relationships or they appear to be emotionally uninvolved in their interpersonal relationships, preferring distance and independence (Christian et al., 2017;Schimmenti et al., 2014). In contrast, individuals high on the anxiety dimension have a negative view of self and because of the fear of abandonment the main attachment goal is proximity, closeness, while demonstrating high levels of anxiety regarding other's availability and maintaining intimacy with others (Christian et al., 2017;Schimmenti et al., 2014). ...
... The attachment framework has been adopted by a variety of researchers in an effort to understand the developmental and environmental risk factors as well as the etiological origins of psychopathic traits (Conradi et al., 2016;Hong et al., 2016;Kyranides et al., 2021;Saltaris, 2002;Schimmenti et al., 2014). Studies have proposed that early maladaptive and insecure child-parent attachment (resulting from maternal deprivation, adverse childhood experiences) give rise to dysfunctional internal working models characterized by mistrust, lack of empathy and affect, which in turn increase the likelihood of the emergence of psychopathic traits (Blanchard & Lyons, 2016;Kyranides et al., 2021;Saltaris, 2002;Schimmenti et al., 2014). ...
Article
Insecure attachment has been linked with psychopathic traits however, the precise relationship between the avoidance and anxiety attachment dimensions and primary and secondary psychopathic traits needs further research. Furthermore, the use of cognitive emotion regulation strategies (CERS) in individuals with psycho-pathic traits has been increasing, however, little is known about the unique association of adaptive and mal-adaptive CERS in relation to primary and secondary psychopathic traits. This study aimed to explore the relationship between adult insecure attachment dimensions and CERS with both primary and secondary traits in a non-clinical sample of 338 adults ranging between 18 and 70 years of age (231 of which were females). Findings indicated that having an avoidant attachment, blaming others and positively reappraising situations contributed to the prediction of primary psychopathic traits, while putting into perspective was identified as a protective factor. In contrast, having an anxious attachment and catastrophizing arose as risk factors for secondary psychopathic traits. Findings highlight the need to evaluate psychopathic variants as heterogeneous constructs, as both attachment dimensions and CERS uniquely relate to primary and secondary psychopathic traits.
... A dimensional framework implicates the role that environmental factors play in the manifestation of a disorder; individuals are not simply "born psychopathic." In support of this, differences in parental harshness and warmth have been found to be related to child callous-unemotional (CU) traits over and above genetically mediated effects (Waller, Hyde, Klump & Burt, 2018), and experiences of abuse and disorganized attachment are reported in severely psychopathic adult offenders (Schimmenti et al., 2014). Advances in neuroscience further suggest that constitutional influences will both shape and be shaped by environmental influences (Skeem et al., 2011). ...
... Short-time marital relationships and promiscuous sex may as well communicate the opposite, that is, enmeshment or attempted relationship that is shame driven. Both, however, reflect devaluation of attachment bonds (Schimmenti et al., 2014), thus attachment needs. It is because of this lack of, yet simultaneous, need for attachment that psychopathic individuals initiate relationships (DMP sector 1) and withdraw from them (sector 2). ...
... The process of protecting the self is thus dynamic (state), per the DMP, not static and inactive (trait), as explained by the PCL-R. For further illustrative purposes, Schimmenti et al. (2014) present a case of a psychopathic woman with rapid fluctuations of attachment representations. ...
Article
Full-text available
This article presents the Dynamic Model of Psychopathy (DMP) and its theoretical framework. The DMP portrays the process behind the “mask of sanity” that Cleckley (1941) described, by conceptualizing the way in which shame contributes to dynamic shifts in extreme and conflicting experiences, strategies, and behaviors (narcissistic compensation) associated with basic needs for community and agency in psychopathic individuals. If the narcissistic compensation is sufficiently strong, the shame of the psychopathic individual is unconscious (demarcation for severe psychopathy characterized by grandiosity). As such, the DMP specifies the agreed-upon and loosely defined affective and interpersonal core of psychopathy, providing a framework for explaining, assessing, and treating this dynamic interplay of affective-interpersonal, conscious and unconscious states. The DMP further offers a causal perspective (lack of community and agency; attachment needs) for the development of psychopathy, and reveals the close bond between the vulnerability and the destructiveness of psychopathic individuals. Clinical observations and empirical studies support the DMP and its theoretical framework, constituting an integrated construct of psychopathy. Further validation of the DMP is, however, needed.
... For example, disorganized and preoccupied attachment styles due to childhood experiences of parental rejection and/or abuse are commonly associated with adult narcissistic/psychopathic aggression and heightened displays of negative affect (Craparo et al., 2013). Therefore, aggressive behavior serves to confirm one's views of others as threatening and indicates difficulties in self-regulation that are present in both adult narcissism and psychopathy (Ronningstam, 2017;Schimmenti et al., 2014). Conversely, avoidant/dismissive attachments developed in childhood serve to confirm grandiose views of oneself in adulthood since one develops an over-reliance on oneself, which confirms the view that one is special (Brennan & Shaver, 1998;Craig, Gray & Snowden, 2013). ...
... Conversely, avoidant/dismissive attachments developed in childhood serve to confirm grandiose views of oneself in adulthood since one develops an over-reliance on oneself, which confirms the view that one is special (Brennan & Shaver, 1998;Craig, Gray & Snowden, 2013). Experiences of abuse are particularly problematic, since both adult psychopaths and narcissists who suffer abuse during childhood and consequently have insecure attachment styles, experience difficulties in emotional, behavioral and cognitive selfregulation (see Schimmenti et al., 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Existing trait-based and cognitive models of psychopathy and narcissism fail to provide a comprehensive framework that explains the continuum between sub-clinical and clinical presentations of those personalities and to predict associated maladaptive behavior in different social and cultural contexts. In this article, a socio-cognitive information-processing framework for narcissism and psychopathy (SCIPNP) is proposed to explain how psychopathic and narcissistic schemata influence the activation of psychological processes that interact with social and cultural contexts to display those personalities at a sub-clinical level. The proposed framework enables us to predict maladaptive behavior and to explain how sub-clinical narcissists and psychopaths develop personality disorders. The SCIPNP emphasizes the role of culture in shaping motives, appraisals, behavior and affect. Recommendations for future research are provided.
... It is applied when globally competitive discourse strategies appear within the interview. For example, when the interviewee shows contradictory States of Mind with Respect to Attachment, with a mixture of Ds and E characteristics, that produces a collapse of coherence across the discourse [39]. These strategies have been interpreted as a mean for both maximizing and minimizing the expression of attachment system [33]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction: Attachment theory has been linked with the caregiving system, acting as a drive for a mother's behavior towards her offspring. The most dramatic consequence of distress following maternity is filicide. Despite this, only few studies addressed the attachment models of women who committed filicide, and very little provided comparisons with mothers diagnosed with post-partum depression. Objective: We described the socio-demographic and psychopathological characteristics of mothers who committed filicide. Our aim was to detect differences in the attachment models between mothers who committed filicide, mothers with post-partum depression and control mothers. Participants and setting: We recruited 19 women who committed filicide (group F) along with 52 women with post-partum depression (group D), and 23 control mothers (group C). Methods: We administered a semi-structured interview on socio-demographic aspects and psychiatric history along with the Adult Attachment Interview. We performed an ANOVA, a post-hoc analysis and a logistic regression. Results: The logistic regression showed a higher prevalence of Dismissing and Disorganized attachments in women of group F compared with group C (p = 0.002, p = 0.007). Dismissing attachment was also overrepresented in group D vs group C (p = 0.012). Interestingly, women of group F showed a Preoccupied/entangled attachment to a lesser extent than those of group D, reaching a borderline significance (p = 0.056). Conclusions: Disorganized and Dismissing models of attachment are prevalent in women who committed filicide compared with mothers with post-partum depression and controls, while other models of attachment are less frequent. Therefore, attachment could be taken into consideration to define the risk for committing filicide.
... Evidence suggests that males may be more vulnerable to attachment disorders and externalizing behaviors in response to ELA, both of which have important implications for later behaviors that may influence parenting, including aggression, substance misuse, and mental illness. Of significant concern is the increased risk for disorganized attachment among males exposed to ELA, as this is not only associated with externalizing behaviors, but also a risk for later psychopathology and child maltreatment behaviors (Fearon et al., 2010;Fulu et al., 2017;Nakash-Eisikovits et al., 2002;Schimmenti et al., 2014), Also of concern is the potential for externalizing and aggressive behaviors in childhood to lead to later violence, including intimate partner violence (IPV) and child maltreatment, thus perpetuating cycles of family trauma and adversity. In a multi-country study conducted by the United Nations, all forms of childhood trauma (e.g. ...
Article
Fathers have an important and unique influence on child development, but influences on fathers’ parenting have been vastly understudied in the scientific literature. In particular, very little empirical research exists on the effects of early life adversity (ELA; e.g. childhood maltreatment, parental separation) on later parenting among fathers. In this review, we draw from both the human and non-human animal literature to examine the effects of ELA, specifically among males, in the following areas: 1) neurobiology and neurocognitive functioning, 2) hormones and hormone receptors, 3) gene-environment interactions and epigenetics, and 4) behavior and development. Based on these findings, we present a conceptual model to describe the biological and behavioral pathways through which exposure to ELA may influence parenting among males, with a goal of guiding future research and intervention development in this area. Empirical studies are needed to improve understanding of the relationship between ELA and father’s parenting, inform the development of paternal and biparental interventions, and prevent intergenerational transmission of ELA.
... Detachment and disinhibition appeared to uniquely characterize psychopathy. These findings are consistent with the callous and impulsive traits that are considered part and parcel of psychopathy (Hare & Neumann, 2008;Paulhus & Williams, 2002), as well as with the inability or unwillingness to form emotional bonds that is related to severe psychopathic traits in both men and women (Schimmenti et al., 2014). It should be noted that the positive association between psychopathy and detachment is in contrast with the DSM-5 specifier, which defines psychopathy as characterized by low levels of withdrawal (from the detachment domain; APA, 2013). ...
Article
Objective: The Dark Triad (DT) traits (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy) have been linked with both alexithymia and maladaptive personality domains (negative affectivity, detachment, disinhibition, antagonism, psychoticism) comprised in the alternative model of personality disorder (AMPD) of the DSM 5. However, the differential associations of DT with the AMPD personality domains need to be further examined in research with homogeneous samples, in order to improve our understanding of malevolent personality traits. Method: We examined the associations between maladaptive personality domains, DT traits and alexithymia factors in 420 women aged between 18 and 66 years old. Results: Despite uniform bivariate associations, distinct profiles emerged from multiple regression analyses, in line with conceptual expectations. Antagonism was the only common positive predictor of all DT traits. Negative affectivity was positively associated with narcissism, but negatively with psychopathy and Machiavellianism. Psychopathy was related to high detachment and disinhibition. Alexithymia exerted a mediating effect in the association between AMPD domains and both psychopathy (positively) and Machiavellianism (negatively). Conclusions: Findings showed differential personality profiles associated with the DT traits in women based on maladaptive traits that characterize personality pathology, with specific emotional mechanisms that may link maladaptive personality domains and the three DT components among women.
... De même, il existe des associations avec la schizophrénie (Korver-Nierberg et al., 2014 ;Gumley et al., 2014) et les comportements anti-sociaux (e.g. Schimmenti et al., 2014 ;Saltaris et al., 2002). ...
... The results of our mediation analyses were in line with the findings of a recent study from our group (Van Wijk-Herbrink et al., 2018), indicating that disconnection and rejection schemata are linked to externalising T A B L E 1 Descriptive statistics for the disconnection and rejection schemata, externalising schema modes and healthy schema modes in the offending behaviour group and typically developing boys -7 behaviours through activated states of anger, impulsivity and indiscipline. Disconnection and rejection schemata are primary schemata related to adverse attachment experiences and trauma and have been proposed as key to the understanding of the development and persistence of externalising behaviour problems (Greenwald, 2002;Schimmenti et al., 2014). The activation of disconnection and rejection schemata is associated with intense feelings of loss, mistrust, failure and fear. ...
Article
Full-text available
Background Evidence‐based treatments in routine clinical practice often fail to achieve or sustain amelioration of severe behaviour problems in adolescents. Better understanding of mechanisms underlying such severe behaviour problems could improve treatments. Underlying schemata and schema modes may play an important role. Aims To compare early maladaptive schemata, schema modes and behaviour problems in adolescent boys showing disruptive and offending behaviours with those in typically developing boys. We hypothesised a relationship between disconnection and rejection schemata on the one hand and behaviour problems (including offending) on the other in adolescent boys with disruptive behaviour disorders. We also hypothesised that this offending group would differ significantly from typically developing boys on these measures and that schema modes would mediate relationships between schemata and overt behaviours. Method In this cross‐sectional study, fifty‐five 12–19‐year‐old boys with disruptive behaviour disorders referred to an in‐ or out‐patient clinic were matched to fifty‐five typically developing boys from a previously generated school sample. Group differences on self‐reported schema related measures and externalising behaviour measures were compared using t‐tests. Mediation analyses were performed to assess the mediating role of schema modes in the relation between schemata and behaviour. Results Boys diagnosed with disruptive behaviour disorders and engaging in offending behaviours had higher scores on externalising modes and lower scores on healthy modes than the typically developing boys. There were no differences between these groups, however, in disconnection and rejection schemata. In the offending behaviour group, externalising modes mediated the relationship between disconnection and rejection schemata and externalising behaviours while healthy modes mediated a relationship between these schemata and overt prosocial behaviours. Implications The potential impact of healthy modes has not previously been shown in studies of schemata in young offenders. Our findings suggest that treatments for adolescents with severe behaviour problems should not only target maladaptive schemata and dysfunctional modes, but seek also to boost healthy modes.
Chapter
Attachment theory is a bio-behavioural theory of how humans manage stress in close relationships and how they deal with threat and loss across the lifespan. In this chapter, we discuss why attachment theory is especially useful in forensic settings and when working with offenders; particularly in the context of risk assessment and management. We discuss the concept of attachment in terms of mind and place and illustrate the themes using vignettes based on forensic clinical material. We conclude with a discussion of the further ways that attachment theory may be useful to forensic psychologists.
Article
La psicopatia č un disturbo di personalitŕ definito dalla presenza di tratti e comportamenti che hanno un impatto negativo sugli individui e sulla societŕ, tra cui egocentrismo patologico, fascino superficiale, senso di sé grandioso, bisogno di stimoli, uso patologico di menzogne e manipolazione, mancanza di rimorso e di senso di colpa, insensibilitŕ, mancanza di empatia, impulsivitŕ, irresponsabilitŕ, tendenza alla criminalitŕ. Sebbene il concetto di psicopatia sia da secoli discusso nella letteratura psichiatrica, la mancanza di una specifica categorizzazione nosografica nei manuali diagnostici, nonché l'erronea sovrapposizione con altri disturbi clinici (ad es., il disturbo antisociale di personalitŕ, o il disturbo narcisistico di personalitŕ nelle sue varianti maggiormente primitive e maligne), hanno contribuito a creare una certa confusione riguardo all'utilizzo appropriato di tale termine. In questo contributo, le caratteristiche della personalitŕ psicopatica vengono confrontate con quelle di altri disturbi di personalitŕ, allo scopo di chiarire quegli aspetti psicopatologici e comportamentali peculiari della psicopatia che consentono di effettuare una diagnosi differenziale rispetto ad altri disturbi psichiatrici. La distinzione tra psicopatia e altri disturbi risulta infatti necessaria, considerato che i soggetti psicopatici sollevano problematiche particolarmente complesse sul piano sociale, dell'assessment clinico e dell'eventuale trattamento, molto diverse da quelle poste da altre categorie diagnostiche con le quali la psicopatia potrebbe essere erroneamente confusa.
Article
Psychopathy is characterized by diverse indicators. Clinical accounts have emphasized 3 distinct facets: interpersonal, affective, and behavioral, Research using the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), however, has emphasized a 2-factor model, A review of the literature on the PCL-R and related measures of psychopathy, together with confirmatory factor analysis of PCL-R data from North American participants, indicates that the 2-factor model cannot be sustained. A 3-factor hierarchical model was developed in which a coherent superordinate factor, Psychopathy, is underpinned by 3 factors: Arrogant and Deceitful Interpersonal Style, Deficient Affective Experience, and Impulsive and Irresponsible Behavioral Style. The model was cross-validated on North American and Scottish PCL-R data, Psychopathy Screening Version data, and data derived from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) antisocial personality disorder field trial.
Chapter
The Psychopathy Checklist (PCL; Hare, 1980) and its revision (PCL-R; Hare, 1985a, in press) are clinical rating scales that provide researchers and clinicians with reliable and valid assessments of psychopathy. Their development was spurred largely by dissatisfactions with the ways in which other assessment procedures defined and measured psychopathy (Hare, 1980, 1985b).
Article
Objectives: Scientific literature on stalking behaviors is not sufficiently uniform and shows no clear definition of the theorical construct of stalking. In order to respond to current scientific criteria for defining a psychological and behavioral construct, the definition of "stalking" should be exhaustive and specific at the same time. There must be also a positive consensus by scholars on a definition of a construct, for that definition becoming operationalized and therefore profitably appliable in theory and research. Methods: Exploring the theoretical definitions of stalking that are privileged in current literature, and reviewing the different behavioral markers suggested for identifying the construct, this article analyzes the multifaceted characteristics of stalking behaviors. The review of literature was based on international database of peer-reviewed articles (Psychinfo, ProQuest, Psycharticles) as well as authoritative Italian and international books on the topic, and it allowed to detect specific categories of behaviors enacted by a stalker against his or her victim. These categories include both the most violent acts (such as physical and sexual assaults, threats and harassments), which are ever considered as disturbing, and the less violent, more silent and intrusive, stalking behaviors. Some stalking behaviors are in fact most difficult to detect, and victims often misinterpret such behaviors as a simple search for intimacy by the stalker: this easily leads to "false negatives", in research terms, while practically results in the victim missing the chance to protect him- or herself from the stalker. The article also highlights potential motivation and drives underlying different stalking behaviors, and it explores the specific aims pursued by different typologies of stalkers in relation to their victim. The information on stalking behaviors were ultimately discussed emphasizing the direction of future researches and suggesting the development of appropriate strategies for prevention, intervention and harm reduction related to such disturbing behaviors. Results: This review of the international literature concerning the behaviors of stalkers leads to an operational definition of stalking. "Stalking" consists in an interpersonal behavior characterized by threats or harassment toward a specific victim; it has relational purposes, it is repeated over time and/or it results particularly intense, and it is perceived as disturbing by the victim of such behaviors. This definition seems comprehensive enough to encompass the entire range of stalking behaviors and it is not limited only to the behaviours of romantic stalkers; at the same time, this definition should result detailed enough to be operationalized in theoretical and empirical reasearches on the construct. The discussion of stalkers' typology based on their possible motivation could be further useful for future reasearch, opening the doors toward new promising directions. Conclusions: A review of the national and international literature on stalking behaviors shows that still are present some uncertainties on this topic, and a lack of scientific exactness in relation to the construct, but it allows anyway to develop more exhaustive and at the same time comprehensive definition of "stalking", which are particularly needed for research and theory in this field. The definition proposed in this article could perhaps patch a little such a big hole.
Article
Violence is all around us; yet, despite its widespread prevalence, we remain unclear about its causes. In this book Felicity de Zulueta - begins by defining "violence" as distinct from "aggression", and then attempts to trace its origins, highlighting the polarization between those who believe mankind to be innately violent and those who see violence as the outcome of man's life experiences. As a result of her investigations, the author suggests that the current high level of violence may well be linked to the effects of childhood and adult trauma which appear to be far more widespread than has hitherto been acknowledged. These findings are relevant to understanding why "normal" people can become violent in certain conditions. This is a second edition and has been fully updated. A new chapter on terrorism has been added.