The p factor, crime, and criminal justice: A criminological study of Caspi et al.'s general psychopathology general theory

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The general psychopathology general theory or p Factor is an influential theoretical development in the social and behavioral sciences, but has yet to gain traction in criminology and criminal justice. Drawing on data from a sample of 1722 federal pretrial defendants, we created a 22-item composite indicator or additive index of the p Factor containing externalizing, internalizing, substance use, paraphilic, and forensic indicators. Negative binomial regression models found that age, sex, and diverse forms of trauma exposure are associated with higher p Factor scores. Higher p scores strongly predicted total, violent, sexual, property, weapon, and drug arrest charges net the effects of demographic features and adverse childhood experiences. There is broad heterogeneity in psychopathology within this sample with nearly 29% of clients exhibiting zero psychopathology, nearly 61% showing average psychopathology or less, and nearly 40% evincing average to exceedingly high psychopathology. As a general theory, the p Factor has considerable potential to inform the assorted morbidities that often accompany criminal activity, including self-harm, reduced global functioning, substance use, and social dysfunction and thus is a parsimonious conceptual framework to understand the overlapping and systemic personal problems that typify chronic and serious criminal offenders.




DeLisi, M., Drury, A. J., & Elbert, M. J. (2022). The p factor, crime, and criminal justice: A criminological study of Caspi et al.’s general psychopathology general theory. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 81.

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