Selfish parents, parenting practices, and psychopathic traits in children

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Parental personality and parenting behavior have been associated with the development of psychopathic traits in offspring. However, no study has examined the effect of parental dispositional selfishness on the development of psychopathic traits in offspring, and the potential mechanism underlying this relationship. To address this issue, parents' reports on their dispositional selfishness, negative and positive parenting behavior, and child's psychopathic traits were collected for a group of children from the community (n = 118, 47% male, mean age = 14.1 years). Results showed that parental selfishness was associated with grandiose-manipulative (GM), daring-impulsive (DI), and callous-unemotional (CU) traits in children. In addition, the egocentric selfishness-GM relationship was indirectly mediated by parenting behavior including lack of involvement, poor monitoring, and inconsistent discipline, whereas the association with CU traits was directly mediated by lack of involvement. These effects remained significant after controlling for child's sex, age, race, social adversity, and a prior measure of psychopathic traits. Findings provide initial empirical evidence on the effect of parental selfishness on a child's psychopathic traits, and further support to the proposition that distinct etiology may underlie different dimensions of psychopathic traits.




Gao, Y., Huang, Y., & Li, X. (2021). Selfish parents, parenting practices, and psychopathic traits in children. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 39(5), 624–640.

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