BACKGROUND The link between early traumatic experiences of abuse/neglect and criminal behaviour has been widely demonstrated. Less is known, however, about the relationship between these experiences and the development of psychopathic personality. OBJECTIVE This study investigated childhood relational trauma in a group of violent offenders from Italy. We hypothesised a higher level of early relational trauma associated with higher scores on psychopathy. METHOD Twenty-two offenders convicted for violent crimes aged 22-60 (M=38, SD=11) participated in this study. Participants were selected by the Italian justice system for an experimental research programme aiming at the evaluation of psychopathic personality traits among violent offenders. Within the group, 14 participants (64%) had committed murder, 4 (18%) had committed rape, and 4 (18%) were convicted child sex offenders. The Traumatic Experience Checklist was used to assess childhood relational trauma; the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) was used to assess psychopathy. RESULTS There was a high prevalence of childhood experiences of neglect and abuse among the offenders. Higher levels of childhood relational trauma were found among participants who obtained high scores on the PCL-R. There was also a significant negative association between age of first relational trauma and psychopathy scores. CONCLUSIONS Findings of this study suggest that an early exposure to relational trauma in childhood can play a relevant role in the development of more severe psychopathic traits.
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, 4. https://doi.org/10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.21471