Psychopathy, Alcohol Use, and Intimate Partner Violence: Evidence From Two Samples

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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a substantial public health problem. Psychopathic personality is one of the most important individual difference predictors of violence and has been proposed as a key feature for understanding IPV perpetration. Psychopathy is also associated with alcohol use, a prominent risk factor for IPV. This pattern of interrelationship raises the possibility that psychopathy might mediate the relationship between alcohol use and IPV. However, few studies have examined the combined influences of alcohol use and psychopathy on aggressive behavior, and, to our knowledge, no study has directly examined these interrelationships in the context of IPV. In the present study, we aim to enhance our understanding of risk for IPV perpetration by examining the consistency of the association between psychopathy and violence across levels of alcohol use and gender in 2 samples: a prospective clinical sample (n = 703) and a cross-sectional sample of university students (n = 870). Psychopathy was associated with IPV across both samples independently and, after controlling for gender and alcohol use (R2 = .04–.08), also mediated the relationship between alcohol use and IPV among the nonclinical sample. We found that psychopathy was associated with IPV, that this relationship was consistent despite gender and alcohol use, and was evident across samples. This relationship was small but robust, and appeared to be more prominent than the association between alcohol use and IPV. Future research that examines IPV risk should consider the potential role of psychopathy, particularly when investigating risk associated with alcohol use.

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