Clarifying the Associations Between Individual Differences in General Attachment Styles and Psychopathy

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Abstract

The association between individual differences in general attachment styles and psychopathy is currently unclear, despite the potential utility attachment theory could provide regarding the interpersonal characteristics of psychopathy and the etiology of this construct. The purpose of the current investigation was to clarify these associations. For this purpose, we analyzed responses from an Australian community sample (N = 249) and a U.S. community sample (N = 292) containing validated measures of psychopathy (Triarchic Psychopathy Measure and Expanded–Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scales [Australian sample only]) and general attachment styles (Experiences in Close Relationships–Revised–General Short Form and Attachment Styles Questionnaire) to replicate our findings across measures and samples. The psychopathy domain of boldness was consistently negatively associated with insecure attachment styles. Psychopathy’s affective domain (meanness, callousness) was consistently associated with avoidant attachment, whereas its behavioral domain (disinhibition, antisocial) was consistently associated with insecure attachment styles, particularly anxious attachment. Our findings suggest that there are consistent associations between individual differences in general attachment styles and psychopathy in adult samples and provides preliminary support for further consideration of attachment theory in psychopathy research.

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