Dark and Vulnerable Personality Trait Correlates of Dimensions of Criminal Behavior Among Adult Offenders

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Abstract

Given the high-level impact of crime, empirical work is needed to identify personality traits, or overarching factors of personality pathology, that may leave individuals more prone to engage in criminal behaviors. This study empirically tested the distinction between the dark personality and vulnerable dark personality spectra (Miller et al., 2010) in a large offender sample and aimed to test how these personality factors relate to criminal dimensions and individual types of crime. Self-report and public record data verified criminal behaviors for 493 (34.7% women) adult offenders, and features of the 2 personality spectra were assessed using the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version, Narcissistic Personality Inventory-16, Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale, and Personality Assessment Inventory: Borderline Scale. Factor analyses supported the distinction between dark and vulnerable dark personality spectra and 3 dimensions of crime (i.e., crimes against property and persons, and drug-related crimes). Findings broadly pointed to trait vulnerabilities within the dark spectra (e.g., callousness) as relevant for criminal versatility and violent crimes against persons (e.g., assault, murder), and impulsive/reactive tendencies within the dark spectra (vulnerable dark) appeared to be particularly important for impulsive property crimes (e.g., theft, robbery) and drug offenses. Results may lend themselves well to refining offender intervention techniques and warrant further examination of the extent to which dark personality spectra coalesce as expected or similarly predict high-impact behaviors.

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