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Juveniles with Psychopathic Traits and Tendencies

Author: Tunita Dumas

Juvenile offenders are subjected to many environmental factors that might have affected their behaviors. There is also a possibility that adolescents have innate personality traits and characteristics. Are environmental or personality factors the reason for psychopathic traits and tendencies? This question is essential when determining effective programs and strategies that help reduce recidivism. To treat a juvenile displaying psychopathic tendencies, a psychologist has to understand the “why” behind their behavior. The “why” is a very complex response to many factors that involve the juvenile’s environment and personality traits.

What are the components of an individual’s personality? According to the Personality Theory (D.R., 2002), an individual’s personality consists of five components: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. The Five-Factor Model of Personality shows different personality components and those components’ indicators on a scale. Openness is a type of degree of intellectual curiosity and creativity. Conscientiousness is defined as the tendency to be dependable and organized. Extraversion entails the tendency to seek the company of others. Agreeableness addresses an individual’s trusting and helpful capacity. Neuroticism is a person’s predisposition to psychological stress.

What are the personality traits of juvenile psychopaths? In alignment with the Five-Factor Model of Personality, psychopaths have shown similar, consistent traits and tendencies. In regards to neuroticism, low anxiety, high impulsivity, and hostility. With extraversion, a psychopath will exhibit thrill-seeking behaviors. A psychopathic offender will be closed off to emotions and detached from decision-making in terms of openness and agreeableness.

Identifying the traits and tendencies of a juvenile psychopath will enable a psychologist to determine an effective treatment strategy.

Psychopathy can be interpreted as a combination of personalities indicated in the Five-Factor Model. There has been an empirical correlation between the Five-Factor Model and juvenile psychopathy. Evidence suggests that the FFM indicators have been found in adolescents. In the 90s, a group of scientists found the FFM to be relevant because of adolescents’ reports given by their mothers. These reports reflected the existence of the FFM indicators in their reports.

In order to provide effective treatment for juvenile psychopathy, a psychologist must understand the individual's makeup. Personality traits play a huge part in a juvenile psychopath. Another researcher discovered that personality promotes its own progress through three types of environmental interactions: reactive, evocative, and proactive.

Reactive interactions describe how a juvenile experiences, interprets, and reacts to an environmental situation. A juvenile with an aggressive personality trait will respond accordingly to their preexisting characteristics. A juvenile in an abusive household or situation will react aggressively compared to a more docile juvenile. Aggressive responses and actions will be displayed by the aggressive juvenile even in ambiguous situations because they believe their response is appropriate.

What is an evocative interaction? It is when a juvenile may promote a distinct reaction in their environment based on their personality traits. For example, a highly impulsive adolescent may garner harsh responses from adults in their surroundings. These adults may chastise them, ignore, neglect, abuse them, or remove any affection for the child.

The third interaction is a proactive interaction. A juvenile will place themselves in an environment, situation, or surroundings that align with their preexisting personality traits. A young teen will choose to be around other individuals with similar traits. A teen that exhibits challenging and detached traits of agreeableness will align themselves with other teens that

exhibit the same trait.

These three interactions help paint the picture of how the Five Factors Model of Personality is relevant to understanding psychopathic traits and tendencies in juveniles. These personality traits have a grandiose impact on psychopathy in juveniles. These interactions with their environment will accumulate through their formative adolescent years. The response to these interactions will either be positive or negative. Once negative responses build-up, a juvenile will be more resistant to intervention and treatment. The most effective time for interventions for juveniles displaying psychopathic traits and tendencies is as young as possible. The earlier the intervention, the better before negative consequences accumulate and the juvenile is recalcitrant to intervention.


Lynam, D. R. (2002). Fledgling psychopathy: a view from personality theory.

Howard, M. O., Williams, J. H., Vaughn, M. G., & Edmond, T. (2004). Promises and perils of a psychopathology of crime: The troubling case of juvenile psychopathy. Wash. UJL & Pol'y, 14, 441.


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