Kosson, D.S., Cyterski, T.D., Steuterwald, B.L., Neuman, C.S., Walker-Mathews, S.
(2002). The reliability and validity of the psychopathy checklist: youth version
(PCL:YV) in nonincarcerated adolescent males. Psychological Assessment, 14,
This study was used to assess the validity and reliability of the youth version of the psychopathy checklist(PCL:YV) and see if the findings correlate with the adult version (PCL-R) of the checklist. The youth version was designed to look at the same 20 behavioral problems of the adult version. To do this, 115 male adolescents with the average age of 14.5 years out of the Piedmont region of North Carolina were tested, and interviewed very extensively. These males came from either short-term detention centers, or were on probation in the community.
Reliability and validity were tested in this study based on a various number of variables. First, the generality of prior findings was compared, and then replicated. In addition, to examine the overall validity more closely three other specific areas were looked at in detail. The three areas were (1)other forms of childhood psychopathy, (2) interpersonal behavior, and (3) interpersonal attachments.
It was assumed that this first area would be similar to adult psychopathy with disruptive behavior disorders symptoms, and externalizing behavior ratings, but not with negative affectivity. The second area was used because no comprehensive assessments of interpersonal behaviors in adolescents have been reported, so such an assessment was conducted. The third and last area had inconsistent past findings, but it was predicted that the adolescents in this study would show less attachment to family, so this assessment was also conducted.
Area one was assessed with measures of criminal activity, when the individuals committed their first crimes(this was sometimes hard to find), what types of crimes were being committed and number of violent and non violent offenses. Also related to child psychpathology was ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). Symptoms of these were assessed through interviews and questions about specific symptoms of these disorders. Also, the Welsh Anxiety test was given, and unlike the others was not expected to be significant in these individuals.
Area two looked at behaviors by interviewers tallying interpersonal interactions and the non verbal behaviors. They then wanted to see if they could find things like making personal comments and intense eye contact, which are linked to psychopathy. Area three used self-reports and the IPPA Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment questionnaire to look at the closeness of families. It only did so for those individuals who were accompanied by a parent for this current study.
High reliability and validity was found in this study. In terms of reliability, high internal consistency was found with average rating of .88. Alpha coefficients for interviewers and observers were high as well at .79. This is stating that this test is consistent to the tested group of individuals and that the interviewers and observers were fairly reliable. These values are comparable to the highest values reported in prior studies.
For antisocial behavior, in area one of psychopathology it was shown that there were more nonviolent offenses than violent offenses (3.54 vs. 1.09), and ages of the first committed crimes were found to be insignificant (r =-.02). Also, scores correlated positively with the Welsh Anxiety Inventory (r =.25, p,01). For interpersonal behaviors and attachment the correlations between the PCL:YV and the individuals’ ratings of closeness to the family were significant (r =-.23, p<.05, n=83). Also, PCL:YV scores correlated significantly with adolescents’ ratings of the family as less close (r =-.35, p<.005), and IPPA scores also agree with families as being less close in these instances.
This study had many strengths. This study was the first study to assess the PCL:YV in American youth. It had a larger sample than previous studies in this area. It is important to note that the similarity of the reliability and validity data to previous studies alone provides evidence of the generality of the adolescent psychopathy syndrome. Also, the similarity of these findings with that of the PCL-R could suggest important parallels in many aspects between adolescent and adult psychopathy, and shows that further research could be very beneficial. This study was also one of the first to examine correlations between psychopathy, interpersonal behavior, and relationships in adolescents. Even though many of the correlations were only modest PCL:YV scores correlated significantly with both interpersonal interactions observed in psychopathic adults, and with adolescents perceptions of lack of attachment to family.
Although many relationships correlated well with previous findings in adult studies some did not, and there were some limitations. First, adolescents with high scores on PCL:YV were characterized by higher scores on the Welsh Anxiety Inventory, other studies thought this inventory was unrelated. However this could mean that psychopathy in adolescence may be associated with greater negative affectivity than psychopathy in adults. Second, there was a lack of significance with adults and adolescents and the age of onset of antisocial behavior. The assessments of ADHD and ODD symptoms may have omitted important aspects of these syndromes is noted as a limitation. In addition, attachment was examined using solely projective techniques where using some objective tests could have been very valuable. Finally, although it was suggested that this sample was representative of the general population of adolescents on probation in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, it is feasible that subjects differed in important ways from those who did not contact the researchers. Although the similarity of many of the correlations observed to those of other studies suggests that these findings are not false, this idea can only be ruled out by additional research.