Tracing the effect of psychopathy on future offending through two layers of proactive criminal thinking

Authored by: Glenn D. Walters

Routledge International Handbook of Psychopathy and Crime

Print publication date:  August  2018
Online publication date:  August  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138085169
eBook ISBN: 9781315111476
Adobe ISBN:


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The purpose of this empirical investigation was to explore general proactive criminal thinking and a facet of proactive criminal thinking (i.e., superoptimism), as mediators of the psychopathy‒offending relationship. Psychopathy was assessed with the total score from the Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version (PCL: YV), general proactive criminal thinking was assessed with the moral disengagement scale, and superoptimism was assessed with a reverse scored certainty of punishment measure. Analyses were conducted on male participants from the Pathways to Desistance study (N = 1,170). Results disclosed a significant three-mediator layered effect whereby the first-order mediator, general proactive criminal thinking, mediated the psychopathy‒offending relationship, and the second-order mediator, superoptimism, mediated general proactive criminal thinking. When the two mediators were reversed, with superoptimism assuming the position of first-order mediator and general proactive criminal thinking assuming the role of second-order mediator, the three-mediator indirect effect was no longer significant. This suggests that several layers of criminal thinking may be responsible for psychopathy’s ability to predict future criminal offending.

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