A prospective, longitudinal examination of the influence of childhood home and school contexts on psychopathic characteristics in adolescence

Jacqueline M Horan, Fordham University


This study addressed the influence of home and school environmental factors during middle childhood on psychopathic characteristics in adolescence, using data collected in each of approximately four years of a larger seven-year, eight-wave study of a whole-school social-emotional learning and literacy intervention that took place from 2004-2007 in 18 New York City public elementary schools. This study addressed gaps in the present literature by using a prospective, longitudinal design to examine the relationship between middle childhood emotional (i.e., anxiety, empathy), behavioral (i.e., aggression, delinquency), and environmental (i.e., home chaos, parental monitoring) factors on adolescent primary and secondary psychopathy and CU traits through the lens of multiple reporters. In addition, this study also examined whether the influence of these emotional, behavioral, and home environment characteristics on later psychopathy and CU traits differed based on the quality of classroom climates experienced during the 3rd through 5th grades of elementary school. Preliminary analyses confirmed the construct validity of a newly constructed classroom climate quality index, comprised of independent observer ratings of classroom climate and aggregates of students' levels of aggression and student-teacher closeness. Multi-group invariance analyses confirmed the measurement invariance across gender and race/ethnic subgroups of two commonly used measures of psychopathic characteristics. Through the use of hierarchical linear modeling techniques, the main study analyses indicated that delinquency and home chaos in middle childhood were related to primary psychopathy in adolescence and that exposure to a positive classroom climate across middle childhood acted as a buffer in the relationship between poor parental monitoring in middle childhood and secondary psychopathy in adolescence. These findings provided limited support for the study hypotheses, but provide a valuable contribution to extant literature on the development of youth psychopathic characteristics. There may be several promising avenues for intervention that are already being examined as potential modes of intervention for other, often related, social-emotional and behavioral issues. While previous research has focused extensively on genetic and biological influences on psychopathic characteristics, this study has identified factors within a youth's environment that may be important for understanding the development of specific psychopathic characteristics.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Horan, Jacqueline M, "A prospective, longitudinal examination of the influence of childhood home and school contexts on psychopathic characteristics in adolescence" (2013). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3563402.