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Psychopathic Traits and Anxiety as Predictors of Aggression and Fear Processing in Young Males

Azores-Gococo, Nicole Marie (2011)
Honors Thesis (66 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Brennan, Patricia
Committee Members: Lilienfeld, Scott O ; Agnew, Robert S
Research Fields: Psychology, General; Psychology, Clinical; Psychology, Personality
Keywords: youth psychopathy; aggression; trait anxiety; fear processing
Program: College Honors Program, Psychology
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Psychopathic Traits and Anxiety as Predictors of Aggression and Fear Processing in Young Males
By Nicole Azores-Gococo

Research in adult populations has indicated the presence of psychopathy subtypes largely differentiated by the presence of trait anxiety, which often correlates divergently with the affective/interpersonal component of psychopathy (CU) and the behavioral component (I/CP). Studies in children have demonstrated similar trends and indicate that emotional processing differences may underlie psychopathy and different types of associated aggression, specifically proactive and reactive aggression. The current study tested the hypotheses that anxiety measures would be differentially correlated with CU and I/CP. It was also hypothesized that CU and anxiety would interact to predict proactive aggression and a deficit in fear processing, while I/CP and anxiety would interact to predict reactive aggression and higher sensitivity in fear processing. The study used a community sample (n=88) of boys aged 7-11 and selected for their high levels of externalizing behaviors. Correlational analyses provided partial support for the hypothesis that anxiety was positively correlated with I/CP, but no significant correlations were found between CU and anxiety measures. Significant main effects of psychopathy subscales and anxiety were found in the prediction of reactive aggression, overall aggression, fear processing, and rule-breaking. However, regression analyses testing for hypothesized interaction effects revealed largely nonsignificant results. Findings are discussed in the context of developmental views on psychopathy and implications for the development of subtypes.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Psychopathic Subtypes: Studies in Adult Populations...3
The Assessment of Psychopathy Factors in Children and Adolescents...9
Anxiety, Conduct Problems, and Pathways to Antisocial Behavior...13
The Current Study...19




Experimental Task...24



Preliminary Analyses...25
Hypothesis Tests...26


Strengths and Limitations...36
Implications for Future Research...38


Table 1: Descriptive Statistics for All Variables Entered...55
Table 2: Correlations between All Variables Entered...56
Table 3: Main Effects for Aggression and Fear Processing Variables Regressed on Psychopathy and Anxiety Variables...57
Table 4: Interaction Effects for Aggression and Fear Processing Variables Regressed on Psychopathy and Anxiety Variables...59


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