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Is antisocial personality disorder continuous or categorical? A taxometric analysis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 July 2006

DAVID K. MARCUS
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, USA
SCOTT O. LILIENFELD
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
JOHN F. EDENS
Affiliation:
Department of Psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA
NORMAN G. POYTHRESS
Affiliation:
Department of Mental Health Law and Policy, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

Abstract

Background. Although the DSM-IV-TR is organized into discrete disorders, the question of whether a given disorder possesses a dimensional or a categorical latent structure is an empirical one that can be examined using taxometric methods. The objective of this study was to ascertain the latent structure of antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).

Method. Participants were 1146 male offenders incarcerated in state prisons (n=569), or court-ordered to residential drug treatment (n=577). Participants were interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis II Personality Disorders (SCID-II) to assess ASPD symptoms; they also completed the Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire-4 (PDQ-4) ASPD scale. Taxometric analyses were performed to examine whether ASPD is underpinned by a discrete category or a dimensional construct.

Results. Multiple taxometric procedures using two different sets of indicators provided no evidence that ASPD has a taxonic latent structure. Instead, the results were far more consistent with the proposition that ASPD exists on a continuum, regardless of whether it is assessed using a structured interview or a self-report measure.

Conclusions. Evidence that ASPD is dimensional suggests that it is best studied using continuous measures and that dichotomizing individuals into ASPD versus non-ASPD groups will typically result in decreased statistical power. The findings are also consistent with a multifactorial etiology for ASPD and with recent attempts to conceptualize ASPD within the framework of extant dimensional models of personality.

Type
Original Article
Copyright
© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

An earlier version of this research was presented at the 2005 meeting of the American Psychology-Law Society, San Diego, CA, USA