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Developmental trajectories associated with juvenile sexually abusive behaviour and emerging severe personality disorder in childhood: 3-year study

  • Eileen Vizard (a1), Nicole Hickey (a1) and Eamon McCrory (a1)

Abstract

Background

Little is known about the developmental trajectories of juveniles presenting with sexually abusive behaviour or emerging severe personality disorder traits.

Aims

To investigate whether ‘age at onset’ of sexually abusive behaviour and whether emerging severe personality disorder traits are associated with specific developmental profiles.

Method

A retrospective file review of 280 juveniles presenting with sexually abusive behaviour was conducted and follow-up Offenders Index data were analysed.

Results

Juveniles with early onset (<11 years) of sexually abusive behaviour had higher levels of psychosocial adversity and early childhood antisocial behaviour compared with those with late onset. Emerging severe personality disorder traits were associated with higher levels of psychosocial adversity, antisocial behaviour, convictions and predatory sexually abusive behaviour.

Conclusions

Preliminary evidence supports the existence of distinct developmental trajectories within this population and points to a key role for traits of emerging severe personality disorder.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Eileen Vizard, Alexandra Ciardi House, 7–8 Greenland Place, London NW1 0AP UK. Email: e.vizard@ucl.ac.uk

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

None. Funding detailed in Acknowledgements.

Footnotes

References

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Developmental trajectories associated with juvenile sexually abusive behaviour and emerging severe personality disorder in childhood: 3-year study

  • Eileen Vizard (a1), Nicole Hickey (a1) and Eamon McCrory (a1)
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eLetters

Sexual abusive behaviour no clear predictor of social psychopathy

Vibha Pandey, Psychiatric Social Worker
31 May 2007

We read the recent study by Vizard et al (2007), which concluded thatdistinct developmental trajectories, defined by early sexual offences among juveniles, might play a key role in defining future personality disorders. Existing literature supports these findings (Berliner & Elliot, 1996; Kendall-Tackett, Williams & Finklehor, 1993; Browne & Finklehor, 1986) with the traumagenic dynamics theory formulated by Browne & Finklehor’s (1986) postulating that childhood sexual abuse leading to “betrayal” and “powerlessness” ultimately makes the child a perpetrator (sexual abuser). However we are unable to understand the basisof definition of “sexual offence” used in this study and the reasons for absence of any objective clinical rating scales. In fact, the only rating scale used, the Psychopathy Checklist–Youth Version (PCL–YV) is limited bylack of divergent construct validity (Skeem & Cauffman, 2003) indicating that adult models of psychopathy cannot simply be extended downwards to youth. Further, the method of indirect retrospective scoring on PCL-YV rather than by direct interview, limits the accuracy of the results.

Another important point is the confounding effect of various other factors with personality. Features like sensation seeking, irresponsibility etc., which define adult antisocial behaviour, are normative and temporary characteristics of adolescence (Forth & Burke,1998; Edens et al., 2001). In fact, early onset conduct disorder & frequent antisocial behavior may not necessarily be specific to social psychopathy and are seen with other disorders like ADHD or Impulse controldisorders (APA, 1994). We therefore believe that more fundamentally, this study fails to resolve key questions about juvenile psychopathy.

REFERENCES1.Vizard, E., Hickey, N. & McCrory, E.M. (2007) Developmental trajectories associated with juvenile associated with sexually abusive behaviour and emerging severe personality disorder in childhood: 3-year study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 190 (S49), 27-32.

2.Berliner, L. and Elliot, D. (1996) Sexual abuse of children. In TheAPSAC Handbook on child maltreatment (eds. J. Briere, L. Berliner, J. Bulkley, C. Jenny and T. Reid), pp. 51-71. Thousands Oaks California: SagePublications.

3.Browne, A., and Finklehor, D. (1986) The impact of child sexual abuse: A review of the research. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 66-77.

4.Kendall-Tackett, K., Williams, L & Finklehor, D. (1993). Impactof sexual abuse on children, Psychological Bulletin, 113, 164-180.

5.Skeem, J. L. & Cauffman, E. (2003) Views of the Downward Extension: Comparing the Youth Version of the Psychopathy Checklist with the Youth Psychopathic traits Inventory. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 21, 737–770.

6.Forth, A. E., & Burke, H. C. (1998). Psychopathy in adolescence: Assessment, violence, and developmental precursors. In Psychopathy: Theory, research, and implications for society (eds. D. Cooke, A. Forth, & R. Hare), pp. 205–230. Dordrecht: Kluwer Publications.

7.Edens, J. F., Skeem, J. L., Cruise, K. R., & Cauffman, E. (2001). Assessment of ‘‘juvenile psychopathy’’ and its association with violence. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 19, 53–80.

8.American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.) Text Revision (DSM IV TR). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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