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Effects of childhood trauma in psychopathy and response inhibition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Stacey A. Bedwell, Charlotte Hickman

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Accepted/In press22 Dec 2021
Published25 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This work received no specific grant funding from any funding agency, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press


King's Authors


Childhood trauma is linked to impairments in executive function and working memory, thought to underly psychological disorders including depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Research demonstrates that childhood trauma can partially mediate posttraumatic stress dis- order in those with executive function deficits. Despite a link with executive function deficit, psychopathy as a consequence of trauma is yet to be studied in this context. The present study investigates the possibility of a relationship between childhood trauma, psychopathic traits, and response inhibition. Eighty participants were tasked to completed the Childhood Traumatic Events Scale (Pennebaker & Susman, 2013), Levenson’s Self-Report Psychopathy Scale (Levenson et al., 1995), and Flanker task of response inhibition (Eriksen & Eriksen, 1974). Scores of trauma exposure, psychopathic traits, and reaction times in the Flanker task were measured. Regression analysis revealed no sig- nificance for trauma exposure in predicting psychopathic traits (p = .201) and response inhibition (p = .183), indicating that childhood trauma does not strongly predict susceptibility to psychopathic traits or response inhibition deficits. These findings form an important basis on which to build a further understanding of the consequences of childhood trauma exposure, specifically in terms of understanding how specific cog- nitive functions may be influenced and providing a clearer understanding of how psychopathic traits develop.

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