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Are Childhood Maltreatment, Temperament, and Empathy Associated with Psychopathy? An Empirical Examination
The purpose of this study was to examine the association childhood maltreatment, temperament and empathy have with psychopathy. The research aims were to examine: (1) the association childhood maltreatment has on psychopathy; (2) the mediating effect empathy has on the relationship between childhood maltreatment and psychopathy; (3) the moderating influence of temperament factors on the relationship between childhood maltreatment and empathy. Three hundred eighty-seven undergraduate students completed four self-report measures: The Triarchic Psychopathy Measure (TriPM), the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), the Adult Temperament Questionnaire (ATQ), and the Multi-Dimensional Emotional Empathy Scale (MDEES). The moderated mediation analyses found significance for aim 1, finding that higher levels of childhood maltreatment predicted higher levels of psychopathy. Significance was found for aim 2, finding that higher levels of childhood maltreatment predicted lower levels of empathy and lower levels of empathy predicted higher levels of psychopathy. Significance was found for aim 3, finding that the pathway between childhood maltreatment and empathy was significantly moderated by the temperament dimension of extraversion/surgency but not effortful control or negative affect. The current findings bring to light childhood maltreatment’s damaging impact on mental health, specifically empathy and psychopathy, and support the possible mediating effect temperament has on the impacts of childhood maltreatment on empathy and psychopathy.