Were Wolfgang's chronic offenders psychopaths? On the convergent validity between psychopathy and career criminality

Michael G. Vaughn, Matt DeLisi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

74 Citations (Scopus)


Both the criminal career and psychopathy literatures have empirically shown that approximately 5 percent of the criminal population accounts for the preponderance of the incidence of crime; however, these areas of inquiry are largely independent. The current study sought to integrate these literatures using a state population of incarcerated delinquents (n = 723). Descriptive, regression, and ROC-AUC analyses produced significant evidence of the effects of personality and affective psychopathic traits on career criminality net the effects of demographic and mental health controls. Psychopathic traits nearly doubled the total explanatory power of the regression model for career criminality and correctly predicted career criminal membership with accuracies ranging from 70 to 88 percent. Implications of these findings and suggestions for increased integration of criminal career and psychopathy research are proffered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-42
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Mar 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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