A Retrospective Study of Child and Adolescent Risk Factors and their Relation to the Dark Triad Core Personality Traits

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Stead, Rebecca
Personality Psychology , Dark Triad
The Dark Triad consists of three overlapping personality traits: Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and Narcissism, (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). This investigation examines two main research goals. The first aims to identify the common traits that occupy the core of the Dark Triad of personality. The literature suggests that the Dark Triad Core traits are low agreeableness (e.g., Jakobwitz & Egan, 2006), aggression (e.g., Kerig & Stellwagen, 2010), impulsivity (e.g., Thomaes, Bushman, De Castro, & Stegge, 2009), low emotional intelligence (e.g., Ali, Amorim & Chamorro-Premuzic, 2009), and potentially low neuroticism (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). The second research goal aims to identify a developmental trajectory of how early life risk factors influence each other and the Dark Triad. The literature suggests that being raised in a low SES environment (e.g., Chapple & Johnson, 2007), experiencing trauma (e.g., Tackett et al., 2009), and being the child of poor parenting styles (e.g., De Clercq et al., 2008), are related to the occurrence of the Dark Triad. An anxious or avoidant attachment style (Loeber & Hay, 1997) and low self-control (Gramzow et al., 2004) may also predict the Dark Triad. Using a sample of 546 adults, the first study demonstrated that the proposed Dark Triad Core traits represent a construct that is overlapping, but not equivalent to, the construct represented by the Dark Triad personality traits. Psychopathy, Machiavellianism, Narcissism, low agreeableness, and aggression load one factor, while aggression, impulsivity, low emotional intelligence, neuroticism, Narcissism and Machiavellianism load a second correlated factor. Using Structural Equation Modeling, several models were tested and a final model was generated that provides a preliminary developmental trajectory of the Dark Triad. This model indicates that poor parenting practices tend to increase the expression of anxious attachment in children. Furthermore, fathers’ poor parenting marginally decreases children’s self-control. Experiencing trauma also tends to increase anxious attachment and decrease self-control in victims. Then, anxious attachment and low self-control influence the expression of the Dark Triad. This line of research begins to define the core of the Dark Triad, while also defining the impact of childhood experiences and personal characteristics in the expression of the Dark Triad.
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