Friends of the Forensic Science Club, this week we present the paper “Dark Triad Personalities, Self-Control, and antisocial/criminal outcomes in Youth” by Pechorro, P.; DeLisi, M.; Gonçalves, R. A.; Braga, T. and Maroco, J. (2021), in which authors carry out a study to examine whether self-control mediates the relations between the Dark Triad and some aspects such as crime or mental disorders.

Research in criminology and various areas of psychology, such as developmental psychopathology or personality, consistently points out to the existence of dark personality characteristics and comments that these are associated with various behavioral problems.

Within these traits would appear self-control, and also the famous Dark Triad composed of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

Narcissism is characterized by being selfish, self-centered, having low empathy, and a high need to be admired by others.

When a person is Machiavellian, he is cunning, intriguing and unscrupulous in his behavior, in addition, he tends to exploit others for his own benefit.

Finally, psychopathy shares many features with antisocial personality disorder and describes a person with little empathy, very little emotional connection with others, impulsive, and a tendency to engage in reckless behavior, which sometimes leads them to commit crimes.

Although the Dark Triad and self-control are different ideas, they have common points. Both embody an individual who has very poor emotional regulation and behavior, is self-centered and pursues self-interest without taking others into account; in addition, that person would be a lying and manipulative person, prone to behavioral problems.

To date, there are several meta-analytic studies indicating that the Dark Triad and self-control are significantly related to a variety of antisocial outcomes and personality pathologies.

It is important to note that, although self-control and the Dark Triad are consistently associated, there is little research that has examined these two concepts together: only 5% of the studies found by Miller in his 2019 meta-analysis (cited in Article).

Larson carried out an analysis in 2015 in which it was seen that almost 60% of the participants had a low level of narcissism and a high level of self-control and, therefore, exhibited a normative functioning of their personality; however, 6.4% of the sample presented high narcissism and very low self-control.

This part of the sample had a psychiatric risk profile, more likely to abuse substances and experience violence. In addition, they were also more at risk of committing crimes such as intimate partner violence, cruelty to animals, theft, sexual assault…

The study thus showed that there is apparently a tendency to crime when the characteristics of narcissism (which is one of the characteristics of the Dark Triad) and low self-control are present.

In this study, the authors investigate whether self-control mediates the relationships between the Dark Triad and some behavioral disorders in a sample of Portuguese youth. In doing so, the Dark Triad’s links to self-control and criminality were examined.

The sample consisted of 567 young people between 14 and 18 years old. A series of tests and scales validated by the scientific community were used to examine self-control, delinquency, behavioral disorders, among others.

Analyzes showed that psychopathy had the greatest impact in terms of links to low self-control and juvenile delinquency, conduct disorder, and crime severity.

This is consistent with psychopathy’s reputation as one of the most important drivers of crime.

The findings also indicated that low self-control partially mediated the association between psychopathy and Machiavellianism.

On the other hand, narcissism had little or no direct significant effect on the results, and even had negative associations with low self-control. This is consistent with previous studies.

Within the limitations of the study, it should be noted that the data were collected through self-reports and therefore we must interpret them with caution and trust that future research will use data, as objective as possible, to delve into these issues.

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