THE RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN ANTISOCIAL/PSYCHOPATHIC TRAITS
AND RELATIONSHIP FUNCTIONING: ANALYZING SATISFACTION,
SACRIFICE, DEDICATION, CONSTRAINT, AND POWER/CONTROL IN A
Kelly A. ODell
B.A., University of Wyoming, 2005
A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado Denver in
fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
Masters of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Kelly A. ODell
has been approved
MirbirrUm/t ^4 aoag
ODell, Kelly, A. (M.A., Clinical Psychology)
The Relationships between Antisocial/Psychopathic Traits and Relationship Functioning:
Analyzing Satisfaction, Sacrifice, Dedication, Constraint, and Power/Control in a Non-
Thesis directed by Professor Elizabeth Allen
Antisocial/psychopathic individuals tend to have personality characteristics which result in
self-serving behaviors which often violate the rights of others. Antisocial traits appear to
occur on a continuum and thus can be studied in a range of populations. The objective of
the current study was to demonstrate how varying levels of antisocial/psychopathic traits
impact self reported aspects of intimate relationships. Using a sample of undergraduates,
this study examined whether levels of relationship sacrifice, dedication, constraint, and
power/control were predicted by level of antisocial/psychopathic traits. In addition, the
study also analyzed whether the relationships between relationship satisfaction and
sacrifice and dedication are moderated by antisocial/psychopathic traits. The findings of
this study were that antisocial/psychopathic traits were negatively related to satisfaction
and dedication, but positively related to perceived constraint and partner power/control.
Moreover, antisocial/psychopathic traits did not moderate the relationships between
satisfaction and dedication and sacrifice. The results of this study lend more information to
the literature about how people with antisocial/psychopathic traits interpret their own
relationships and may help with understanding the feelings about relationships associated
with these traits in a clinical setting, such as couples counseling.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I recommend its
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE.......................................2
Relationship functioning and antisocial/psychopathic traits.8
Psychopathy on a continuum.................................10
Hypotheses of current study................................12
Collapsing the sample..............................26
Follow up analyses.......................................30
Limitations and recommendations for future research......35
A. Measures and items..........................................37
1 Overview of Antisocial/psychopathic Features.................................6
2 Items Representing Various Antisocial/psychopathic traits...................17
3 Correlation Results.........................................................27
4 Multiple Regressions with Dedication as DV..................................29
5 Multiple Regressions with Sacrifice as DV...................................29
Antisocial/psychopathic traits are those that are present in the diagnosis of
ASPD and the label of psychopathy. These traits tend to manifest themselves as
certain behaviors that are, for the most part, egocentric and disrespectful to others.
However, these traits exist on a continuum of personality characteristics; therefore
they may exist even without the extreme diagnosis of ASPD or psychopathy. A great
deal of the theoretical work on this construct has been done by examining the
diagnosis of ASPD and psychopathy, therefore, to fully understand the extent of these
traits it is important to use this previous research to understand what behaviors are
exhibited because of these personality characteristics. From that extreme profile, it is
easier to examine the traits themselves and understand what behaviors may follow
regardless of whether the individual has diagnosable ASPD or psychopathy.
Therefore, The following chapter will first define and describe the classic
ASPD/psychopathic profile, then explain the continuum of personality traits, and
finally, posit how such traits in a non-clinical population relate to relationship
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) is defined as a pervasive pattern of
disregard for and the violation of the rights of others (APA, 2000). Individuals who
have ASPD can exhibit this disorder by displaying many different behaviors;
violence, lawbreaking, aggressiveness, etc. The diagnostic criteria for this disorder, as
outlined in the DSM-IV, is primarily a list of behaviors that defy social norms and
violate others rights, such as the disregard for safety of ones self and others (APA,
2000). While ASPD can be diagnosed for those who display the disorder by blatant
lawbreaking behaviors such as assault, theft or armed robbery, other individuals with
ASPD display behaviors such as deceitfulness and lying, impulsivity, irresponsibility,
and lack of remorse, rather than just disregard for the law (APA, 2000).
Psychopathy is a construct that is often used synonymously with ASPD, but
tends to be centered around an awareness that what the individual does actually harms
others, but they have no feelings of guilt or remorse. This is an important distinction,
as some people may engage in behavior that is harmful to others, but lack the
awareness that what they do is harmful. For instance, someone with ASPD who
consistently steals from a department store with no remorse may not actually think
about the fact that he or she is violating the rights of the store owner or company that
has to absorb the financial loss. Some people may also engage in behavior that
violates the rights of others, yet feel remorse for it, such as persons who engage in
domestic violence yet feel ashamed and sorry for their behavior afterwards. Thus, it is
possible for some persons to be diagnosed with ASPD due to criminal behaviors even
without the true psychopathic personality.
In contrast, the psychopath epitomizes the DSM description of a person with
a pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others. They may be aware that they
are harming others, yet feel no empathy or remorse. They may not feel empathy or
remorse even when they harm someone such as a spouse or family member. Some
psychopaths engage in criminal behavior, yet others operate well within the law,
engaging in manipulative behaviors that harm others yet are legal. Hare (2003) and
Cleckley (1964) both noted that psychopaths tend to be cruel and/or deceitful to
others to get what they want. In his book, The Mask of Sanity, Cleckley lists
characteristics that describe individuals with psychopathic personalities. His profile
consists of many criteria that are similar to what the DSM-IV describes, such as the
psychopaths unreliability, untruthfulness, lack of remorse or shame, antisocial
behavior, poor judgment, problems with major affective reactions, and failure to
follow a life plan.
Cleckley also delves deeper into problematic intimate relations, stating the
psychopath exhibits superficial charm and intelligence, pathological egocentricity and
an incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in interpersonal relations, angry and
aggressive behavior with alcohol and sometimes without, and a trivial or impersonal
sex life. In addition to these two dimensions, Cleckley also points out that the
psychopath has no delusions or anxiety (which differentiates from some other major
mental disorders), a loss of insight (meaning they dont feel that their behavior is
unacceptable) and rarely carries out suicidal behaviors.
In addition to Cleckley, Hare (2003) also came up with a clinical profile and
rating scale for the concept of psychopathy, the Psychopathy Checklist Revised
(PCL-R) that included items to assess the psychopathic personality as well as ASPD.
There are two main factors of the PCL-R: 1) Aggressive narcissism factor and 2)
Socially deviant lifestyle factor. The aggressive narcissism that Hare describes
consists of many attitudes and behaviors that contribute to the personality traits of
individuals with psychopathy. The socially deviant lifestyle factor pertains to
undesirable behaviors exhibited by these individuals, such as parasitic lifestyle, poor
behavior control, and impulsivity (Hare, 2003).
Components of Hares aggressive narcissism factor from the PCL-R describe
the idea of psychopathy discussed previously, including criteria of an interpersonal
nature that overlaps with Cleckleys clinical profile: superficial charm, a grandiose
sense of self worth, callous or lacking empathy, and promiscuous sexual behavior. In
addition, Hare includes characteristics that are described by the DSM-IV as well:
lying, manipulative, lacking remorse or guilt, manifesting shallow affect, and failing
to accept responsibility for ones own actions. See Table 1 for an overview of
antisocial/psychopathic features across DSM-IV, Cleckley, and Hare
Though it is not a criteria, an important fact when examining ASPD is that it
is associated more with men than women, evidenced by an approximate three percent
prevalence rate in men, and a one percent prevalence rate in women (APA, 2000;
Yang & Coid, 2007; Justus & Finn, 2007). Further research has also suggested that
men and women with antisocial or psychopathic traits may have somewhat different
manifestations of or correlates with these traits. In their study examining the startle
responses of men and women to aversive material, where indifference to the material
was indicative of psychopathy, Justus and Finn (2007) found that when the
participants that scored higher in psychopathy by being indifferent to aversive
material were grouped together, men in the high psychopathy group were more likely
to be excitement seeking, and displayed more antisocial behavior (e.g., poor behavior
control and impulsivity). Women in this group, however, only reported higher levels
of impulsivity then men. In a study examining the relationships of antisocial behavior
and attachment styles, Bekker, Bachrach, and Croon (2007) found that men who
displayed antisocial behavior were also more likely to have avoidant attachment style,
whereas this link was not found for women. Therefore, given the presence of
antisocial traits, men and women may have some different correlates of these traits.
Table 1 Overview of Antisocial/psychopathic Features
Cleckley (1964) DSM-IV (2000) Hare (2003)
Superficial charm/ good intelligence Glibness/superficial charm
Absence of delusions
Absence of nervousness
Unreliability Consistent irresponsibility/failure to honor obligations Failure to take responsibility for own actions
Untruthfulness and insecurity Deceitfulness, lying, aliases, conning Pathological lying; Conning and manipulative
Lack of remorse or shame Lack of remorse Lack of remorse or guilt
Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior Failure to conform to social norms
Poor judgment/failure to learn from experience Reckless disregard for safety or self and others
Pathological egocentricity/incapacity for love Grandiose sense of self- worth
Poverty in major affective reactions Shallow affect
Specific loss of insight
Unresponsiveness in interpersonal relations Callous/lack of empathy
F antastic/uninviting behavior with or without alcohol Irritability and aggressiveness
Suicide rarely carried out
Sex life impersonal, trivial, poorly integrated Promiscuous sexual behavior
Failure to follow any life plan Impulsivity, failure to plan ahead
The profile characteristic Cleckley (1964) describes as egocentricity and
incapacity for love explains how increased levels of vanity and self-esteem expressed
by psychopaths results in an inability to truly love others. Rather, these individuals
are only capable of a casual fondness and likes and dislikes, but all these emotional
reactions are very limited. However, Cleckley notes that this doesnt mean these
individuals are unable to feign love for family, children, and romantic partners, or that
they cannot display actions that look loving to feed ones own ego and inflated self-
esteem. Cleckley also discusses the lack of emotional reactions exhibited by
psychopaths, stating that emotions such as spite, resentment, and partial affection may
exist, but true emotions like grief, guilt, anger, joy, and sadness will be deficient.
Cleckley notes that the psychopath may be most cruel to those closest to them, such
as parents, children, and partners. In contrast, they may actually demonstrate
generous behaviors to people who are outside of their familial relationships. Based on
this observation, the lack of true emotions and egocentricity may cause individuals
who exhibit antisocial/psychopathic traits to disregard those who should be most
important to them while causing them to behave more kindly towards strangers to
more inflate their egos with no emotional attachment. Hare (2003) echoes Cleckleys
conceptualization, including a grandiose sense of self-worth, shallow affect, and
callousness and lack of empathy in his description of the psychopath.
Relationship Functioning and Antisocial/psychopathic Traits
Based on this information, it can be inferred that a person with the
characteristics listed above may have dysfunctional interactions of the interpersonal
nature, but it is difficult to determine if this dysfunction has an effect on their own
relationship satisfaction. Relationship satisfaction is defined as an overall happiness
with the relationship, and is a core component of any relationship. Though the people
with antisocial/psychopathic traits may be acting in ways that are problematic to
maintaining a healthy relationship, does this mean that they would be less satisfied
overall? Perhaps not. Lee (1977) describes a Ludic style of loving which is a
game-playing style where love is fim and casual, with very minimal commitment. The
ludic lover is also fairly promiscuous, and may be honest with his or her partner about
the game-playing, or may be deceptive and lead their partner on. Lee also notes that
when a ludic lover ends a relationship, they usually have another person that they are
already seeing. While Lees styles are used to explain the behaviors of many different
people, based on what is already known about a person with antisocial/psychopathic
traits, this ludic style may fit the relationship profile of these individuals. If this is the
case for individuals with antisocial/psychopathic traits, they may be satisfied in their
relationships because they are having fun, are sexually gratified, have power over
their partner, or gain similar benefits.
In general, we know that relationship satisfaction is generally related to
greater dedication to the partner and personal sacrifice for the relationship (Stanley et
al., 2006; Stanley & Markman, 1992). Given what we know about persons with
antisocial/psychopathic traits, it may be that relationship satisfaction is much less
related to dedication and sacrifice. For example, if one conceptualizes sacrifice as
giving up ones own wants or agenda to fulfill that of their partner (Impett, Gable, &
Peplau 2005), the egocentricity and callousness features of the
antisocial/psychopathic person would seem to make it unlikely that they would
engage in sacrifice, even if quite satisfied in the relationship. In addition, dedication
means that a person wants to be with the partner long term, through thick and thin.
Since the antisocial/psychopathic person can be unreliable, impulsive, and
promiscuous, it also seems unlikely that they would have this attitude, even if
currently satisfied in the relationship.
Another component of a relationship is the idea of psychological constraint
which examines how people may feel trapped in the relationship they are in. The
egocentrism Cleckley and Hare described, as well as the general lack of regard for
others may cause those with antisocial/psychopathic traits to avoid or abandon any
situation where they may experience feelings of psychological constraint and seek out
situations or relationships where they have the most power/control over the other
person involved. Therefore, it can be inferred that people with antisocial/psychopathic
traits will be less likely to feel constrained by their relationship and they will probably
be more likely to be the partner that has the power/control in the relationship.
Psychopathy on a Continuum
Though some research has demonstrated that psychopathy is a discrete
categorical construct (Harris, Rice & Quinsey, 1994), current research is providing
support for the idea that psychopathy lies on a continuum of personality traits. Based
on this theory and research, it is important to understand that the diagnosis of ASPD
or these before mentioned personality characteristics of a psychopath may merely
represent one extreme of the personality continuum. Other individuals may have the
traits to a lesser degree but do not meet the criteria to qualify them for an ASPD or
Hare (1996) notes that psychopaths differ from the normal population in
degree, rather than being their own distinct group, implying that psychopathy is
dimensional rather than categorical. This idea is also evidenced by the research of
Murrie et al. (2007) which found that psychopathic traits in adolescence differ in
degree, not in the types of behaviors displayed. This research demonstrated that
psychopathic personality characteristics are best represented on a continuum. Murrie
et al. (2007) found no evidence that children with psychopathic characteristics were a
distinct group separate from those children without psychopathic characteristics. In
addition, Walton (2005) examined whether psychopathy was a discrete taxon or an
extreme of certain personality traits by using Item Response Theory and found the
same results. There was no evidence for a discrete taxon of psychopathy; rather,
psychopathy is more likely an extreme of this type of personality.
The Schedule for Nonadaptive and Adaptive Personality (SNAP; Clark, 1993)
was created to assess personality characteristics from a normal to abnormal range
(Harlan & Clark, 1999). The SNAP assesses personality by using a dimensional
approach to detect any overlap in disordered personalities. Clark (1993) notes that a
problem with the DSMs categorical definition of abnormal personalities is that it
implies that each disorder is its own discrete entity, but many personality disorders
have overlapping symptoms. Therefore, the SNAPs dimensional approach allows
users to examine the continuum of personality characteristics that may be present in
different degrees from normal to abnormal personalities. In the current study, the
SNAP is used to measure these personality characteristics.
Because there is evidence suggesting that psychopathy is not a discrete
phenomenon, but rather an extreme of the normal personality, we may extend what
we know about how clinical populations diagnosed with ASPD or psychopathy would
behave in intimate relationships based on the personality characteristics they have.
That is, in a non-clinical population, these same characteristics (manipulativeness,
entitlement, aggressiveness, impulsivity, etc.) may lead to the same types of reactions
and behaviors characterized by those with ASPD or psychopathy. For example, if a
person demonstrates a great deal of entitlement, they would probably be less likely to
sacrifice for or be dedicated to their partner.
The current study explores certain antisocial/psychopathic traits on a
continuum and how levels of these traits or characteristics are related to relationship
functioning. By examining these traits in a normal population, we can determine if
levels of manipulativeness, antisocialness, entitlement, disinhibition, and aggression
as part of a larger construct (antisocial/psychopathic traits) relate to relationship
sacrifice, satisfaction, dedication, constraint, and power/control. Specifically, I will
explore the relationship between relationship satisfaction and antisocial/psychopathic
traits to determine what type, if any, relationship exists between the two variables. In
addition, the specific hypotheses for this study are as follows: 1) There will be
negative relationships between antisocial/psychopathic traits and sacrifice, dedication,
and constraint; 2) There will be a negative relationship between
antisocial/psychopathic traits and the perceived power/control exhibited by the
partner; 3) Antisocial/psychopathic traits will moderate relationships between
relationship satisfaction and dedication and sacrifice. Specifically, higher levels of
such traits will predict a weaker relationship between satisfaction and dedication and
sacrifice. That is, for persons with more antisocial traits, the typical relationship
between satisfaction and dedication and sacrifice will be attenuated; persons high in
such traits will be less likely to sacrifice for the partner or commit for the long haul
even if they are satisfied.
This study is a secondary analysis of a pre-existing database containing
approximately 486 undergraduate participants from the University of Colorado
Denver. The participants were between the ages of 18 and 52. The sample was made
up of 124 males and 310 females. Of the sample, 26 (5.6%) participants were black, 2
(.4%) were American Indian/Alaska Native, 4 (.9%) were Hawaiian/Pacific Islander,
282 (60.9%) were white, 66 (14.3%) were Asian, and 52 (9.8%) were other or
endorsed more than one ethnicity.
Participants for this study were chosen from undergraduate psychology
classes at the University of Colorado Denver. Participants could participate in the
study for extra credit, or just volunteering. Participants reviewed the consent form,
completed a survey measure that consisted of open-ended questions, scale questions,
and multiple choice questions, and then received a debriefing handout. Any questions
were answered that did not pertain to the direct hypotheses of the study. Most
participants scheduled an appointment to meet in a classroom specified for the
purpose of completing the questionnaire. One class participated in the study as an in-
class experience. The size of each group of participants was limited to allow the
students to have room to spread out to ensure confidentiality. The questionnaire took
about an hour to complete. All aspects of the study were conducted under the
approval of the IRB.
For each construct, the scale items and their origins will be explained below.
To reduce respondent burden and to focus specifically on target constructs, some
scales consisted of a) a subset of items from validated measures, b) novel
combinations of items from validated measures, and/or c) rephrased or novel items.
The internal consistency of all the scales was tested to ensure reliability in the current
sample before using. Internal consistency of all scales was adequate and there were
no items that significantly negatively impacted the reliability of the scales, so no
items were dropped. See appendix A for a complete list of items on each scale.
The Schedule for Nonadaptive and Adaptive Personality (SNAP; Clark, 1993)
is a 315 item self report measure designed to assess a number of traits relevant to
DSM personality diagnosis. It contains 15 different scales assessing diverse
personality traits and temperaments as well as scales designed to assess DSM III-R
personality disorders, including antisocial personality disorder. To create the SNAP,
Clark (1993) gave participants the original subset of items, and the items that were
endorsed by at least 95 percent of the participant population were dropped. The items
that made up each dimension were factor analyzed to determine whether those items
measured the intended trait or multiple traits. This process was completed until the
final version of the inventory was constructed. All of the SNAP scales demonstrated
good internal consistency and test-retest reliability. Strong correlations between the
SNAP and other personality assessment inventories (MMPI-2, MPQ, SIDP-R) were
found, demonstrating good convergent validity.
To reduce respondent burden for the current study, a subset of 100 SNAP
items were used that sampled a number of the traits. A scale assessing antisocial and
psychopathic traits was extracted from the larger set of 100 SNAP items. The original
antisocial personality disorder scale contained 35 items; a subset of seven items was
used in the current study. In addition, items from other scales were chosen in order to
further expand on DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for ASPD and to include the traits
described by Cleckley and/or Hare for the psychopathic personality. First, Cleckley
describes a pathological egocentricity and Hare notes a grandiose sense of self
worth as part of the psychopathic profile. Thus, items from the entitlement scale are
included, for example, I think I am quite an extraordinary person. Second, the
DSM-IV describes aggression as a major aspect of antisocial personality and in fact,
the original SNAP has many items which load onto both the antisocial scale and
aggression scale. Thus, two aggression items were included (e.g., I sometimes have
to use force to show people whos boss). Third, the DSM-IV describes recklessness
when it comes to the safety of oneself and others, and Cleckley notes that the
psychopath has poor judgment and fails to learn from experience. Because of these
characteristics, two items were pulled from the disinhibited scale from the SNAP
(e.g., When Im having a good time, I dont worry about the consequences).
Finally, due to the conning and manipulative characteristics outlined by Cleckley, the
DSM-IV, and Hare, two items from the manipulative scale were also used (e.g., I
would not use others weaknesses for my own advantage; reverse scored).
The final revision that was made was to change the original SNAP questions
from true/false to a seven point scale. Because this is a non-clinical population used
in the current study, it is more likely that the antisocial/psychopathic traits are on a
continuum, rather than likely to be at more diagnostic levels. The final scale score
was determined by obtaining an average of the score on each item, with higher scores
reflecting more antisocial/psychopathic traits, and lower scores reflecting less
antisocial/psychopathic traits. See Table 2 for an overview of antisocial/psychopathic
traits based on the DSM-IV, Cleckley and Hares profiles and the scale items that
load on each characteristic.
The Power/control scale was assessed using the Relationship Control subscale
of the Sexual Relationship Power Scale (SRPS) by Pulerwitz, Gortmaker, and DeJong
(2000). This scale consists of 15 items. The SRPS was developed by using six focus
groups of female participants to critique an original pool of items regarding power in
relationships, and to also come up with new items based on answers to open-ended
questions describing how their male partners exerted power and control in their
Table 2 Items Representing Various Antisocial/psychopathic Traits
Cleckley (1964) DSM-IV (2000) Hare (2003) Item
Superficial charm/good intelligence Glibness/superficial charm All I have to do is smile and people give me my way.
Unreliability Consistent irresponsibility/failure to honor obligations Failure to take responsibility for own actions I often get out of doing things by making up good excuses.
Untruthfulness and insecurity Deceitfulness, lying, aliases, conning Pathological lying; Conning and manipulative Lying comes easily to me. As a kid, I told lots of lies.
Lack of remorse or shame Lack of remorse Lack of remorse or guilt When Im having a good time, I dont worry about consequences. When I decide things, I always refer to the basic rules of right or wrong.
Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior Failure to conform to social norms Ive done a lot of things for which I could have been (or was) arrested or gotten into legal trouble. As a kid, I was always getting into trouble for breaking the rules at home or school.
Table 2 (cont)
Pathological egocentricity/ incapacity for love Grandiose sense of self-worth I think Im quite an extraordinary person. I am usually right. I deserve the best. Things go best when people do things the way I want them done. I deserve more than I am getting.
Uninviting behavior with or without alcohol Irritability and aggressiveness When someone hurts me I try to get even. Sometimes I have to show people whos boss.
Unresponsiveness in interpersonal relations Callous/lack of empathy I would not use others weaknesses to my own advantage.
Sex life impersonal, trivial, poorly integrated Promiscuous sexual behavior I have never been faithful to just one person for more than a year. I rarely stay is a sexual relationship with just one person for very long.
Failure to follow any life plan Impulsivity, failure to plan ahead I often act without thinking.
From these focus groups, items were narrowed down and others were added to create
the final scale. The final scale has good internal consistency, and content and face
validity based on relevant theoretical principles. Good construct validity was based on
a factor analysis where the correlations demonstrated that the two domains:
relationship control and decision-making dominance, both related to the construct of
sexual relationship power (Pulerwitz, Gortmaker, & DeJong, 2000). To retain
consistency with other items on the overall measure, a seven point response scale was
used, where higher average scores indicated the participants partner has more power
and is more controlling in the relationship (i.e., the respondent has less power).
Stanley and Markman (1992) created the Commitment Inventory (Cl) which
assessed commitment in intimate relationships on two dimensions: personal
dedication and constraint commitment. Personal dedication is defined as the desire to
maintain or improve relationship quality for the benefit of both people in the
relationship, and constraint commitment is defined as the things that keep individuals
in their relationships regardless of their dedication to the relationship. Participants
answered Likert-scale questions about their commitment to determine if each of the
12 subscales would effectively correlate with either the personal dedication
dimension or the constraint commitment dimension. Correlations between the Cl and
other commitment measures were high, thus demonstrating concurrent validity. In
addition, all 12 subscales demonstrated internal consistency and reliability.
Stanley (2003) later came up with an even smaller subscale of items to assess
dedication, pulled from the dedication dimension of the CL His four item scale of
dedication consisted of items that he felt were central concepts when examining
dedication: 1) My relationship with my partner is more important to me than almost
anything else in my life, 2) I may not want to be with my partner a few years from
now, 3) I like to think of my partner and me more in terms of us and we than
me and him/her, and 4) I want this relationship to stay strong no matter what
rough times we may encounter. For this study, Stanleys four item scale was used to
assess dedication. A seven point scale was also used; scores were averaged and higher
scores were indicative of more dedication.
Stanley (2003) also recommends using a small number of items to assess
constraint. In the original Cl, the constraint scale contains many items that get at how
intertwined the couple is, pressures to stay together, difficulty and unhappiness about
ending the relationship, and likelihood of finding someone else after the current
relationship ends. For this study, in consultation with Stanley (personal
communication, December 12, 2006) we used three items to approximate the
construct of the psychological sense of stuckness that goes along with constraint as
well as structural barriers which impede leaving a relationship. Specifically, we
asked: 1) If I could make it on my own, I would leave this relationship, 2) I would
like to leave this relationship, but there are reasons that make it difficult to do so, such
as my sense of obligation to my partner, concern for the kids, or financial dependency
on my partner, and 3) I feel trapped of stuck in our relationship. A seven point scale
was used; scores were averaged and higher scores indicated more constraint.
Relationship satisfaction was assessed with the Quality of Marriage Index
(QMI) developed by Norton (1983). Norton created the QMI to assess relationship
satisfaction and global assessments of quality (e.g., We have a good relationship.)
as compared to other aspects of relationships such as conflict, similarities, and
commitment. Norton found high internal consistency for the scale. Convergent
validity was demonstrated by the findings that QMI scores are positively related to
similarity of attitudes between partners and negatively related to discussions of
ending the relationship (Norton, 1983). Five of the six QMI questions are rated on a
seven point response scale and one item is rated on a ten point scale. The final score
is measured by summing the scores, where the lowest score possible is six and the
highest score possible is 45. Higher scores indicated more relationship satisfaction.
Impett, Gable, and Peplau (2005) define sacrifice in a relationship as doing
something unwanted (i.e., active sacrifice) and as giving up something wanted (i.e.,
passive sacrifice) for the sake of the partner. Impett et al. (2005) prompted
participants with the following definition of sacrifice, Sometimes people make
sacrifices for the sake of the partner or the relationship. For example, they might do
things for or with their partner that they are not personally interested in doing, or give
up things that they are personally interested in doing for the sake of the partner. In
the current study, these directions were used, but two other examples of sacrifice
were added to these directions based on discussions with women about ways in which
they put their partners needs above their own: Be nice to their partner even when
upset with them; Tolerate their partners bad behavior. In the current study, after
being prompted with this definition, participants were then asked about frequency of
their own sacrifice in their current relationship (e.g., How often do you sacrifice for
your relationship? How often do you put your needs aside and put your partners
needs first?). All sacrifice items are assessed on a seven point scale. Scores were
averaged so that higher scores indicated more frequent sacrifice.
A power analysis was conducted. For the male population, N = 124
demonstrated ample power (.95) to detect a medium effect size, r = .36 (p < .01). For
the women in the sample, N = 310 demonstrated ample power (.95) to detect a small
effect size, r = .235 (p < .01).
All scales had good reliability; the Antisocial/Psychopathic Trait Scale had an
alpha of .776, the Satisfaction Scale had an alpha of .825, the Dedication Scale had an
alpha of .773, the Constraint Scale had an alpha of .871, the Power/Control Scale had
an alpha of .947, and the Sacrifice Scale had an alpha of .777.
Most scales were reasonably normally distributed; however, constraint
appeared to have large positive skew. Analyses for the female group (N = 310) were
considered robust to this skew due to sample size. That is, Tabachnick & Fidell
(2007) provides guidelines that, for samples larger than 300, skew less than +2 and
greater than -2 is acceptable (constraint skew was 1.471). In addition, no other
variable had skew that violated this guideline. However, because the male population
was less than 300 (N = 124), z-scores were computed to determine if any of the scale
were substantially non-normally distributed. Four of the scales were considered to be
reasonably normally distributed; however, constraint and satisfaction were considered
to be substantially non-normal with z = 4.369, and -4.668, respectively (the cut-off
being the absolute value of 3.29; Tabachnick & Fidell, 2007). For the scales that
were considered to be fairly normal and/or analyses were robust to the level of
violation of normality, transformations were not utilized and standard parametric
analyses (Pearsons correlations and multiple regression analyses) were used.
Transformations were conducted on constraint and satisfaction for males; the inverse
of constraint resulted in z = 1.98, and the square root transformation of satisfaction
resulted in z = 0.04, both of which were less than the 3.29 cut-off for acceptable
skew. For interpretive ease, we will present results from both untransformed and
Correlations were used to examine the relationships between
antisocial/psychopathic traits and satisfaction, dedication, constraint, power/control,
and sacrifice. Men and women were analyzed separately. The first goal of this study
was to explore the relationship between antisocial/psychopathic traits and
relationships satisfaction. For men, antisocial/psychopathic traits and satisfaction
were significantly related at r = -.23 (p < .01) (confirmed with a correlation of .23 (p
< .05) with the transformed variable, note reverse of direction due to inverse
transformation). For women, antisocial/psychopathic traits were significantly related
to satisfaction at r = -.22 (p < .01). Thus, for men and women, higher levels of
antisocial traits were related to lower relationship satisfaction.
The first hypothesis of this study proposed that there would be negative
relationships between antisocial/psychopathic traits and sacrifice, dedication, and
constraint. For the males, antisocial/psychopathic traits and sacrifice,
antisocial/psychopathic traits and dedication, and antisocial/psychopathic traits and
constraint were not significantly related at r = -.09 (p = .33), r = -.15 (p = .10), and r =
.15 (p = .09) (-.09 (p = .32) transformed), respectively. Even though the relationships
were not significant, the general direction of the correlations between antisocial/
psychopathic traits and sacrifice and dedication was in the direction hypothesized.
That is, higher levels of antisocial traits were (nonsignificantly) related to lower
sacrifice and dedication. However, the correlation between antisocial/psychopathic
traits and constraint was in the opposite direction predicted, in that higher levels of
antisocial traits were related (nonsignificantly) to higher levels of felt constraint.
For the women, antisocial/psychopathic traits and sacrifice were not
significantly related at r = .08, thus also not supporting the hypothesis (p = .13)
However, antisocial/psychopathic traits and dedication and antisocial/psychopathic
traits and constraint were significantly related at r = -.16 (p < .01), and r = .22 (p <
.01), respectively. The results for antisocial/psychopathic traits and dedication
supported the hypothesis, but the results for antisocial/psychopathic traits and
constraint did not.
The second hypothesis for this study was that a negative relationship would
exist between antisocial/psychopathic traits and perceived partner power/control in
the relationship, such that higher levels of such traits would correlate with less partner
power (i.e., more respondent power). For men, antisocial/psychopathic traits and
partner power were significantly related at r = .31 (p < .01), which did not support the
hypothesis about the relationship between these two variables, and the same
relationship was found for the women as well, at r = .24 (p < .01). That is, higher
levels of antisocial traits related to higher levels of perceptions that the partner held
greater power in the relationship.
Collapsing the Sample
Because the correlations were so close between men and women for
antisocial/psychopathic traits and satisfaction, dedication, constraint, and
power/control Fishers r to z tests were conducted on all four of the correlations to
determine if there was any significant difference between the groups. The results
showed there were no significant differences between the correlations, lending
support for running analyses on both groups together. After combining the two
groups, antisocial/psychopathic traits and satisfaction, dedication, constraint, and
power were all significantly related at r = -.24, r = -.19, r = .23, and r = .31,
respectively (p < .01). The sample in its entirety was greater than 300, therefore, all
scales were robust to violations of normality and total sample analyses used
untransformed data. Refer to table 3 for all the correlations for all groups.
Multiple regressions were used to determine whether or not the level of
antisocial/psychopathic traits had an effect on the strength of the relationship between
satisfaction and sacrifice and dedication. Analyses were conducted both with and
without the transformed satisfaction variables. The transformations had no impact on
the results for the male group, so for interpretive clarity, I will be presenting the
Table 3 Correlation Results
Male Sample Female Sample Total Sample
AS/P and r = -.23** (r = .23)* r = -.22** r = -.24**
AS/P and r = -.15 r = -.16** r = 19**
AS/P and r = .15 (r = -.09) r = .22** r = .23**
AS/P and Power r= .31** r = .24** r = .31**
AS/P and Sacrifice r = -.09 00 o II
Values in parentheses are the correlation obtained with the transformed variable. Note
reverse in direction as the transformations reversed the direction of values.
** equals significance at p < .01 and equals significance at p < .05
No interaction effects were found for antisocial/psychopathic traits in any of
the regressions, meaning that antisocial traits did NOT moderate any of the
relationships between relationship satisfaction and sacrifice or dedication.
Details on main effects (not a focus of this study) are presented here. Once
again, men and women were analyzed separately. For men, there was a main effect of
satisfaction on dedication, p = .76 (p < .01), and there was no effect for
antisocial/psychopathic traits, P = -.02 (p = .73). There was also a trend of satisfaction
on sacrifice, P = .21 (p = .07), and there was no effect for antisocial/psychopathic
traits P = -.04 (p = .64).
For the women in the study, there was a main effect of satisfaction on
dedication, p = .64 (p < .01), and there was no effect for antisocial/psychopathic
traits, P = -.01 (p = .78). Though there was no significant interaction effect, there was
a trend for an interaction, p = -.08 (p = .09). There was no main effect for satisfaction
on sacrifice, p = -.05 (p = .38), and no effect for antisocial/psychopathic traits, P = .03
(p = .62). Because the results of the multiple regressions for dedication of the non-
transformed male population and the female population were so similar, both groups
were combined as they were with the correlations to provide a larger sample that was
robust to violations of normality. For the combined group there was a main effect of
satisfaction on dedication, P = .67 (p < .01), and no effect for antisocial/psychopathic
traits, P = -.05 (p = .20). There was also no interaction effects for the combined group,
p = -.05 (p = .21). Refer to Table 4 for the results of the multiple regressions with
dedication as the dependant variable. Refer to Table 5 for the multiple regressions
with sacrifice as the dependant variable.
Table 4 Multiple Regression with dedication as DV
Male Male (transformed) Female All
AS/P B= -.02 (p= 73) B= -.03 (p=.71) B= -.01 (p=. 78) B= -.05 (p= 20)
Satisfaction B= .76 (p< .01) B= .77 (p< .01) B= .64 (p< .01) B=.67 (p< .01)
Interaction B= -.12 (p=.16) B= -.17 (p=.07) B= -.08 (p=.09) B= -.05 (p=.21)
Table 5 Multiple Regression with sacrifice as DV
Male Male (transformed) Female
AS/P B= -.04 (p= .64) B= -.05 (p= .63) B= .03 (p= .62)
Satisfaction B= .21 (p= .07) B= .21 (p= .09) B= -.05 (p= .38)
Interaction B= .06 (p= .59) B= -.07 (p= .54) B= .10 (p= .10)
Follow up analyses
Given that the hypotheses about the relationship between
antisocial/psychopathic traits and power/control were not supported, I examined the
items on these scales. When I examined the Power/control scale, I noticed certain
items which may not be entirely consistent with power as conceptualized in this
study. For example, I noticed the item If I asked my partner to use a condom, my
partner would get angry. It may be that a person higher in antisocial traits would
endorse this more highly, simply as a matter of fact, but would not consider this
representing more power on the part of the partner. I eliminated five such items that
pertained more to the sexual nature of the relationship, in an attempt and narrow
down the scale to those items most centered around the idea of power/control. The
new scale had an alpha of .85, which was less than the alpha of the original scale in
its entirety. Correlations between antisocial/psychopathic traits and the revised
Power/control scale remained significant; r = .24 (p < .01) for males, and r = .23 (p <
.01) for females and in the same direction. Thus, persons higher in antisocial traits
continued to report more partner power even after refining the scale.
The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between
antisocial/psychopathic traits and satisfaction, dedication, constraint, power/control,
and sacrifice, as well as, determine if the level of antisocial/psychopathic traits had an
effect on the strength of the relationship between satisfaction and dedication and
Results of the relationship between antisocial/psychopathic traits and
relationship satisfaction demonstrated that as levels of antisocial/psychopathic traits
increased, the overall relationship satisfaction decreased. As previously discussed, it
was difficult to hypothesize the direction of the relationship between
antisocial/psychopathic traits and relationship satisfaction because, given the self-
centered nature of these traits, these individuals could be very uncomfortable when
engaged in a relationship and exhibit behaviors which result in relationship conflict
and distress. However, the rationale used for hypothesizing a positive relationship
between these two variables in the current study was that because of the self-
centeredness and lack of guilt and remorse, these individuals may be able to do
whatever makes them happy at the cost of their partners happiness, and might get
more satisfaction out of the relationship. For this study, it seems that the former
rationale was the case.
When examining the relationship between antisocial/psychopathic traits and
dedication, the hypothesis that as these traits increased, dedication would decrease
was supported. Given that being dedicated to another person indicates investment,
empathy, etc. it is easy to see why someone with these traits would be less dedicated.
However, the relationship between antisocial traits and constraint was
opposite to what was hypothesized. Because of the self-centered nature of someone
with antisocial/psychopathic traits, I initially hypothesized that these individuals
would not allow themselves to be in a situation where they felt constrained, rather,
they would leave a relationship before it ever reached a point to where they felt
trapped. However, results of this study showed that as antisocial/psychopathic traits
increased, so did feelings of constraint. This may be due to the fact that these
individuals are so concerned with their own well-being, that anytime they are sharing
their life with another person they feel more trapped. That is, persons higher in such
traits may be more inherently uncomfortable with obligations of an intimate
relationship and experience these as being trapped or stuck.
The interesting finding in this study was the relationship between
antisocial/psychopathic traits and the partners power/control. Because the traits
include entitlement, selfishness, and manipulativeness, I had hypothesized that the
partner would have less power than the person with these traits. However, as
antisocial/psychopathic traits increased, so did the perceptions of partners
power/control. One possible explanation is similar to the constraint finding; persons
high in antisocial traits may perceive even normal levels of relationship give and take
as the partner having power over them. That is, the focus on ones own needs and
gratification may make a person acutely sensitive to any influence exerted by a
partner. Related to this, persons higher in such traits lack insight into how their own
behaviors affect others. Therefore it is possible that someone with these same types of
traits merely lacks the insight that they themselves are the ones who are controlling
and believe the partner is, whether that is the actual case or not. However, perhaps
persons with antisocial/psychopathic personality do hold less power in relationships.
It may be that antisocial factors such as impulsivity and lack of concern regarding the
relationship undermine a persons power base and result in the partner taking over
decision making and other aspects of power. For example, perhaps the partner is
granted more decision making power in part due to lack of investment on the part of
participants higher in antisocial traits.
In addition, the measure itself may not have captured perceptions of ones
own power. As previously mentioned, the SRPS was originally created by asking
females the different ways that their partners exerted power over them. Because of
this, none of the subjects for this study ever answered any items assessing their own
influence of power in the relationship, only items that indicated the partners power.
Therefore, it may be that if a different scale was used that examined their own
power/control behaviors, those items may have been endorsed by the participants who
endorsed more items on the antisocial/psychopathic trait scale. In addition, many of
the questions may not have been as relevant for a college population. For example,
when examining the item; My partner has more to say about important decisions that
affect us, in a young sample, there may not be many important decisions that need to
be made in the relationship yet.
The results of the current study showed there was no relationship between
antisocial/psychopathic traits and sacrifice. However, it is interesting to note that the
correlations were not at all similar in direction and degree when analyzed based on
females versus males. Though the relationship was not significant, the direction was
negative for men, but positive for women, possibly indicating that women may be just
more socialized to sacrifice regardless of any other traits they may exhibit. A possible
explanation for the lack of any relationship between these two variables could again
be the age of the participants used for this study. As relationships increase in
seriousness and intensity, there tends to be more issues within them that necessitate
sacrifice. For adolescent and post-adolescent relationships, these may be more trivial
in nature with less opportunity for either party to have to sacrifice.
When multiple regressions were conducted to examine the relationships of
satisfaction and dedication and sacrifice moderated by antisocial/psychopathic traits,
no interaction effects were found, demonstrating that the level of antisocial/
psychopathic traits did not impact the relationship between satisfaction and these
other variables. Thus, these variables are related in similar ways regardless of level of
antisocial/psychopathic traits, suggesting that persons higher in antisocial traits
experience the same forces on relationship satisfaction in a similar manner to those
lower in such traits.
Limitations and Recommendations for Future Research
One major limitation of this study was the sample that was used. Because it
was a population of undergraduates, these results cannot be generalized to the general
population. The age of the participants (M = 21) may have created a sample where
most relationships were less mature, and more trivial, than in a sample of the general
population. For future research, when examining the power variable, a different
measure, specifically a self-report that assesses ones own exertion of power, may
yield different results.
Previous studies on this topic have examined the behaviors of people
diagnosed with ASPD or psychopathy, but have not addressed how these individuals
feel about the relationships they are in. The current study sought to explore how
individuals who have these traits experience their relationships. The results of this
study demonstrated that individuals with these traits tended to be less satisfied, felt
more constrained, and felt like they had less power in their interpersonal
relationships. The current study provided more theoretical insight and enhanced the
body of research about these individuals. In addition, since this study was conducted
with a non-clinical sample, rather than with people who were already diagnosed with
ASPD and psychopathy, it provides insight about how these traits effect the way these
people feel in their relationships. The results from this study can assist in clinical
cases with couples in therapy. Now that we know how these traits effect ones
personal perceptions of the relationship, that understanding may help clinicians in
providing support and treatment.
1) As a kid, I told lots of lies.
2) As a kid, I was always getting into trouble for breaking the rules at home or
3) I rarely stay in a sexual relationship with just one person for very long.
4) I have never been faithful to just one person for more than a year.
5) Ive done a lot of things for which I could have been (or was) arrested or
gotten into legal trouble.
6) I often act without thinking.
7) Lying comes easily to me.
8) When someone hurts me I try to get even.
9) I sometimes have to use force to show people whos boss.
10) When I decide things, I always refer to the basic rules of right and wrong.
11) When Im having a good time, I dont worry about the consequences.
12) I am usually right.
13) I deserve the best.
14) Things go best when people do things the way I do them or want them
15) I think I am quite an extraordinary person.
16) All I have to do is smile and people give me my way.
17) I deserve more than I am getting.
18) I would not use others weaknesses to my own advantage.
19) I often get out of doing things by making up good excuses.
1) If I asked my partner to use a condom, my partner would get violent.
2) If I asked my partner to use a condom, my partner would get angry.
3) Most of the time, we do what my partner wants to do.
4) My partner wont let me wear certain things.
5) When my partner and I are together, Im pretty quiet.
6) My partner has more to say about important decisions that affect us.
7) My partner tells me who I can spend time with.
8) If I asked my partner to use a condom, he or she would think Im having
sex with other people.
9) I feel trapped or stuck in our relationship.
10) My partner does what he or she wants, even if I do not want him or her to.
11) I am committed to our relationship than my partner.
12) When my partner and I disagree, my partner gets his or her way most of
13) My partner gets more out of our relationship than I do.
14) My partner always wants to know where I am.
15) My partner might be having sex with someone else.
1) If I could make it on my own, I would leave this relationship.
2) I would like to leave this relationship, but there are reasons that make it
difficult to do so, such as my sense of obligation to my partner, concern for
the kids, or financial dependency on my partner.
3) I feel trapped or stuck in our relationship.
1) My relationship with my partner is more important to me than almost
anything else in my life.
2) I may not want to be with my partner a few years from now.
3) I like to think of my partner and me more in terms of us and we than
me and him/her.
4) I want this relationship to stay strong no matter what rough times we may
1) All things considered, what degree of happiness bests describes your
2) We have a good relationship.
3) My relationship with my partner is very stable.
4) My relationship with my partner is very strong.
5) My relationship with my partner makes me happy.
6) I really feel like part of a team with my partner.
1) How often do you sacrifice for your relationship?
2) How often do you deliberately give up power to your partner?
3) How often do you put your needs aside and put your partners needs first?
4) How often do you tolerate your partner acting up?
5) How often do you give in to your partner?
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