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A systematic review of the heritability of specific psychopathic traits using Hare’s two-factor model of psychopathy

  • Sapna Dhanani (a1), Veena Kumari (a2), Basant K. Puri (a3), Ian Treasaden (a4), Susan Young (a5) and Piyal Sen (a6)...



There have been no systematic reviews that investigated the heritability of the two-factor model of psychopathy: interpersonal-affective and behavioral. Our review aimed, first, to examine the heritability of general psychopathic traits and, second, if genetic influences were suggested, to determine the heritability of various traits related to the interpersonal-affective and behavioral factors of psychopathy.


A systematic literature search was conducted using articles from the PsycINFO, Embase, Global Health, Medline, PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus databases (January of 1980 to December of 2015) in order to identify eligible literature that reported on the heritability of psychopathy-related traits. Papers were also found via manual examination and reference tracking. Papers were subjected to exclusion criteria and quality appraisal. We identified a total of 24 studies.


Our results were grouped into three categories: general, interpersonal-affective, and behavioral. All these areas demonstrated modest to high heritability. The highest heritability values were found in studies investigating callous-unemotional behaviors.


Heritability was found for all the psychopathic traits. Future research should include endophenotypic approaches that explore gene–environment correlations, which could aid in identification of the behavioral phenotype that is most amenable to early intervention by way of moderation of genetic risk.


Corresponding author

*Address for correspondence: Sapna Dhanani, Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neurosciences, 16 De Crespigny Park, London, SE5 8AF, United Kingdom. (Email:


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