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Can core genetic liabilities for suicidal behavior be indexed using psychological and neural indicators combined? The current work addressed this question by examining phenotypic and genetic associations of two biobehavioral traits, threat sensitivity (THT) and disinhibition (DIS) – operationalized as psychoneurometric variables (i.e., composites of psychological-scale and neurophysiological measures) – with suicidal behaviors in a sample of adult twins.
Participants were 444 identical and fraternal twins recruited from an urban community. THT was assessed using a psychological-scale measure of fear/fearlessness combined with physiological indicators of reactivity to aversive pictures, and DIS was assessed using scale measures of disinhibitory tendencies combined with indicators of brain response from lab performance tasks. Suicidality was assessed using items from structured interview and questionnaire protocols.
THT and DIS each contributed uniquely to prediction of suicidality when assessed psychoneurometrically (i.e., as composites of scale and neurophysiological indicators). In addition, these traits predicted suicidality interactively, with participants high on both reporting the greatest degree of suicidal behaviors. Biometric (twin-modeling) analyses revealed that a high percentage of the predictive association for each psychoneurometric trait (83% for THT, 68% for DIS) was attributable to genetic variance in common with suicidality.
Findings indicate that psychoneurometric assessments of biobehavioral traits index genetic liability for suicidal behavior, and as such, can serve as innovative targets for research on core biological processes contributing to severe psychopathology, including suicidal proclivities and actions.
The triarchic model of psychopathy characterizes the disorder in terms of three distinguishable phenotypic facets: disinhibition, meanness and boldness. The present study sought to (1) inform current debates regarding the role of boldness in the definition of psychopathy and (2) clarify boundaries between psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD).
This study evaluated the degree to which facets of the triarchic model are represented in the most widely used clinical inventory for psychopathy, the Psychopathy Checklist – Revised (PCL-R), in comparison with ASPD as defined by DSM-IV criteria. Adult male offenders from two distinct correctional settings (n = 157 and 169) were investigated to ensure replicability of findings across samples exhibiting high base rates of psychopathy and antisocial behavior.
We found evidence for convergent and discriminant validity of the three triarchic facets in predicting symptomatic components of psychopathy as assessed by the PCL-R. Additionally, and crucially vis-à-vis current debates in the field, we found that boldness contributed incrementally (over and above disinhibition and meanness) to prediction of PCL-R psychopathy, in particular its interpersonal style component, but not ASPD.
The three distinct facets of the triarchic model of psychopathy are represented clearly and distinctly in the PCL-R, with boldness through its interpersonal facet, but not in DSM-defined ASPD. Our findings suggest that boldness is central to diagnostic conceptions of psychopathy and distinguishes psychopathy from the more prevalent diagnosis of ASPD.
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