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The problematic dual objective of Psychopathic Personality Disorder: A study of in-school rule-breaking behaviour



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Larmour, Simon Robert  ORCID logo



This thesis aims to challenge the way in which Psychopathic Personality Disorder is defined and understood. There is a major emphasis on PPD’s ability to predict (and some argue explain) criminal behaviour, which leads to a heterogeneity of individuals labelled with PPD and confusion about the direction conceptual development of the disorder takes.


In total 1,057 pupils from 37 secondary schools and 2 pupil referral units from North London, Hertfordshire, and Cambridgeshire completed the questionnaire. The aim was to capture the full spectrum of morality, rule-breaking behaviour, and PPD. By having a large number of pupils complete the questionnaire, knowledge could be gained on how morality interacts with PPD in leading towards or away from rule-breaking behaviour.


Morality was shown to moderate the relationship between PPD and rule-breaking behaviour, indicating that those who scored high on PPD dimensions not only varied in their levels of morality but also varied in their levels of rule-breaking behaviour. These findings support the concerns raised by Ronald Blackburn (1988) and John Gunn (1998) about the heterogeneity of individuals with PPD. Predetermined morality within the concept of PPD is only present due to its relationship to rule-breaking behaviour and criminal behaviour.


There is heterogeneity among those who score high on PPD on the basis of in-school rule-breaking behaviour and morality. Furthermore, PPD is better understood within an SAT framework. These findings support Ronald Blackburn and John Gunn’s concerns about the value of a PPD label. To further our understanding, it is suggested that the components of PPD be viewed and understood individually.





Wikström, Per-Olof


Psychopathy, Situational Action Theory, Delinquency, School


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
The Dawes Trust, Wakefield Scholarship