Treatment of substance abuse in serious juvenile offenders : moderating effects of psychopathic traits

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Title: Treatment of substance abuse in serious juvenile offenders : moderating effects of psychopathic traits
Author: Rovamo, Eeva
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Lääketieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine
Helsingfors universitet, Medicinska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2019
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: Objectives. Psychopaths have frequently been regarded as untreatable or even made worse by treatment. Psychopathy has also been linked to substance use disorders; however, little research has been conducted regarding how psychopathic traits impact the treatment of substance use problems. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether psychopathic traits in severe juvenile offenders interact with substance use treatment effectiveness. Specifically, this study examined whether psychopathic traits, including grandiose-manipulative, callous-unemotional and impulsive-irresponsible traits moderate treatment gains measured as a decrease in problematic substance use. It was hypothesised that grandiose-manipulative and callous-unemotional traits would interact with treatment effect. Method. The study sample consisted of 472 participants from a larger, criminogenic longitudinal study of juveniles convicted of severe offences (The Pathways to Desistance –study). This subsample included participants who received treatment for substance abuse during one or more follow-up periods. Participants were between the ages 14 and 17 and were recruited between 2000-2003. Each participant was followed for 6.5 years as they moved from adolescence to young adulthood. General linear mixed models were used to examine whether treatment, psychopathic traits, time and their interaction would predict reported substance use problems. Results and conclusions. Treatment was effective in reducing problematic substance use among juvenile offenders. Contrary to set hypotheses, none of the psychopathic traits moderated treatment effect. Unexpectedly, all psychopathic traits were negatively associated with problematic substance use. The findings suggest that treatment was successful in reducing substance use problems regardless of psychopathic traits and that these traits could to some extent act as protective factors against substance abuse. Though these preliminary findings are encouraging, future research employing a more rigorous study-design is needed before stronger conclusion can be made.
Subject: psychopathic traits
substance abuse
juvenile offenders

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