Self-reported personality traits in forensic populations: a meta-analysis

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Psychology Crime & Law, Volume 23, p.56-78 (2017)




Meta-analysis; systematic review; forensic population; personality traits; self-report


The current study covers a systematic review and meta-analysis of
the prevalence of self-reported deviant or disruptive personality
traits: anger, aggression, hostility, antisocial traits, psychopathy,
and impulsivity in forensic populations worldwide. A computerbased
search of titles was carried out using the PubMed electronic
database for articles published in English that included a selfreport
instrument for personality characteristics in combination
with a forensic population (i.e. detained in remand, sentenced
and/or in enforced treatment, or on parole). The final sample
consisted of 39 studies (N = 11,716) that together used 17
different instruments and reported on 32 subscales or constructs
that fitted our current interest. Results showed significantly higher
levels of self-reported antisocial and psychopathic features in
forensic samples, including a significant effect of the assessment
instrument and subscale used. No significant differences were
found for self-reported impulsivity, anger, aggression, or hostility
in forensic populations compared to norm scores of non-forensic
samples. Possible explanations, including suggestions that forensic
populations are prone to providing socially desirable answers on
self-report questionnaires, possibly to gain advantages such as a
lower prison sentence or to avoid enforced treatment, are
discussed, as well as limitations, and suggestions for future
research and clinical practice.