The PCL: YV and re-offending across ethnic groups

Stephane M. Shepherd (Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia)
Susanne Strand (Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia AND School of Law, Psychology and Social Work, Centre for Criminological and PsychoSocial Research, Örebro University, Sweden)

Journal of Criminal Psychology

ISSN: 2009-3829

Publication date: 3 May 2016



The psychopathy checklist: youth version (PCL: YV) checklist is an assessment of youth psychopathic traits and is regularly validated by way of its associations with re-offending and violence. Yet existing research has been conducted with predominantly white Caucasian cohorts and extant evidence suggests that associations with recidivism are stronger in samples with greater proportions of white offenders. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This study investigated the cross-cultural validity of the PCL: YV for an ethnically diverse Australian sample of 175 young male offenders in custody. Participants were assessed in custody with the PCL: YV and offending data were collected post-release for up to 18 months.


PCL: YV total and domain scores were comparable across ethnicity; however the instrument demonstrated stronger relationships with recidivism for Australian participants with an English speaking background compared to Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse participants.

Practical implications

The authors advocate the cautionary employment of the PCL: YV as a violence risk prediction instrument with minority young offenders regionally, pending further evidence.


This study addresses the capacity of the PCL: YV to predict violence across different ethnic groups. Cross-cultural youth psychopathy research is currently inadequate and existing studies suggest that the PCL: YV is a weaker predictor of violence in culturally diverse samples. This investigation provides much needed information on the capacity of the PCL: YV to extend to different ethnic groups who are represented Australia’s youth prison population. This is the first study of its kind regionally, and more importantly is the first PCL: YV study with an Indigenous Australian comparison group. This is particularly important given that Indigenous Australians are heavily overrepresented in Australia’s criminal justice system and require appropriate risk assessment measures to ensure they are not misclassified. Research such as this is now of particular interest given the recent judicial decision made in Ewert vs Canada.



Shepherd, S. and Strand, S. (2016), "The PCL: YV and re-offending across ethnic groups", Journal of Criminal Psychology, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 51-62.

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