Date of Award

Summer 8-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Chair

Dr. David K. Marcus

Committee Chair Department

Psychology

Committee Member 2

Dr. Virgil Zeigler-Hill

Committee Member 2 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 3

Dr. Christopher Barry

Committee Member 3 Department

Psychology

Committee Member 4

Dr. Michael Berman

Committee Member 4 Department

Psychology

Abstract

Risky sexual behavior (RSB), such as having sex with an unknown partner, is associated with a variety of negative consequences including sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancy. Previous research (e.g., Fulton, Marcus, & Payne, 2010) suggests that psychopathic personality traits as assessed by the Psychopathic Personality Inventory (Lilienfeld & Andrews, 1996) are associated with RSB. Self-Centered Impulsivity (SCI), which is characterized by impulsivity, irresponsibility, and reckless behavior, was positively associated with RSB among men and women. In contrast, Fearless Dominance (FD), which is characterized by fearlessness, manipulativeness, and social dominance, was positively associated with RSB among men but not women. The present study sought to replicate and extend previous cross-sectional research by examining whether psychopathic personality traits predicted RSB over time among a sample of college students. The present study also examined whether psychopathic personality traits moderated the associations between RSB and indicators of post-RSB psychological adjustment. Participants (N = 77) completed self-report measures of psychopathic personality traits and RSB at time one and completed weekly measures of positive affect, negative affect, state self-esteem, shame, and guilt over an eight-week period. Multilevel random coefficient models revealed that higher levels of SCI were associated with more RSB over time and that participants reported lower levels of post-RSB negative affect and post-RSB shame during weeks when they engaged in more RSB. Furthermore, psychopathic personality traits moderated the associations between RSB and post-RSB psychological adjustment such that individuals with low levels of FD but high levels of SCI reported more positive psychological adjustment (i.e., higher self-esteem, less guilt, and less shame) at times when they were engaging in relatively high levels of RSB. Findings are discussed in terms of implications and future research directions.