Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Psychopathic personality: a conceptual problem

John Gunna1 c1 and Graham Robertsona1

a1 Institute of Psychiatry, Denmark Hill, London


The concept of psychopathic personality is currently being called into question. Grendon prison has been established for the treatment of psychopaths. A recent study of Grendon prisoners enabled an examination of some characteristics commonly attributed to psychopaths to be carried out. It proved difficult to obtain good agreement in rating such phenomena as ‘conscientiousness’, ‘sexual deviation’, ‘impulsiveness’. Of ten reliable variables including ‘personal relationships’, ‘lying’, ‘alcohol problem’, only five bore a significant relationship one to another. It was concluded that whilst the term ‘psychopathic disorder’ may be appropriate for a small handful of individuals the term is probably now used too widely and too loosely.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr J. Gunn, Institute of Psychiatry, De Crespigny Park, Denmark Hill, London SE5 8AF.