The influence of stressful life events, psychopathy, and their interaction on internalizing and externalizing psychopathology

© 2018 Elsevier B.V. Exposure to stressful life events increases risk for both internalizing and externalizing psychopathology, but less is known about moderators of the association between stressful life events and psychopathology. The present study examined the influence of stressful life events, psychopathy, and their interaction on internalizing and externalizing psychopathology in 3877 individuals from the community. We hypothesized that (1) exposure to stressful life events would be a transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology, (2) primary and secondary psychopathy would be differentially associated with internalizing psychopathology, and (3) primary psychopathy would moderate the association between stressful life events and internalizing psychopathology. Confirming existing findings, our results were consistent with the first and second hypotheses. In contrast to our third hypothesis, primary psychopathy was not associated with stressful life events in childhood, inconsistently associated with stressful life events in adolescence, and did not moderate the association between stressful life events and internalizing psychopathology. Furthermore, stressful life events across development were associated with secondary psychopathy and internalizing and externalizing psychopathology. We also found similar associations between stressful life events, psychopathy, and psychopathology in females and males. Future studies investigating the impact of stressful life events on psychopathology should include psychopathic traits and stress-reactivity.