Examining Sex Differences and the Role of Psychopathic Traits in Cyber Aggression and Victimization



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While a large body of criminological literature has focused on risk factors associated with psychopathic traits when assessing criminality, less is known about its role in alternative outcomes such as cyber aggression and victimization. Evidence suggests psychopathy may influence both cyber aggression and victimization as these individuals are more likely to engage in a host of predatory and risky behaviors; however, to date, no study has investigated this association among college samples where risk of victimization and the likelihood of engaging in cyber aggression remains high. Using data collected among a college sample during the spring and fall semesters in 2022, this dissertation explores associations between a three-factor model of psychopathy and the likelihood of engaging in cyber aggression and reporting victimization. Findings revealed that egocentricity, antisocial behavior, and general victimization increased the likelihood of engaging in cyber aggression suggesting that primary and secondary psychopathic traits act as a risk factor in cyber aggression. Significant sex differences were also reported, where males who reported greater egocentricity and antisocial behavior were more likely to report cyber aggression while only egocentricity increased the likelihood of engaging in cyber aggression for females, suggesting females may take more indirect forms of aggression when exhibiting interpersonal deficits only. Findings also revealed that psychopathic traits differentially affected victimization, where egocentricity acted as a protective factor and antisocial behavior acted as a risk factor for females, whereas the opposite was found for males. Results reveal the need to independently assess psychopathic traits as unique predictors of general and sexual victimization that may vary by sex. Implications on the role of individual personality traits among college students suggests the need to reinforce bystander intervention programs to decrease the likelihood of engaging in predatory behaviors and to encourage empathy and cognitive behavioral skills training to reduce cyber aggression incidents. Furthermore, findings reveal overlap between victimization and offending, suggesting programs should be directed toward identifying risky situations and changing behavior to promote success and to provide better access to mental health services for students to cope with negative life events to reduce the likelihood of antisocial behavior.



Psychology, Personality