Field reliability of the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised among life sentenced prisoners in Sweden. Academic Article uri icon


  • Although typically described as reliable and valid, the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) has come under some criticism by researchers in the last half-decade due to evidence of poor interrater reliability and adversarial allegiance being reported in applied settings in North America. This study examines the field reliability of the PCL-R using a naturalistic test-retest design among a sample of Swedish life sentenced prisoners (N = 27) who had repeatedly been assessed as part of their application to receive a reduced prison term. The prisoners, who were assessed by a team of forensic evaluators retained by an independent government authority, had spent on average 14 years in prison with a mean time from Assessment 1 to Assessment 2 of 2.33 years. The overall reliability of the PCL-R (ICC(A1)) was .70 for the total score and .62 and .76 for Factor 1 and 2 scores, respectively. Facet 1-3 scores ranged from .54 to .60, whereas Facet 4 was much higher (.90). Reliability of individual items was quite variable, ranging from .23 to .80. In terms of potential causes of unreliability, both high and low PCL-R scores at the initial assessment tended to regress toward the mean at the time of the second evaluation. Our results are in line with previous research demonstrating concerns regarding the reliability of the PCL-R within judicial settings, even among independent evaluation teams not retained by a particular side in a case. Collectively, these findings question whether the interpersonal (Facet 1) and affective (Facet 2) features tapped by the PCL-R are reliable enough to justify their use in legal proceedings.

published proceedings

  • Law Hum Behav

altmetric score

  • 3.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Sturup, J., Edens, J. F., Srman, K., Karlberg, D., Fredriksson, B., & Kristiansson, M.

citation count

  • 47

complete list of authors

  • Sturup, Joakim||Edens, John F||Sörman, Karolina||Karlberg, Daniel||Fredriksson, Björn||Kristiansson, Marianne

publication date

  • January 2014