Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



First Advisor

Marcia Bennett, Ph.D., L.P.

Second Advisor

Abigail Hughes-Scalise, Ph.D., L.P.

Third Advisor

Shannon Stanton, Psy.D., L.P.


Excessive use of force incidents within the last decade has resulted in high media coverage. One consequence of this high media coverage is the community more frequently questioning the personality characteristics of police and correctional officers. While the literature has begun to dive into the maladaptive traits of police officers and its relationship to excessive use of force, research on this topic in correctional institutions is scarce. The present study examined the relationship between psychopathy, aggression, and use of force in 27 correctional officers (COs) in Minnesota. The study collected self-report data from COs enrolled in Crisis Intervention Training. Using the theorized framework of psychopathy outlined by Widiger and Lynam (1998), it was hypothesized that there would be a significant correlation between personality traits and psychopathy, psychopathy and aggression, and psychopathy and use of force. Results showed that agreeableness was negatively correlated with overall psychopathy, but there was no relationship between conscientiousness and overall psychopathy. Neuroticism was positively correlated with secondary psychopathy specifically, but not primary psychopathy. Findings from this study also concluded there was a positive relationship between both primary and secondary psychopathy and aggression. No relationship was found between psychopathy and use of force. Overall, results suggest that it is paramount to explore these attributes in COs to further the understanding of the implications of COs’ personality on aggression and excessive use of force. Future research in this area could examine differences in psychopathic traits, aggression, and instances of excessive use of force between newly employed COs and long-term employed COs.


SC 11.PsyD.2024.Bergeson.L