Childhood Neglect, Dark Triad Personality And Malevolent Creativity

Jia, Wang, and Lin (2020) carried out a study suggesting that children who have suffered neglect are significantly more likely to become malevolently creative in adulthood and that this is partly due to the fact that they are at increased risk of developing what has been termed a dark triad personality

Childhood Neglect

Childhood neglect was measured using the Child Psychology Abuse and Neglect Scale (CPANS) which included 17 items such as:

  • ‘My parents don’t comfort me when I’m sad or afraid.’
  • ‘When I go out my parents don’t care where I go or who I hang out with.’

 What Is Meant By A Dark Personality?.

A dark triad personality consists of three interrelated but separate personality traits which represent the malevolent side of human nature. These are:

To ascertain whether participants in the study had dark triad personalities a 12 item inventory was used known as the Dirty Dozen (Jonason and Webster, 2010). The inventory consisted of several items relating to:

  • Machiavellianism (e.g. ‘I tend to manipulate others and get my own way’; ‘I have lied and used deceit to get my own way’; ‘I tend to exploit others to my own ends.’)
  • Psychopathy (e.g. ‘I tend to lack remorse’; ‘I tend to be callous and insensitive’; ‘I tend to be cynical.’)
  • Narcissism (e.g. ‘I tend to seek prestige and status’; ‘I tend to want others to admire me’; ‘I tend to want others to pay me attention.’)

What Is Meant By Malevolent Creativity?


According to Cropley et al., 2014 malevolent creativity can be defined as creativity that is intentionally planned to cause harm to others (for example, for the purposes of crime or terrorism).

Malevolent creativity was measured using the Malevolent Creativity Behavior Scale (MCBS) which consisted of items assessing:

  • propensity to hurt others (e.g. ‘how often do you think about revenge?’)
  • propensity to lie (e.g. ‘how often do you lie to simplify a problem?’)
  • propensity to play tricks on people (e.g. ‘how often do you have ideas about how to play pranks on others?’)


The study found that those participants who had experienced childhood neglect were at significantly greater risk of having a dark triad personality which, in turn, put them at a significantly greater risk of developing malignant creativity. This effect was also found to be stronger for male participants than for female participants.


The researchers concluded that:

  • childhood neglect increases the risk of developing malignant creativity
  • these Dark Triad personality characteristics play a substantial role in this increased risk
  • interventions designed to reduce the development of malevolent creativity in individuals should address childhood neglect 
  • adults who have malevolent creative tendencies be offered support to help them to understand the effects of childhood neglect.

The researchers also recognized that their research had certain limitations and that further research was necessary to support findings.


Jia, Wang, and Lin (2020). The Relationship Between Childhood Neglect and Malevolent Creativity: The Mediating Effect of the Dark Triad Personality.Front. Psychol., 16 December 2020 |


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE). is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, I may earn an affiliate commission.