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Concept Or Psychopathy


The concept or psychopathy has become popular in the field of psychology and criminology. Psychopathic personality is a mental disease that occurs before or during puberty caused by genetics or by physical or somatic factors (Darling, 1945). The tendency of psychopathy particularly occurs in men compared to women. Adolescents who develop psychopathic traits might appear as charming and intelligent at first. Furthermore, psychopaths are not easy to spot, as they are manipulative. Though psychopaths appear to be charming and kind, they are capable to murder, kill and get involved in violent activities without feeling guilty of their actions. Psychopaths show different personality compared to typical human being. They lack emotions and empathy. Psychopaths have a tendency to be aggressive to people and even animals. The study of Silva and Stattin (2016) found that aggressive and antisocial behaviors in adolescents are associated with psychopathic traits. In clinical area, Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is used to measure the tendency of psychopathy behavior. It is self-report questionnaires, whic are widely used by the researchers when investigating psychopaths (Hare, 1998).

Interestingly, Lynam and his colleagues found that psychopathy traits could be seen in the early stage of childhood and adolescence (as cited in Asscher et al., 2011). Furthermore, there is still a little research of genetic and environmental causes of psychopathy traits in children (Bezdjian, Raine, Baker & Lynam, 2011). Several studies explain factors related with teenagers’ antisocial behavior problem as genetics, temperament and parents’ anti social behavior (as cited in Repo-Tiihonen et al., 2009). Numerous researches also investigate the relationship of specific genes in psychopathy behavior.

This essay argues that aggressive parenting style leads to aggressive and antisocial behavior in children, which results in psychopathic behavior in adulthood. Therefore parents’ intervention in early stage of development is really important to reduce the tendency of psychopathic behavior in adolescents (MacDonald, Dodson, Rosenfeld & Jouriles, 2011). Thus, genes also play an important role in determining violent activities of psychopaths. The need to study further of genotype influences on psychopathy personality traits is very crucial to reduce its tendency in the future.

Genetic Based Factor: Does Heredity Cause Psychopathy?

Lynam argued that psychopathic traits began in early stage of development (as cited in Asscher et al., 2011). It often occurs in children as being aggressive and antisocial towards their peers, parents, siblings and animals. This condition questioned many researchers involving in psychology and criminology to understand the causes of psychopathy. There are several claims on the causes of psychopathy, which are environmental factors and genetics. Therefore many questions arise about specific genes that are involved in psychopathy traits.

A study by Feresin found that MAOA (Monoamine Oxidase A) is related with aggressive behavior shown in psychopaths (as cited in Hunter, 2011). This gene determines protein production in human’s brain and signal several chemicals such as dopamine, noradrenalin and serotonin. Thus, MAOA has been found to reduce proteins and increase those chemicals in brain. Hunter (2011) also claims that MAOA gene is associated with impulsive behavior, mood change and violent tendencies. Interestingly according to Caspi and his colleagues, MAOA gene do not occurs in human’s brain magically. The triggers often happen during maltreatment in childhood (as cited in Hunter, 2011). However MAOA particularly occurs in male’s Brain. As explained by Caspi, women are less likely to have MAOA gene. This condition happens because women with MAOA chromosome particularly have normal allele of other chromosome. Therefore, psychopathic personalities often occur in men compared to women. Moreover, previous findings of Viding, Blair, Moffitt and Plomin (2005) with 7 years old children examine the relationship with genetics and psychopathy personalities. This study found that there is a high association of callous-unemotional traits, antisocial behavior and genetic influence. However, it should be noted that there is no specific gene that relates to psychopathy.

Based on Waldman and Rhee, several researches have examined the relationship of genetic and psychopathic traits and how to measure it (as cited in Beaver, Barnes, May & Schwartz, 2011). A longitudinal study by Beaver and his colleagues (2011) was conducted on the association between genetic and psychopath personalities on siblings. Based on previous studies, genes were suspected to become one of the reasons of psychopathy personality traits. From Add Health data statistic, there was 37% of psychopathic traits measurement influenced by genetic factors, while 63% was found in nonshared environmental factors. Whilst, on dichotomous measurement model, it has been found that 44% of variance was contributed to psychopathy personality and 56% was found in nonshared environmental factors. Furthermore, the study of Tikkanen and his colleagues (2011)examined the relationship of MAOA genotype and PCL-R questionnaire in offenders’ violent activities. It is shown that PCL-R total score has association with high-activity MAOA genotypes among offenders. Therefore, MAOA gene has an implication in developing impulsive violent behavior of psychopaths. Shortly, genetic factor are linked and contribute to psychopathy personality traits.

The way to further explore psychopathy personality traits is to examine genetics and environmental overlap in twin studies (Hunt, Bornovalova & Patrick, 2015:2014). There are several researches that investigate the relationship of psychopathy traits and genetics. Previously in 2006, Larsson, Andershed and Lichtenstein conducted the twin study and its role in psychopaths’ personality. The study aims to specify whether genetics play an important role in determining psychopathic behavior. The data were gathered several times from parents with twins aged 8-9 and both the same parents and twins in the age of 11-13 and 16-17 years old. Thus, the result found that psychopathic personality was significantly related with heritable psychopathic personality. It means psychopathic personality was influenced by genetic factors. Interestingly, this study also showed strong relationship between personality traits such as manipulative dimensions and irresponsible dimension. Specifically, Bezdjian and his colleagues’ researches (2011) supported previous findings of Larsson’s. The study investigated the relationship between psychopathic traits and heritable personality for both boys and girls. In line with the previous study, Bezdjian research observed that there is a highly significant association of psychopathic personalities and genetics in twins.

Several studies showed that genetics play a significant role in psychopathic personality traits. However, it should be noted that not all of humans being who have MAOA tend to involve in violent activities. The study of Fallon (2005) about brains of murderers has found that psychopaths have low levels of orbital cortex activity. This part of the brain is important for regulating emotions of human beings. Interestingly, it has been found that Fallon used his own brain as a subject of research. The study shows that Fallon’s brain has the same pattern as psychopaths, though he never has any violent tendencies. Therefore, the study of genes in psychopathic personality traits cannot be concluded in a simple way, as not everyone with MAOA is psychopath.

Shortly, the findings of psychopathic personality traits and genes concluded that there is a strong relationship between those two factors. However, environment also contributes to the development of psychopathy in both children and adolescents.

Environmental Based Factor: Does Parenting Practice Cause Psychopathy?

Currently, there are still a small number of researches on genetic and environmental causes of psychopathy traits in children (Bezdjian et al., 2011). Several studies explain factors related with teenagers’ antisocial behavior problem as genetics, temperament and parents’ anti social behavior (as cited in Repo-Tiihonen et al., 2009). Aside from genetic factors, parenting practice also contributes to the development of psychopathy in children. The study of Kronemann and his colleagues showed there is a strong association of negative parenting and antisocial behavior (as cited in Silva & Stattin, 2016). Children who are exposed to harsh punishment are more likely to develop antisocial behavior in their adolescence.

Oxford, Cavell and Hughes conducted a study to 8-years-old children of high and low aggression in relation with poor parenting practices (as cited in Yeh, Chen, Raine, Baker & Jacobson, 2011). They found that callous-unemotional traits, parents’ warmth and harsh punishment are positively associated. This study is related with Lizzie Borden’s criminal case in 1982. Lizzie Andrew Borden was suspected of murdering her mother and father while they were asleep in their house. Several media suspected the intention behind the murder as financial problems, sexual abuse by her father and apathetic step-mother. Later, Hartselle and Myers (2014) studied the case of Lizzie’s criminality to understand her atypical behavior. Interestingly, her scores were categorized as high level on psychopathy. Lizzie had already developed psychopathic traits in early childhood. A study of Molinuevo, Pardo, González and Torrubia (2014) showed that memories of parenting practice are strongly linked to psychopathy in juvenile offenders. This study argues that ineffective parenting practices, as inconsistent discipline and poor supervision are positively associated with psychopathic personality traits. However, there are very limited number of researches that examine the relationship between psychopathy behavior and parenting practice.

Parents play an important role in determining children’s behavior towards their environment. Parents should be more concerned on punishment system they apply to their children. It should be noted that negative parenting style would result in the development of psychopathy traits in adulthood. The present study of Gulhaugen and Nøttestad (2012) showed relationship between parenting practices and psychopathy traits. Parents who are overprotective and controlling over children tend to increase the indication of psychopathic personality traits. While, parents who develop optimal parenting practice towards their children significantly indicate low tendency of psychopathy. Shortly, parenting style is crucial for the development of children’s character in their life. The study of Molinuevo and her colleagues (2014) observed that parenting practices and psychopathy traits in juvenile male offenders’ environment are strongly linked. Moreover, recent studies of Bailey and Shelton (2014) investigate the relationship of parental attachment and psychopathy in adulthood. In the early stage of development, attachment with parents is very crucial to develop bond with their children. Bailey found that child who are exposed to physical abuse, separation of their parents and indifferent parenting style are prone to psychopathic behavior in their adolescence. However, Campbell stated that there are not many researches about children attachment with their parents (as cited in Bailey & Shelton, 2014).

Current Treatment on Psychopathy

Psychopathy are not considered as mentally ill people, however based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder it is classified as Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD). Though it is still debatable, psychopathy traits are under the area of atypical personality disorder. Recently, it has been said that psychopaths account for 1% in total of United States of America population. Therefore, in every 100 people there would be one psychopath. The need to minimize psychopathic personality’s tendency becomes the main aims of researches on several areas. This condition also increases the awareness of psychologist on how to reduce or even eliminate psychopathic behavior. There are several studies exploring on how to treat psychopaths. Surprisingly according to Blackwood, there is no cure for psychopathy traits, but he said that the tendency of psychopathy behavior could be reduced by optimal treatment (as cited in Bonn, 2014). The main reason of difficulties in treating psychopathy behavior is because psychopaths are not afraid of social judgment. He explains that psychopaths do not fear of social stigma and punishment. Moreover, psychopaths do not respond punishment as typical people. Blackwood argued that psychopaths are different from typical human being; their callous and unemotional behavior do not respond to fear of punishment. Shorty, psychopaths could not be cured 100%, but treatments would reduce the tendency of psychopathic behavior.

Nowadays, the concept of psychopathic behavior is rising in the area of clinician and neuroscientist. Numerous studies believe that there is a chance to reduce personality traits of psychopaths. Most of researchers argue that biological intervention is needed to psychopathy traits (Pickersgill, 2011). Whilst, psychologists prefer the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as an intervention, in which, according to Sperry, CBT could hopefully change patients’ behavior of aggressiveness, callous-unemotional traits and violent activities (as cited in Pickersgill, 2011). However, CBT reflects the therapeutic pessimism for some psychologists. Thus, there is still lack of evidence whether CBT has an impact on psychopathic personality traits. On the other hand, Salekin, Worley and Grimes (2014) argue that the dimension of psychopathy should be examined beforehand to reduce psychopathy tendency. Therefore, measuring psychopathy as a single unit would be important for its treatment. Interestingly, it has been found that the differences on self-report measuring and clinical interview are huge. As a result, the researchers believed that self-reporting questionnaire combined with parents’ explanation, clinical interview and multi-measurement would be beneficial in measuring the treatment correctly (Salekin et al., 2014). Thus far, researches would be able to conduct a right measurement for psychopathy treatment.

Whilst CBT has no scientifically impact on psychopathy traits; Galietta and Rosenfeld (2012) examined the effect of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) for psychopaths. However there are three needs and challenges in developing DBT. As explained by Galietta and Rosenfeld (2012), a psychopathy case needs unique intervention when using DBT. Secondly, psychopaths population are of heterogeneous group, it might create problem when using DBT. Lastly, it is important to address not only hostile and anger emotions but also all range of emotions in psychopaths. The study of Galietta and Rosenfeld (2012) showed DBT has greater impact on reducing psychopaths’ behavior. Risk reduction treatment was introduced later by Wong and Olver (2015). The study was conducted among adolescent Canadian, Belgium and Sweden offenders. It has been found that manipulative behavior occured during the treatment. From the study, psychopathic sample are more likely to show that behavior rather than any mental illness. However, it showed a significant reduction in psychopathy traits while using risk reduction treatment program.

Psychopathic personality traits are particularly found in men rather than women. However the study of Richards, Casey and Lucente (2003) investigate the relationship of psychopathic personality traits in female substance abusers using Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R). The participants involved in the study were also assigned to one of three treatment conditions. The study showed an association of psychopathic personality traits and disruptive rule violations in women. Interestingly, attendance and on-site therapists are giving positive intervention towards psychopathic personality traits. Shortly, on-site treatment has been found to reduce violent behavior in psychopathic personality. Several studies investigate the performance of treatment in adolescents’ psychopaths. Spain and his colleagues found that psychopathy measurement are correlated with institutional rule violations but inconsistent with measurement of treatment program (as cited in Caldwell, Skeem, Salekin &Van Rybroek, 2006). Furthermore, Caldwell and his colleagues conducted a longitudinal study on psychopaths’ adolescent offenders comparing Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center (MJTC) and conventional Juvenile Correctional Institution (JCI). The study examines 141 juvenile offenders during a time based 2-year follow up. It has been found that treatment that was conducted in MJTC has stronger impact on reducing violent activities among offenders compared to JCI. Therefore, it is important to find the appropriate treatment for reducing psychopathic personality traits.

Psychopathic personality traits is also examined in the field of forensic. There are growing numbers or researches on psychopathy traits treatment. Psychopathic personality traits are harder to measure since they could be manipulative and intelligent. Furthermore, it has been found that the researches are mainly focused on reducing criminal behavior in psychopathy rather than the psychopathy traits itself (Polaschek & Daly, 2013). They argue that the aim of treatment is only to reduce substance abuse not the characteristic. Furthermore, Polaschek and Daly view that it is almost impossible to change psychopathic behavior.

Shortly, there are no specific treatments for curing psychopathic personality traits. Researchers need to address psychopathic behavior specifically other than focusing on the criminality behavior itself. Although there are numerous studies on investigating psychopathy treatment, there is still lack of scientific evidence on reducing psychopathy tendency. Hopefully in the future, not only criminality behavior of psychopaths that is reduced but also all of psychopathic behavior. Conclusion

Lynam and his colleagues found that psychopathy traits could be seen in the early stage of childhood and adolescence (as cited in Asscher et al., 2011). Many studies present factors related with teenagers’ antisocial behavior problem as genetics, temperament and parents’ anti social behavior (as cited in Repo-Tiihonen et al., 2009).

Parents play significant role in defining children’s behavior towards their environment. Therefore, parenting style is crucial for the development of children’s character in their life. The study of Molinuevo and her colleagues (2014) found out that there is an association between parenting practices conducted in juvenile male offenders’ environment. This evidence indicates that parents with poor supervision and discipline will lead to psychopathic level traits. Another meta-analysis study conducted by Asscher and her colleagues (2011) showed a relationship between delinquent behavior and psychopathy traits in juveniles. The findings of Molinuevo and her colleagues (2014) explained that children need parents’ supervision and discipline to control their behavior. Moreover, Kerr and Stattin argue that adolescents who are informative and open with their parents are reported to negatively relate with delinquency (as cited in Silva & Stattin, 2016).

It has been known that early adolescents are prone to psychopathic behavior from their childhood experience. Psychopathic traits are classified as developmental phenomenon; therefore it could be intervened on early stages of development (MacDonald et al., 2011). The study suggests that intervened children might modify their developmental track in the future. In order to decrease the level of psychopathic traits they should develop cognitive emphatic skill and in turn minimize their tendency in adulthood (Asscher et al., 2011). Therefore, children with high possibility of psychopathy could be prevented by parent supervision. Parents should be aware of their children’s behavior and interaction towards peers, siblings, relatives or even animals. Most importantly Kerr and Stattin explained that parents not only have to understand about parenting practice but also their children’s characteristic as the willingness to discuss specific information with their parents (as cited in Silva & Stattin, 2016). However, it is important not to label children a psychopath (as Cited on Asscher et al., 2011). Interestingly, Frick and White explained that aggressive and anti social behaviors occurring during childhood often associate with anti social behavior in adulthood (as cited in McDonald et al, 2011).

Thus far, there is still lack of study involving the relationship between psychopathy, genes and parenting style. Therefore further research discussing about this topic is needed to minimize psychopathic behavior in the future.

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