Psychopathology Essay Research Paper This study will

Psychopathology Essay, Research Paper

This study will be dealing with the delinquent behaviours, of antisocial persons, otherwise know as psychopaths, or more recently sociopaths. The study will be discussing their typical behaviours, then go on to give reasons why they might occur.

Psychologists have studied criminals classified as psychopaths. These people are aggressive, highly impulsive, antisocial persons who appear to have little or no concern for societies values. Generally, antisocial behaviour does not appear in adult hood without warning. It is commonly preceded by childhood, then teenage antisocial behaviour. However the behavioural manifestations of the underlying personality change over time. For example, the antisocial child may be troublesome and disruptive in school. The antisocial teenager covers a multitude of sins. It includes acts such as theft; burglary; robbery; violence; vandalism; fraud; fighting; bullying; cruelty to people and animals; reckless driving; heavy drinking and smoking; drug use; heavy gambling; employment instability; sexual promiscuity; lying; conflict with parents; and running away from home .The antisocial adult male may beat up his wife and neglect his children. These changes reflect both the maturation of the individual and the opportunities within the environment, although there are many characteristics of a sociopath and each sociopath has their own special traits.

However in all cases the sociopath will act against society and the law and get great gratification in the act of hurting someone, in most cases abuse drugs and alcohol to facilitate the violent behaviour. The violence in many cases is the result of

sub-conscious decisions that might lead to murdering or assaulting someone for no reason. These antisocial persons seem incapable of having long lasting, close, warm and responsible relationships with people. The sociopath may even be very intelligent, knowing how to manipulate people into thinking they are normal, and may seem charming in superficial social interactions although they will repeatedly hurt, anger, exploit, cheat, rob and harass.

There is considerable continuity between juvenile and adult offending. In the Cambridge Study, nearly three quarters of those convicted as Juveniles, i.e. age

ten to sixteen, were reconvicted between ages seventeen and twenty-four, and nearly half of the juvenile offenders were reconvicted between ages twenty-five to


Concern with the increasing incidents of antisocial behaviour and serious violent crimes had led psychologists to consider whether the sociopathic personality is accompanied by changes in physiology. An example to consider might be that in order to learn not to steal, a child must be socialised, or taught that it is wrong to take the property of others without there permission. Usually this socialisation takes place within the family, and the appropriate fear response is developed. Children learn to fear punishment if they steal. And that fear enables them to inhibit their stealing impulses. However children with antisocial personality disorder do not learn the adequate initial fear responses thus, they are not usually able to anticipate negative reactions if they steal.

The sociopath is a combination of other mental illnesses, such as Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Conduct disorder, learning difficulties and a lack of emotional development. This lack of moral and emotional development is what gives the sociopath a lack of understanding for other people s feelings, which enables them to be deceitful without feeling bad about whatever they do.

Children with antisocial personality disorder are most likely to develop Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD. This condition is recognised by signs such as difficulty in sustaining work or play; not listening to what is said; fidgeting with hands or feet; not being able to remain seated when required to do so; blurting out answers to questions before they are completed; and difficulty waiting in line or taking turns in group situations. The symptoms of this problem change across the life span, even within the childhood years. Infants show poor regulation of patterns of activity, eating, and sleeping. Toddlers with ADHD show signs of over activity, running, jumping and climbing incessantly. An older child is fidgety, restless and may have poor peer relationships. A child is diagnosed as having ADHD if for at least six months if he shows signs of either inattention of impulsivity, and the signs must be apparent in at least two situations, for example at school and at home.

Like children with ADHD, those with conduct disorder are socially disruptive and upsetting to others, although the two problems may occur in the same children. Conduct disorder children constantly violate the rights of others and the norms of what is appropriate for those their age. They are frequently violent. They can be cruel to both other people and to animals, and have been know to steal and set fire to, and destroy other people s property. These children show no concern for others. Children diagnosed with conduct disorder are frequently truant form school and may begin to use drugs and alcohol at a very early age. They also tend to engage in sexual activity at a much earlier age than their peers.

Child with conduct disorder do no experience the same degree of anxiety and fear as do other children, which may be the reason for the occurrence of this disruptive behaviour.

Conduct disorder is also currently diagnosed when the disturbed behaviour persists at least six months and includes two of three of the specified behaviours. Almost forty per cent of the children with conduct disorder end up as adults diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

Other disorders appearing in early life may involve difficulties encountered when performing a specific skill ,such as reading, writing, speaking, arithmetic and other developmental problems. These problems usually surface when the child enters the school system, and generally has consequences far beyond narrowly intellectual ones. The child who falls behind in school because he cannot speak or read as well as his peers is likely to become frustrated and disappointed. His teachers may ignore him and his classmates might tease him. All of this sets the stage for emotional or conduct difficulties in later life.

The reason for some children having these learning disorders may be minimal brain damage, either caused prenataly or influenced genetically. These children often show what are called soft signs of neurological problems; difficulties in coordinated movement; and mixed patterns of dominance of eyes, hands and feet.

This conception of brain damage, being the cause for learning problems, may also be the foundation of AD/HD, Conduct disorder and more importantly the antisocial behaviour. Damage to different parts of the brain produce drastically different patterns of symptoms. Damage to the frontal lobes, at the very front of the cortex, interferes specifically with a person s ability to plan ahead and anticipate the consequences of his or her actions. This part of the brain contains a number of structures responsible for language, memory, emotional expression, and abstract thought. The forebrain also controls the activities of lower layers of the brain, sorting out their messages, coordinating them and relaying them to the appropriate destination. Damage here can result in a phenomenal assortment of problems, depending on the specific nature of the damage.

Other important risk factors for antisocial behaviour are those with more psychological functions, such as perception, attention, low intelligence and high impulsivity. It is also suggested that environmental factors such as large family size, poor child rearing, poverty, antisocial parents or peer influences put children at risk for learning problems. The Sociopathic behaviour problems described at the beginning of this study may have links to heredity, a family with a pre-disposition to perform crimes, alcoholic parents that do crimes, irresponsible behaviour that persists and parents that do not discipline. It is possible that a sociopath will come from a normal home but there are more that do not.

This study has shown that there are many characteristics of antisocial personality disorder, all varying in severity. They may be evident from a very young age until adulthood. Psychologists remain unsure of what the roots of this disorder are. It may result from brain damage, either from birth or from an injury later on in life. Or if the disorder is caused by the upbringing of a child, involving influences from peers, and neglect and cruelty from parents, whom may themselves have an antisocial personality disorder. However it seems most likely that in many cases the resultant disorder may be due to a combination of the factors discussed.


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Rutter,M. (1995). Psychosocial Disturbances in Young People. Cambridge University Press.

Rutter,M. & Smith,D. J. (1995). Psychsocial Disorders in Young People. Time, Trends and there Causes. New York: John Wiley and Sons.


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