The Psychopath


The Psychopath – Contributing Essay, Research Paper

The Psychopath – Contributing Factors throughout Life

What makes a psychopath a psychopath? There are many contributing factors that can lead to Criminal Activity and behavior. These factors can be present all through the “psychopath s” life, yet may not be noticed. Many of them have to do with home life, and many of them are also most influential during childhood, and will slowly grow as the individual gets older. I will be discussing these factors in two main groups: early childhood and adolescence, as these are the most influential time periods in the human life span. As well as discussing the factors in these two areas, I will also discuss in details societies view on these factors and some of the actions that society presents to cause the psychopath, or criminal, to act again.

Part One- Early Childhood

There are only two main factors that are reflected in early childhood that can be proven to be active in whether or not criminal behavior will become present later in life. These two cases are Abuse (all kinds) and victimization. Abused and neglected children are more likely to be delinquent and to exhibit criminal and violent criminal behavior as adults. This was one of the findings of a recent comparison of abused and neglected children and children with no history of abuse and neglect.

The cycle-of-violence hypothesis, or the idea of a generational transmission of violence, states that abused children become abusers, and victims of violence become violent offenders. However, a recent review of research found surprisingly little experimental evidence to support this hypothesis.

Despite widespread belief in the cycle of violence, problems of method in previous studies have made it difficult to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of early childhood victimization. These problems include the lack of a control group against which the abused and neglected group could be compared. Another problem is the retrospective design of the studies, requiring the researcher to rely on delinquents’ ability to remember details about their early childhood. Improving on past work, this study (done by sociology professors at Carelton University) included a relatively clear definition of abuse and neglect; a prospective design in which the development of children was followed rather than traced backward in time; a large sample group; a control group matched as closely as possible in age, sex, race and approximate social class background; and an assessment of the long-term consequences of abuse and neglect beyond adolescence and juvenile court and into adulthood. From official records of a metropolitan area in the United States, the study identified a large sample of cases of child abuse and neglect from about 20 years ago, and established a matched control group of non-abused children. The objective was to determine the extent to which both groups eventually engaged in delinquent, adult criminal and violent criminal behavior. All cases of physical and sexual abuse and neglect validated and substantiated by the county juvenile court and adult criminal courts from 1967 to 1971 were initially included. Of 2,623 cases, 908 were retained for the study. The term “physical abuse” refers to cases in which an individual had “knowingly and willfully inflicted unnecessarily severe corporal punishment” or “unnecessary physical suffering” upon a child. “Sexual abuse” refers to charges ranging from the relatively nonspecific ones of “assault and battery with intent to gratify sexual desires” to more specific and detailed charges. “Neglect” refers to cases in which the court found a child to have no proper parental care or guardianship, or to be homeless or living in a physically dangerous environment. Children for the control group were selected from county birth-record information and records of more than 100 elementary schools. They were matched as closely as possible with those in the abused and neglected group on age, sex, race and approximate family socio-economic status during the period under study. Altogether, the researchers were able to find matches for 73.7% (or 667) of the abused and neglected children. In both the control group and the abused and neglected group, there were about equal numbers of males and females and about twice as many whites as blacks. The mean age of subjects in both groups was approximately 26, with 85% between the ages of 20 and 30. Official records were used to gather information about the children’s delinquent behavior, adult criminal behavior and violent criminal behavior.

The results of this study were as follows:

Generally, abused and neglected children were significantly more likely than their counterparts in the control group to be arrested for delinquency, adult criminality and violent criminal behavior (see figure). Overall, abused and neglected children had more arrests as juveniles (26% versus 17%), as adults (29% versus 21%) and for any violent offense (11% versus 8%).

These differences were statistically significant for all groups (males and females, blacks and whites) and all types of antisocial behavior, with two exceptions. The rate of violent criminal behavior among women who had been abused and neglected as children was not significantly different from that of their control group. Nor did the factors of abuse or neglect among white male and female subjects significantly increase their risk of an arrest for violent criminal behavior. Overall, though, in comparison to the control group, abused and neglected children had a significantly greater average number of offenses (2.43 versus 1.41), committed their first offense at a younger age (16.48 versus 17.29), and had a higher proportion of chronic offenders or individuals charged with five or more offenses (17% versus 9%). It seems that abused and neglected children differ from non-abused and non-neglected children on several but not all indices of delinquency, adult criminality and violent behavior. In one area in particular, the two groups did not differ. Non-abused and non-neglected children were just as likely as abused and neglected individuals to continue criminal activity once they had begun. Of those with juvenile records, roughly the same proportion of abused and neglected children as the control group went on to commit offenses as adults (53% versus 50%). As well, of those who had committed violent offenses as juveniles, about the same proportion went on to commit violence as adults (34.2% of the abused and neglected group and 36.8% of the control group). In support of the cycle-of-violence hypothesis, these results indicate that abused and neglected children were more likely to become delinquents, adult criminals and violent criminals than children who had not been abused or neglected. However, these results do not imply that every abused or neglected child will become a delinquent or a criminal. Although 26% of victims of child abuse and neglect had juvenile offenses, 74% did not. Similarly, 11% had been arrested for a violent offense while 89% had not.


This is the second part of an individual’s life where factors that can lead to future psychopathic or criminal behavior can be traced. The factors that are displayed during this time period are Social Misfitism, anger and emotional control (or lack thereof), and socioeconomic status. The first of these is one of the main factors in producing a criminal: Social Misfitism can be further traced back to earlier abuse and/or victimization, but the connection of these two or more factors has not been successfully proven. Social Misfitism can take a variety of roles: The common misfit, the one with no friends who always stays in on weekends, never comes to after school activities and functions, and most of all the one that the other people make fun of. This can be one of the worst contributions for further behavior as it (the behavior) can be seen a s a way to rid the burden of ridicule, or a way to somehow get “back” at those people indirectly. The other kind of social misfit, the more uncommon one, is the person who is in no way fulfilled with popularity or prestige, but can only find happiness in criminal activities and actions. The second factor for this time period in an individual’s life is lack of emotional management. This is an easy-to-spot problem, but is rarely taken seriously enough to stop the future criminal behavior before it happens. This lack of emotional management can be through anger, or through frustration. The individual feels that there is no way to rid themselves of their emotional burden except through others. This can range from Theft or B&E, to sexual assault and murder. Those that contribute their criminal behavior to early lack of anger management tend to commit more offensive and/or serious crimes. The third and final contributing factor during this time in an individual’s life is socioeconomic status. The way in which people live in relation to money can contribute greatly to further criminality in the areas of theft and break ins. The individual who grows up in the slums is extensively bombarded with images of wealth and the seemingly easy life of the rich and prestigious. This is one of the mainly overlooked causes of future criminal activity and behavior, but one of the most common. Growing up and knowing no other way than poverty can motivate any individual to strive for more. To go that extra step to get money that goes along with the illusion of happiness related to it. Many people only see the poor and destitute in this category of criminals, yet there are many instances of extremely well off people involved in criminal acts. Many of them do these things for the sheer excitement of the action, and often overlook the consequences of these actions, as they think that if they have money, it can solve all of their problems.

Society’s View

Society’s views of the factors that can lead to criminal behavior are numerous. There are extensive companies and agencies that are against abuse and victimization. Society sees abuse as a breach of individual rights and condemn it. People in society are also extremely concerned with the well being of individuals, weather it is emotional or psychological, even though these by no means will “catch” all cases before they happen, but they are a big step in the right direction. As to what society thinks of criminality in general, I am sad to say is a dull view. Society uses the down fallen part of itself to promote sales of every possible item. Movie companies reek profits on criminal related movies that always see the almost retired cop versus the mastermind criminal. This warps societies view on criminals in general, and almost puts them on a pedestal as having “beat the system” including the law enforcing officers. In general society’s view on the factors that cause criminality are good, even though they don’t work to solve them in relation to criminal activity. But their view towards criminals in general is one of extreme perversion. In their view they almost glorify criminality- the thing that has turned society into a monster.


I have discussed the factors of future criminal behavior in relation to its influence in: Early childhood, Adolescence and I have also discussed Societies’ view of these factors and of criminals in general. As this area of linking childhood occurrences with future criminal behavior, we can slowly solve the problem of crime before it starts.

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