Psychopathology And Criminality

The society has been in a conundrum over the behavior of people with violent behavior. This is due to the fact that it has been difficult to determine whether these individuals are usually mentally ill or are normal people who rationally make a decision to become criminals. In order to unravel this phenomenon, it is important to study criminal behavior through the psychopathological lens, which will help in understanding criminal behavior.  Through this paper, criminal behavior will be ascertained to be a disorder contrary to the popular belief by the society that it is a decision that most criminals make.

Psychopathy is the first disorder in personality to be documented in the psychiatric community. The common human behaviors of a psychopath include an antisocial behavior, violence, and crime. In criminal justice realm, it is usually common to encounter an individual who is exhibiting psychopathology (Frick, 2003). The disorder has been defined as a disorder with a wide range of symptoms that include a collection of lifestyle, interpersonal, emotional, and unsociable character traits and behaviors.

Dr. Hervey Cleckley has been considered as the father of modern Psychopathy after the publication of his book, The Mask of Sanity. The content of the book included a comprehensive study of clinical research and various cases from both institutional and community settings. Cleckley was able to set the pace for describing psychopaths and characterization of the disorder that it still relevant in the modern community (Cleckley, 2003). The descriptions of provided in the subsequent editions of the book provide best clinical descriptions of the condition.

Cleckley was in a position to conceptualize Psychopathy, which was the foundation for the formation of the checklist for Psychopathy in 1980 but later revised in 1991 Dr. Robert Hare (Cleckley, 2003). The Psychopath Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) is still the widely used criteria for assessing and describing the disorder among various patients. In light of these descriptions, self-report inventories and expert rater devices have been described as the most effective means of assessing traits of individuals believed to be psychopathic (Hare, 2001).  The PCL-R is the most common expert-rater device that is used in assessing psychopathy. In the PCL-R, there are 20 items where the procedure involves two main steps. In the first step, there is a review of the various sources of information about the patient such as work history, education, or relationships. In the second step, there is a history interview with the patient in detail about their life history. Even if the patient fails to cooperate in this step, the collateral information that has been collected in the first step can be used in assessing the patient. Given the information that has been provided, the patient will be rated against the 20 items in the PCL-R score sheet.  The score sheet ranges from 0-40. The score for the males in prison has been put at 22 while for the females has been put at 19 (Hare, 2001).  The score determines whether an individual is suffering from the disorder.

The use of self-report inventories is the second way that is used in assessing psychopathy. The use of this method is widely used in non-institutionalized populations such as in students. The scales used in self-report are usually easier to collect as compared to the expert-rater instruments that require some level of training.  These measures include self-report Psychopathy scale, Gough Socialization Scale, Psychopathic Personality Inventory (PPI), among others that have been developed by various psychologists and are used in different populations. However, the self-report inventories have several limitations over the expert-rate devices. Firstly, the self-report inventories require cooperation from the patient, which implies that if the patient is not willing to cooperate, then any leading information to their condition might not be established (Frick, 2003). Additionally, the self-report inventories require a higher level of training, which means that it might be difficult for an individual with a lesser knowledge of the condition to be in a position to conduct an assessment to a patient. It is due to these limitations that the self-report assessments are not highly recommended and if they are used, then they should be combined with the expert-rater assessments.

The various statistical techniques that have been used in the analysis of the psychopathic traits have classified the condition into two dimensions.  Each of the dimensions has been considered to have one or more facets. The first dimension measured both emotional and interpersonal traits. The emotional traits included the lack of guilt, lack of empathy, irresponsibility, and the shallow effect while the interpersonal traits considered included conning behavior, glibness, and pretense. The second dimension had two facets that measured developmental and lifestyle character traits. The lifestyle character traits included parasitic lifestyle, impulsivity, lack of goals, and irresponsibility while the developmental character traits included poor controls of behavior, juvenile delinquency, criminal versatility, and general problems with behavior (Frick, 2003). Even though this area on the dimensions of psychopaths is still under active research, it has been found that meaningful relationships have been identified from the various facets between the dimensions. Understanding these relationships is important in understanding the character traits of an individual exhibiting a criminal behavior.

The PCL-R has been considered an effective tool in forensic institutions since the scores obtained can be used in predicting recidivism. Due to its effectiveness in understanding social behavior of various criminals, it has been used alongside other tools such as violence risk assessment guide, domestic violence risk assessment guide, and the historical clinical risk management 20. The PCL-R may not be effective in predicting recidivism at all cases (Hare, 2001). It is therefore important for scrutiny to be conducted when it is conducted in understanding character traits of criminals or making any predictions about the behavior of an individual.

The two basic constructs of psychopathy include taxonomical and dimensional. These constructs arise from the common question on whether psychopathy is categorical or dimensional (Frick, 2003). The available information regarding the nature of the disorder disregards any construct and provides that for an individual to be diagnosed with the disorder, they should show the pathological symptoms that affect the different domains of the life of an individual.

There has been widespread information on the relation of the environment on which an individual is predisposed to and the tendency of becoming a psychopath. Research that has been conducted has shown that there are correlations between economic statuses, an absent father, depressed mother, young mother, and instability in the family and the probability of an individual developing the disorder. Previous research has also shown that societal experiences during childhood also had a great influence in determining whether an individual will become a psychopath in the future.  In a deeper look at the influence of the environment and the propensity of an individual becoming a psychopath, there is a great correlation between the factors stated above and the presence of a certain genotype (Frick, 2003).  This is similar to the case of Schizophrenia where a certain genotype has to be available that will interact with the environment and lead to the manifestation of the disorder.

The question on the involvement of genetics and psychopathy has led to numerous studies on the level of influence of genetics on the disorder. The conclusions of the studies that have been made on the influence of genetics on the disorder suggest that unsympathetic character traits exhibited by psychopaths are usually influenced genetically while antisocial behaviors are associated with the environmental influences (Frazzetto, 2007). However, there is no substantive evidence in generalizing these findings and more research needs to be made in getting to alienate the environmental and genetic factors that influence the disorder.

Through the research on the influence of genetics and Psychopathy, there are various studies on the relations between psychopathological traits and monoamine oxidase (MAO-A). The variant gene associated with the disorder was found was found to produce less MAO-A enzymes. The research also showed that the children with low levels of enzymes of MAO-A and were disposed to undesirable experiences during their childhood showed that their threshold to being aggressive and violent was low. It is important to note that there is no particular gene for psychopathy or violent behavior but researchers found that the MAO-A levels of enzyme activity could be helpful in understanding the genetic influence of psychopathy (Frazzetto, 2007). The use of MAO-A levels of enzyme activity could only be used as a predictor when other environmental factors such as childhood background have been used.

There are different pathways from which psychopathy can emerge. Researchers have stated that there are both primary and secondary levels of Psychopathy.   In the primary level of psychopathy, genetic factors play a major role in its manifestation. The individuals believed to be usually impulsive, hostile, extroverts, with low levels of anxiety. The primary psychopaths also exhibit antisocial behavior, which is fueled by their absence of guilt in their actions that makes it difficult for them to be curable. The secondary classification of psychopaths shows antisocial behaviors just like the primary psychopaths that include being impulsive, hostile, and extrovert. However, the secondary psychopaths have a high level of anxiety, have low self-esteem and could be treated. The secondary psychopaths are usually believed to be highly influenced by environmental factors, unlike their primary counterparts whose genes lead to the development of their disorder. The other minor classifications of psychopathy are inhibited and controlled. In inhibited psychopathy, the individuals tend to be saying, withdrawn from the society, moderately anxious, and exhibit low self-esteem. On the other hand, individuals exhibiting controlled classifications of psychopathy tend to be sociable, controlled, defensive, high levels of self-esteem and low levels of anxiety.

There is a general finding that classic neuropsychological tests do not have any relationship with the various classifications of Psychopathy. There has been a general interest among researchers about the emotional processing abnormalities. This is based on the fact that the lack of decision making that is not based on emotions largely constitute to psychopathy. Decision making is a cognitive function, which is very complex and many-sided. The research that has been made in the decision-making processes and its relation to psychopathy show that there is a strong correlation between emotional intelligence and the Psychopathy. Since the actions of most psychopaths are not emotionally sensitive, it has been hypothesized that these individuals have a very low emotional intelligence, which means that their decisions are not based on emotions but on the prevailing situations that they find themselves in. the low level of emotional intelligence shows a deficit in reasoning, and management of states of emotions and the ability to handle situations (Frick, 2003). Therefore, any behavior by a criminal could be judged on the basis of emotional intelligence where the criminal is not in a position to evaluate the consequences of their actions on other people or their immediate surrounding. The levels of emotional intelligence are at times so low among the criminals such that they are not emotionally sensitive about their own safety in their actions. For example, it is always disturbing to see how a thief will make a decision to go to rob a public place while still knowing that there are high chances of being caught, taken to prison or even being shot to death. Even though these criminals sometimes have plans that they consider as effective, the idea of being caught or shot usually comes across their minds but since due to lack of emotional intelligence, they will ignore and commit their planned crime. The lack of emotional intelligence is also evident among prisoners who are released from prison only to go and repeat the same criminal actions that they committed and end up going back to prison. Such examples are a clear indication of the deficits in reasoning and perception among the psychopaths.

The studies conducted in Psychopathy have also attracted the attention of neuroscience. Current research has shown that abnormalities in the paralimbic structures, cingulate cortexes, the frontal cortexes, and the temporal pole have contributed to the prevalence of Psychopathy among many people. In addition, studies on brain imaging have shown that the dysfunction of the tempo Ro limbic network is an area of concern when studying the disorder. There have also been continuing researches on the impact of associative learning and the development of the disorder. Associative learning is usually affected by OFC abnormalities and selective amygdala affects associative learning. Associative learning determines the healthy socialization among individuals, an aspect that most psychopaths lose. Even though the etiology of these abnormalities in the brain has not yet been established, these abnormalities present themselves at a young age, which adds to the hypothesis that psychopathy is a disorder whose presence in an individual is highly influenced by their genetic loading.

There were an approximate 1, 150, 000 males living in the United States meet the criteria for being psychopaths by 2010. Additionally, of the 6, 720, 000 number of prisoners living in the United States, 165 of them are psychopaths (Hare, 2011). Current research provides that psychopaths in the United States prison recidivate at a higher rate, which makes them more vulnerable to emotional states that also affects their decision-making pattern. It is for this reason that many of these psychopaths will be released but commits similar crimes that get them back to prison.

The character traits exhibited by the psychopaths has shown that most of them end up getting into drugs and substance abuse. Drug and substance abuse is highly associated with the symptoms such as irresponsibility and lack to control behavior, which leads to an individual drinking or smoking uncontrollably, which not only has adverse effects on their health but also on their ability to control themselves whenever they are highly inebriated. When inebriated, the psychopaths will lead to violent behaviors that will lead them to harm others or sexually harassing other people. It is due to these behaviors that some of the criminals usually have a problem with getting along with other people when they are drunk, which creates societal problems that lead to criminal behaviors. Even when the psychopath does not have the full character traits of a psychopath, drug and substance abuse tends to magnify the already mild character traits of irresponsibility, which constitutes into criminal or violent behavior in the society (Ronson, 2012).  In addition, when an individual lacks the money to buy the drugs that they are used to, they will have to devise other means in ensuring that they get the specific drug. As mentioned herein, psychopaths have deficits in perception, reasoning, and decision making, which implies that they do anything just to attain what they want. It is therefore important to understand that the character traits exhibited by the psychopaths’ lead them to drug and substance abuse, which is a contributing factor in criminal and violent behavior.

In light of the information contained herein, it is important to understand that some cases of criminal and violent behavior among the members of the society are highly contributed by the psychopathological study. The information provided shows that the genetic disorders and environment influence the development of psychopathological disorder among individuals. However, it is important to learn that the environment plays a big role since it determines whether certain genes associated with the disorder will be shown. The unstable environment has been identified to be a major contributor in the exhibition of the disorder, which contributes greatly to the violent behavior among the individuals. From this information, it is important that the psychopaths be approached from a different perspective in being able to address their violent or criminal behavior. This is because as identified, a psychopath may be in prison and would not be emotionally sensitive when committing a similar crime that will make them get back returned to prison (In Millon, 2013).  The society should, therefore, be in a position to understand the condition and assist the psychopaths in helping them cope with the environment regardless of their condition.

In summary, Psychopathy is the first disorder in personality to be documented in the psychiatric community, which is largely associated with deficits in reasoning and the ability to make rational decisions. The information provided has shown that some forms of criminal or violent behavior are clinical conditions that require attention. This is mainly because the character traits of the psychopaths show a low level of emotional intelligence. Genetics and environment have been considered to have a close to equal contribution to the prevalence of the disorder, which leads to criminal and violent behavior. Since it’s a clinical condition, it is important for the members of the society to understand and help the patients especially at a young age, more so in providing an environment that does not allow the individual to exhibit the traits.

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