Antisocial Personality Disorder risk factors


a. Genetics. The DSM-IV-TR reports that antisocial personality is more common among first-degree biological relatives of those with the disorder than among the general population (APA, 2000). Cadoret (1994) reports on studies that implicate the role of genetics. These studies of families of individuals with antisocial personality show higher numbers of relatives with antisocial personality or alcoholism than are found in the general population. Additional studies have shown that children of parents with antisocial behavior are more likely to be diagnosed as antisocial personality, even when they are separated at birth from their biological parents and reared by individuals without the disorder.

b. Temperament. Characteristics associated with temperament in the newborn may be significant in the predisposition to antisocial personality. Parents who bring their children with behavior disorders to clinics often report that the child displayed temper tantrums from infancy and would become furious when awaiting a bottle or a diaper change. As these children mature, they commonly develop a bullying attitude toward other children. Parents report that they are undaunted by punishment and are generally quite unmanageable. They are daring and foolhardy in their willingness to chance physical harm, and they seem unaffected by pain.


a. Theories of Family Dynamics. Antisocial personality disorder frequently arises from a chaotic home environment (Cadoret, 1994). Parental deprivation during the first 5 years of life appears to be a critical predisposing factor. Separation due to parental delinquency appears to be more highly correlated with the disorder than is parental loss from other causes. The presence or intermittent appearance of inconsistent, impulsive parents, not the loss of a consistent parent, is environmentally most damaging.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Antisocial Personality Disorder

Studies have shown that individuals with antisocial personality disorder often have been severely physically abused in childhood. The abuse contributes to the development of antisocial behavior in several ways. First, it provides a model for behavior. Second, it may result in injury to the child’s central nervous system, thereby impairing the child’s ability to function appropriately. Finally, it engenders rage in the victimized child, which is then displaced onto others in the environment.

Disordered family functioning has been implicated as an important factor (Cadoret, 1994; Phillips, Yen, & Gunderson, 2003). The following circumstances may be influential in the predisposition to the disorder:

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