The development of psychopathy

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. Mar-Apr 2006;47(3-4):262-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01596.x.

Abstract

The current review focuses on the construct of psychopathy, conceptualized as a clinical entity that is fundamentally distinct from a heterogeneous collection of syndromes encompassed by the term 'conduct disorder'. We will provide an account of the development of psychopathy at multiple levels: ultimate causal (the genetic or social primary cause), molecular, neural, cognitive and behavioral. The following main claims will be made: (1) that there is a stronger genetic as opposed to social ultimate cause to this disorder. The types of social causes proposed (e.g., childhood sexual/physical abuse) should elevate emotional responsiveness, not lead to the specific form of reduced responsiveness seen in psychopathy; (2) The genetic influence leads to the emotional dysfunction that is the core of psychopathy; (3) The genetic influence at the molecular level remains unknown. However, it appears to impact the functional integrity of the amygdala and orbital/ventrolateral frontal cortex (and possibly additional systems); (4) Disruption within these two neural systems leads to impairment in the ability to form stimulus-reinforcement associations and to alter stimulus-response associations as a function of contingency change. These impairments disrupt the impact of standard socialization techniques and increase the risk for frustration-induced reactive aggression respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / physiopathology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / epidemiology
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / etiology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / genetics
  • Association
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Empathy
  • Fear
  • Frontal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Morals
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Social Environment