What is sociopathy? To many in the field of psychology this is an
outdated term that was replaced the Antisocial Personality Disorder in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (1994)
or by the term psychopathy, which is most commonly associated with the work
of Dr. Robert Hare. However, David Lykken describes sociopathy as a
relevant concept and presents a fairly solid argument that sociopathy helps
explain the alarming increase in violent crime in the last 50 years.
According to Lykken (1995), sociopaths are created by ineffective
parenting and inadequate socialization during childhood and adolescence.
Lykken continues by stating that there are four types of sociopaths.
These individuals are created by poor parenting and
develop a lack of remorse, shame and consistently break the rules of
These individuals, again created through poor
socialization, do not develop the capacity to love or form attachments with
others. This creates a person that lacks empathy and can be quite
callous with victims. Within the Alienated Type are four further
Individuals of this subtype
develop antisocial traits and an inability to relate emotionally to others,
which affects relationships on a global level.
Although these individuals are
capable of demonstrating affection and attachments to relatives, friends, or
spouses, they are prone to relate to others as objects. This serves a protective function due to childhood experiences of
trauma, which can be viewed as being dissociative in nature and a form of
A hostile sociopath is an angry,
resentful, and aggressive person that purposefully rejects the social norms
and mores of society and displays antisocial and traditional psychopathic
traits as a result of their hostile beliefs.
Much like the hostile type, these
individuals are hostile, antisocial and reject the norms and mores of
society, but for different reasons. These individuals feel rejected by
society due to real or perceived inadequacies, most likely learned through
experiences with an abusive parent, which in later life create specific
beliefs that rules do not apply to them because they have been wronged by
These are dangerous individuals
that enjoy hurting others and can often be described as sadistic.
Dominance and control are at the heart of their psychological needs, which
are fulfilled by developing and maintaining traditional psychopathic traits
as a means to obtain, degrade, hurt and sometimes kill victims.
This type was probably created by
Lykken as an afterthought to explain all other individuals that did not fit
within the previously described types. According to Lykken, these
individuals would not normally be a sociopath or psychopath, but found
themselves involved with, relating to, and loyal to other sociopathic or
psychopathic individuals. This loyalty influenced their own
development or belief systems and they became sociopathic due to
assimilation of beliefs.
Whether or not sociopathy is a
valid concept can be argued, however as a person that has researched
criminal behavior for many years, it is my opinion that not all individuals
that demonstrate traditional psychopathic traits are born that way.
Violence in our society is becoming commonplace and poor parenting as well
as abuse of all sorts is a real problem facing children today.
Violence on television and video games, in addition to increasing exposure
to sexuality in early life may be creating sociopaths. It is difficult
to study or predict, but with the increasing violence in our society it is
becoming more difficult to state that psychopathic traits are genetic in
American Psychiatric Association.
(1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, (4th ed.).
Washington, DC: Author.
Lykken, D.T. (1995). The antisocial personalities. Hillside, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.