What causes a person to be antisocial?


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Page last updated: 15/11/2022

What causes a person to be antisocial

Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, represents a huge challenge to most of the mental health experts.

All due to the fact that many of the psychotherapeutic methods did not produce a significant effect in the treatment of such personality disorder, but also because of the fact that insignificant research has been done to determine the mechanisms of the cause and the onset of the disorder.

Antisocial personality disorder is characterized by the neglect of the rights of other people.

More often by breaking the rules and overcoming different measures.

It involves a constant conflict with social norms, morale, and law.

The usual onset is in early childhood or adolescent age, and it continues through adulthood.

Antisocial personality disorder is commonly known as sociopathy.

The term, antisocial personality, itself, is used for persons who, besides the inadequate behavior, commit acts against everything and everyone in the surroundings they live in.

People with antisocial disorder often lack empathy, and have a tendency to be heartless, cynical, and despise emotions, rights, and suffering of others.

ASPD is the most socially destructive personality disorder given its mutuality with serious conduct problems, violence, and crime produces extraordinary societal costs and aggregate social burden, and is highly prevalent in profiles of the most serious and antisocial criminal offenders.1

Aetiology of the ASPD has not been clarified to this day.

Regardless of the fact that many types of research undoubtedly prove that one of the causes of this disorder has its biological baseline.

However, man,1 science direct and with him a personality, is the part of the system, so it is not possible to observe this phenomenon isolated and as an effect of only one factor.

Antisocial personality disorder is probably caused by a combination of factors2:

  • Genes may make you vulnerable to developing antisocial personality disorder —
  • Life situations may trigger its development (Trauma, Family history of antisocial personality, Unstable, violent or chaotic family life during childhood, Being subjected to abuse or neglect during childhood). The disorder also may be more common where the community is not supportive or provides a little reward for positive behavior. In some situations, there may even be reinforcement for sociopathic behavior.

Siegel (1999) cogently delineates how early experiences, especially repeated ones, whether trauma or relationship attachment issues or expression of genes, shape the structure of neuronal circuits in the brain.

He suggests that neural instability then becomes an enduring feature of an individual’s mind or states of mind and mental models or world view.3

What causes a person to be antisocial?

For counsellors who work with offenders, it is important to understand that childhood trauma and maltreatment may be the root cause of their adult antisocial behaviors.

  • Changes in the way the brain functions may have resulted during brain development. Hare (1993) – described several studies in which frontal lobe dysfunction, as evidenced by electroencephalogram abnormalities and positron emission tomography/single-photon 2 Health Harvard 3 Siegel D. The developing mind. How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are (1999) New York: Guilford Press. emission computer tomography scans, is speculated to play a  crucial role in dysfunctional regulation of behaviors typically associated with antisocial traits, for example, aggressiveness, irritability, impulsivity, egocentricity, callousness, substance misuse, manipulativeness, lack of remorse, and grandiosity.4

Some researchers have found changes in the volume of brain structures that mediate violent behavior.

People with this kind of brain function may thus have more difficulty restraining their impulses, which may account for the tendency toward more aggressive behavior.

Neurobiologists cannot say with certainty that these variations in brain structure are a cause of antisocial personality.

The variations could easily be the result of life experiences that are more common in people with this personality disorder rather than a cause.5

Criminal behavior is a key feature of antisocial personality disorder, and there is a high risk that someone with the disorder will commit crimes and be imprisoned at some point in their life.

People with antisocial personality disorder are also more likely to have relationship problems during adulthood and be unemployed and homeless but antisocial personality disorder is one of the most difficult types of personality disorders to treat.

Most of the experts agree with the biopsychosocial model of causality, which states that the cause must be looked for in the entire life history of a person.

Namely, the cause can possibly be assigned to a series of biological and genetic factors.

Social factors (the manner in which the person established relations with his/her parents and other

4 Hare R. Without conscience. The disturbing world of the psychopaths among us (1993) New York: Pocket Books

5 Staff of Mayo Clinic

children). And psychological (the temper shaped by the surroundings in which the individual grew up, as well as learned coping mechanisms).

Such an integrative approach to the aetiology of antisocial personality disorder does not favor only one risk factor but is aimed at finding the structural linkage and dynamic action of various factors.

According to this model, there are no specific causes of antisocial personality disorder, but only certain biological, psychological and social factors that make complex occurrence of antisocial personality disorder more or less likely. 6

With this in mind, we can deduce that one factor is not enough to cause the disorder, but a complex, intertwined effect of all factors stated above.

If an individual has this type of disorder, there is a high probability that his/hers children will inherit the disorder.7

6 Viktorija M. Popović, MSc The presence of antisocial personality disorder in patients with bipolar affective disorder Doctoral Dissertation, 30

7 Dr. Petar Vojvodic; psihocentrala.com


  • Dr. Petar Vojvodic; psihocentrala.com
  • Mayoclinic.org
  • Sciencedirect.com
  • Siegel D. The developing mind. How relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are (1999) New York: Guilford Press
  • Viktorija M. Popović, MSc The presence of antisocial personality disorder in patients with bipolar affective disorder Doctoral Dissertation, 30