Raising a psychopath

Published: 02 June 2017


A new study has revealed the two ‘extreme’ parenting styles that have been linked to children becoming criminal psychopaths in later life.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology has undertaken a study of high-security prisoners, interviewing them to find out more about their upbringing.

The study found that many of the criminals had a history of either total parental neglect, or completely controlling, authoritarian parents.

Psychopaths are characterised as suffering from a chronic mental disorder, with abnormal or violent social behaviour.

The study also found that the criminal psychopaths they studied had a history of grotesque physical and/or psychological abuse when they were children.

They are said to be uncaring people with shallow emotions, capable of manipulating people without any remorse.

Dr Aina Gullhaugen authored the study, and said that without exception all these criminals had been injured in the company of their caregivers.

“And many of the descriptions made it clear that their later ruthlessness was an attempt to address this damage, but in an inappropriate or bad way,” she said.

Dr Gullhaugen explained that if there is a scale of parental care, ranging from not caring to totally obsessive, most parents fall into the middle area.

“But it is different for psychopaths.

“More than half of the psychopaths I have studied reported that they had been exposed to a parenting style that could be placed on either extreme of these scales.

“Either they lived in a situation where no one cared, where the child is subjected to total control and must be submissive, or the child has been subjected to a neglectful parenting style.”

Dr Gullhaugen added that parents cannot cop the blame for everything, as many children have awful upbringings but do not end up criminals.

“Of course, not all reckless behaviour is explained by a bad upbringing, but we do not inherit everything either. That is my main point.”