• Question: If someone is brought up in a violent or abusive childhood, is it likely that that person will become violent or a sociopath?

    Asked by Jess to Joe on 16 Nov 2016.
    • Photo: Joe Bathelt

      Joe Bathelt answered on 16 Nov 2016:

      It’s not something that I usually work on so I did some literature research to find an answer to your excellent question. I could find a review (that is a summary of many individual studies) that looked at the consequences of an abusive childhood on adult violence. According to this source abuse or violence in childhood is linked to higher likelihood of violent behaviour in adults.
      I also found a review on the mechanisms of psychopathy and sociopathy. According to this review, psychopathy is largely determined by genetic mechanisms. The environment also plays a role, but only to a small degree. In contrast, sociopathy is thought to dependent more on the interaction between genes and environment. Certain genes would make a person more vulnerable to certain environments, which then leads to sociopathy. In the words of the authors: ” sociopathy is the interactive result of “plasticity” genotypes and abuse/maltreatment during childhood resulting in impaired top–down regulation/appraisal of emotions and control over motivations (i.e., emotional dysregulation) and therefore naturally related to disturbed socio-emotional development and negative outcomes”.