An introduction of the diversity of ways to understand antisocial behavior

An introduction of the diversity of ways to understand antisocial behavior

One can imagine that a psychopath lacks empathy because of biological defects in the brain. It may also be that the psychopath behaves recklessly as a result of childhood trauma and neglect. A third possibility is that the psychopath's behavior is a reaction to pathological structures in society and social problems. Few, if any, biological inspired researchers neglect social or psychological aspects, and the opposite.

The study of criminal behavior has a long history. In Medieval times, demons and evil spirits was the explanation when crimes were made and also for madness as the supernatural powers would take possession of the individual, and hence causing the individual to do bad things. Also the ancient Romans had a theory in relation to the origins of madness and criminality. They believed that human behavior changed with the phases of the moon. The word lunacy, which is derived from the Latin word for moon; “luna”, reflects that belief. But what seemed like a valid explanation in one period of time, were rejected in the next period (Corner, 2001, pp. 9-18). Today’s theories in relation to antisocial behavior can be sharply separated into biological, social and psychological.

Within each of these, there exist numerous sub categories. Few, if any, biological inspired researchers neglect social or psychological aspects, and the opposite. However, usually aspects from one of them are considered more relevant than other aspects.

Within a biological frame, that became prominent for understanding human behavior in the 1970’s, one approach considers genetic material to be essential for the development of behavior (Berk, 2000, p. 480). This is based on studies that suggest that there among the family of a criminal psychopath, are more people with antisocial traits like criminal behavior than other, in other families, even though there has not been a shared environment (Paris, 2003, p. 278). This view can be traced back to Darwin’s traditional evolution theory, in which the psychopath’s “disregard” for other people can be seen as adaptive, and as a matter of survival, as people with psychopathic genes therefore might be allowed to produce more offspring than people without these genes (Greenspan, 2003). Professor in neurology, Antonio Damasio, adds importance to the crucial roles damages in the brain and especially in the frontal lobes has for emotions and consequently for irrational behavior (Damasio, 2001, pp. 71-80). Another biological approach, like that of Coccaro et al. (2000), places an emphasis on abnormalities in neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, but also to other biologic factors like testosterone and glucose to understand criminal aggression. They suggest that antisocial behavior can be reduced with the use of medications. A well-known factor in criminals and psychopaths is the presence of an attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD). Weiss and Hechtman have, according to Joel Paris (2003), found that one of three with ADHD conduct criminal behavior. Paris does this way, even though this is a controversial field, see ADHD as a biological factor that might influence the development of psychopathy. Some more reflections about the biological aspects will be further discussed later in this work (part 3.3.3.).

Social and psychological theories can sometimes be difficult to sharply separate, as they can be seen as substantially interwoven. However, they are different in their views upon where the origin of problematic behavior is to be found. Social psychological theories weight the importance of the environment, whereas psychological theories seek the answers within the individual. Essential social factors in the development of criminality are, among other things, that it is more common in younger individuals, in males and in lower socioeconomic classes. The prevalence for antisocial PD is also, for speculative reasons, found to have cross-cultural differences as some places in Eastern Asia, the prevalence is found to be unusually low. It is also found that in the US, there is a rapid increase in the development of antisocial PD, which, according to Paris (2003), supports the crucial role of the social environment in pathology.

As for psychological theories, it is often pointed at problems in childhood, like family violence and conflicts (Corner, 2001, p. 521). But there are indeed differences in the theories. Some of the prominent ones are psychodynamic in which can be separated into the classical psychoanalytic-, ego-, object relational-, attachment- and self psychology (Mitchell & Black, 1995). Other prominent psychological theories are cognitive, existential and behavioristic theories (Ewen, 1998).

From a psychological perspective, one can argue, that brain damages or other biological factors are not always present or at least possible to track down in antisocial persons. One can also argue that sociological explanations for crime are in some way simplistic, as the well-known clinical psychologist working with criminal behaviour, Stanton Samenow (1984, p. 13), does. He states, that if sociological theories were correct, there would be far more criminals because most poor people are law-abiding and that it is wrong to anticipate that all criminals come from one sort of neighbourhood. He agrees that the environment does have an effect, but what he emphasizes, is how people perceive and react to similar conditions of life very differently.

However, there is no doubt that both the biological and the social perspective can contribute to an understanding of criminality and serial killing. Still, it is crucial to define the purpose and delimitations of one’s study, as the diimain otherwise will be too comprehensive. As is also Samenow’s entrance angel, this work will enthasize the psychological dimension with a phenomenological method to understand how, in this case, D.B. has experienced his problems and dimensions in life. This is to search for an answer to what made him conduct what has widespread been perceived as a chocking and destructive behaviour. Before starting to analyse the case of D.B., the next part will be aimed at introducing the murders that he committed.