Understanding what factors contribute to the development of a criminal is crucial to understanding crime, social interactions, and today’s criminal justice system. For many years criminal law applications have relied on the sociological influences and theories derived from such influences. When understanding the criminal mind, there are many factors to consider, including an individual’s personality traits. Personality refers to an individual’s emotional and behavioral attributes that remain consistent as the individual moves from situation to situation (Snipes, Gerould, & Bernard, 2010).
Psychological explanations of deviance attempt to identify personality traits that distinguish deviants from non-deviants, assuming that the basic components of any personality are individual personalities or generalized ways of behaving (Clinard & Meier, 2016). This perspective argues that behavior is a product of one’s personality and deviant behavior is a product of specific psychological traits. Psychological explanations of deviance suggest that inadequacies in personality traits interfere with an individual’s ability to adjust to the demands of society (Clinard & Meier, 2016).
Psychological tests have been created to measure personality differences; just as psychological tests have been created to measure intelligence. These personality tests have been used to study delinquents and criminals and how their personalities differ from nondelinquents and non-criminals (Snipes et al., 2010). Many psychological associations distinguish antisocial personality disorder from adult antisocial behavior; however, they do not distinguish antisocial personality disorder from the terms sociopath and psychopath and instead consider the terms synonymous (Snipes et al., 2010). An individual’s personality may be a driving factor in their likelihood to commit a crime.
Many studies have been conducted regarding the connection between antisocial personality disorder and criminal behavior. A study was conducted testing how dark and vulnerable dark personality traits relate to criminal activity (Edwards, Bethany, Alberston, Emily, Verona, & Edelyn, 2018). The study found that individuals who expressed the dark and vulnerable dark personality traits often engaged in violent crimes and the impulsive nature of the dark personality traits had a significant effect on the individual’s likelihood to engage in crimes against people (Edwards et al., 2017). Impulsivity is a personality trait that may strongly suggest antisocial personality disorder.
Alternatively, some literature links psychopathy and psychopathic personality traits with criminal behavior. One study regarding crime and delinquency found that psychopathic personality traits have a statistically significant influence on one’s likelihood of being arrested, incarcerated, and sentenced to probation (Beaver, Boutwell, Barnes, Vaughn, & DeLisi, 2017). While psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder are not the same, some common traits exist within both disorders, such as impulsivity. Research has examined whether psychopathic personality traits are associated with the likelihood of being processed by the criminal justice system (Boccio, Cashen, Beaver, & Kevin, 2018). In this study; however, the findings revealed that psychopathic traits are generally not associated with criminal success (Boccio et al., 2018).
Interestingly, a study was conducted regarding the overdiagnosis of antisocial personality disorder arguing that psychopathy is a more useful forensic diagnostic construct that antisocial personality disorder (Cunningham, Mark, Reidy, & Thomas, 1998). The study found that an antisocial personality disorder diagnosis does not always indicate criminal behavior and that psychopathy strongly predicts criminal behavior (Cunningham et al., 1998). However, since this study has been conducted, many have found opposing results that will be the focus of the current analysis.
The purpose of this analysis is to understand the possible connection between individuals with personality disorders and their likelihood to engage in criminal deviance. Understanding these psychological factors is important in determining a motive and criminal responsibility as well as social interactions. Antisocial personality disorders can affect one’s impulsivity and self-control which can lead to engaging in criminal or deviant behavior. It is expected that individuals with antisocial personality disorders are more likely to engage in deviant or criminal behavior.
For this analysis, the use of external articles and research published will be used to support the connection between antisocial personality disorder and criminal deviance. Specifically, to be discussed; the book, Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy) written by author Donald W. Black and, the article, Predictors of adult outcomes in clinically – and legally – ascertained youth with externalizing problems written by authors; Richard Border, Robin Corley, Sandra Brown, John Hewitt, Christian Hopfer, Michael Stallings, Tamara Wall, Susan Young, and Soo Hyun Rhee. These studies offer a great deal of evidence regarding the relationship and the likelihood of those who suffer from antisocial personality disorder to engage in deviant criminal behavior.
Bad Boys, Bad Men Participants
The participants in the study conducted by Black were, ‘predominantly white, blue-collar, lower middle class, married, and most had not graduated from high school’, according to the author. Black also identifies that the participants in the study were typically in their 20’s when they were hospitalized for antisocial personality disorder and in their 50’s when they were contacted to participate in the study. In this study, participants were offered twenty-five dollars as a form of compensation for participating, but many still refused (Black, 2013).
Bad Boys, Bad Men Materials/Procedure
Donald W. Black spent many years studying the curiosities of antisocial personality disorder and wanted to inform society on the severity of the condition. The study was conducted as a way to better understand antisocial personality disorder (ASP) and as a way to better inform society and their interactions. However, finding the subjects wasn’t easy. Black and other researchers who assisted would contact family members of the participants from a list of those hospitalized with antisocial personality disorder. They contacted family members via phone, however many were not willing to participate. Black mentions that many were quick to lie about their background and many were very aggressive. Black found that it would be more efficient to use male participants as many women commonly exhibited signs of borderline personality disorder, which is not the same. He notes; however, that this does not mean that women do not suffer from ASP. Black interviewed and recorded the participants as they took part in his survey. The purpose was to understand the deviant behaviors of those with ASP. Many would fabricate their stories at first, but he found that many also had no problem opening up about their criminal history. Black found that most individuals with ASP had long histories of deviant behavior. However, some details and names were changed in the publication of the study for the individual’s privacy (Black, 2013).
This study introduces many ideas regarding those with ASP and crime. The study found that most individuals with ASP had long histories of deviant behavior including criminal behavior. As ASP is a mental disorder, those who do not suffer need to understand the severity of the condition to better function as a society. The next study to be analyzed studies the predictors of adult outcomes in youth with externalizing problems (EP). This study allows society and professionals to better recognize individuals who struggle with the disorder and provide help before it escalates.
Predictors of Adult Outcomes Participants
Many participants were recruited from residential and outpatient treatment facilities for substance abuse and delinquency, criminal justice records, schools for youth with behavior problems, and drug and alcohol treatment programs for this study between 1992 and 2007 (Corley, Brown, Hewitt, Hopfer, Stallings, Wall, Young, & Rhee, 2018). Total, there were 1,517 adolescents recruited for the study (Corley et al., 2018). The participants were broken up between years based on where they were recruited from. For example, the 1993-1997 participants, known as the Denver Clinical Sample, consisted of 244 males recruited from the Denver, Colorado areas residential facilities for substance abuse and delinquency (Corley et al., 2018). The 1997-2002 Denver Clinical Sample consisted of 362 participants recruited from outpatient substance abuse treatment programs. 302 participants were from the Denver Adjudicated sample and were recruited through Colorado criminal justice records (Corley et al., 2018). Finally, the 246 participants from the San Diego Sample were recruited from schools for youth with behavioral problems and alcohol and drug treatment programs in San Diego, California (Corley et al., 2018).
Predictors of Adult Outcomes Materials/Procedure
The participants were gathered from a list of records regarding the specified individuals in the areas in which they were recruited. Participants were studied in categories and studied during different years. This allowed the research to be conducted in an organized manner. The 1993-1997 and the 1997-2002 Denver clinical sample, participants with whom a first-degree relative agreed to participate in the assessments were subjected to follow up (Corley et al., 2018). For the remaining samples, “participants who showed at least on CD symptom or at least one non-tobacco SUD symptom at initial assessment were subjected to follow up” (Corley et al., 2018). Total, 1,205 participants were targeted for follow up and completed between one and two follow up assessments (Corley et al., 2018). All participants were measured for intelligence, family environment, substance abuse, and dependence vulnerability, perceived peer deviance, CD and antisocial personality disorder, and legal outcomes (Corley et al., 2018).
Based on the statistical data collected, “sixty-eight percent of participants who were under 18 years old at baseline reported being arrested after their 18th birthday and forty-eight percent of participants endorsed being on parole, on probation, or incarcerated at some point during the past five years” (Corley et al., 2018). “Every demographic and psychosocial predictor was significantly related to at least one psychiatric or legal outcome at follow-up” (Corley et al., 2018).
This study followed individuals with EP for many years and found that they often engage in deviant behaviors. The study used statistical analysis to organize the data collected. They followed different individuals in different areas in the United States and collected data based on their behaviors. Again, these studies allow for society to better understand the severity of these disorders and how-to better function as a society and help these individuals.
The purpose of the study was to better understand the connection between individuals with antisocial personality disorder and their likelihood to engage in criminal activities, through the analysis of research published over time, as well as criminological and sociological theory. By using previous research, one can see how the correlation between antisocial personality disorder and criminal behavior persists through different scenarios and tests. The literature reviewed for the analysis included criminological theories and two studies; Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy) written by author Donald W. Black and, the article, Predictors of adult outcomes in clinically – and legally – ascertained youth with externalizing problems written by authors; Richard Border, Robin Corley, Sandra Brown, John Hewitt, Christian Hopfer, Michael Stallings, Tamara Wall, Susan Young, and Soo Hyun Rhee. The theories discussed include intelligence and crime and the association between delinquency and IQ, personality and criminal behavior, and psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder.
The hypothesis that individuals with antisocial personality disorder are more likely to engage in criminal activity than individuals who do not suffer from antisocial personality disorder is supported by the data presented throughout the analysis.
The study, Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy), found that individuals with antisocial personality disorder have long histories of criminal behavior and often aren’t honest about their criminal history. Based on these studies and the supporting criminological theories, one can conclude that the results show a pattern of individuals with antisocial personality disorder and criminal behavior.
The theories discussed all relate to individuals with antisocial personality disorder and crime. The theories provide a history of the understanding of the connection between intelligence and delinquency and antisocial personality disorder and delinquency. In the sixth edition of, Vold’s Theoretical Criminology, written by; Thomas Bernard, Jeffrey Snipes, and Alexander Gerould, it is argued that low IQ scores are associated with crime and delinquency. The challenge; however, is determining the explanation of why individuals with low IQ scores are more likely to engage in crime than those with high IQ scores. They argue that one can assume one of three approaches; ‘assume that IQ measures some form of abstract reasoning or problem-solving ability and that this is largely inherited’, ‘argue IQ does not measure innate ability but instead measures qualities that are related to dominant culture’, or ‘argue that IQ measures general abilities, but that these abilities are largely determined by a person’s environment’ (Bernard et al., 2010). While psychologists can measure an individual’s personality through the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMIP), much like an IQ, researchers argue that both crim and personality may be caused by a third-party variable, such as childhood trauma (Bernard et al., 2010). Many psychological associations distinguish antisocial personality disorder from adult antisocial behavior; however, they do not distinguish antisocial personality disorder from the terms sociopath and psychopath and instead consider the terms synonymous (Bernard et al., 2010). An individual’s personality may be a driving factor in their likelihood to commit a crime.
Both of the studies presented throughout this analysis can attest to the validity of the theories discussed. In the study, Predictors of adult outcomes in clinically – and legally – ascertained youth with externalizing problems, the researchers conducted a test of the individual intelligence and likelihood to express signs of antisocial personality disorder. I would argue that this test supports the third approach mentioned in understanding intelligence and crime as well as the theories discussed regarding personality and antisocial personality disorder and crime. The individuals tested were selected at random from different locations, but all shared a similar background of deviant behaviors. Using the evidence from the studies and theories, society can become better informed about these individuals and better understand what influences these individuals. The study, Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy), followed a similar group of individuals and found a pattern of previous deviant behaviors that persisted into adulthood.
- Black, D. W. (2013). Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy) (Vol. Revised and updatedition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Beaver, K. M., Boutwell, B. B., Barnes, J. C., Vaughn, M. G., & DeLisi, M. (2017). The Association Between Psychopathic Personality Traits and Criminal Justice Outcomes. Crime & Delinquency.
- Boccio, Cashen, M., Beaver, & Kevin, M. (2018). Psychopathic Personality Traits and the Successful Criminal. International Journal of Offender Therapy & Comparative Criminology.
- Border, R., Corley, R. P., Brown, S. A., Hewitt, J. K., Hopfer, C. J., Stallings, M. C., Rhee, S.H. (2018). Predictors of adult outcomes in clinically- and legally-ascertained youth with externalizing problems.
- Clinard, M. B., & Meier, R. F. (2016). Sociology of Deviant Behavior. Boston: Cengage Learning.
- Cunningham, Mark, D., Reidy, & Thomas, J. (1998). Antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy: diagnostic dilemmas in classifying patterns of antisocial behavior in sentencing evaluations. Behavioral Sciences & the Law.
- Edwards, Bethany, G., Albertson, Emily, Verona, & Edelyn. (2017). Dark and vulnerable personality trait correlates of dimensions of criminal behavior among adult offenders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
- Snipes, J. B., Gerould, A. L., & Bernard, T. J. (2010). Vold’s Theoretical Criminology. New York: Oxford University Press.