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The Role of Antisocial Personality Disorder in Crime

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They could be friends, co-workers, or neighbors. They could even be a family member. A conversation might be held with them or they have maybe even invited inside the house. Younger siblings or children could play at the same playground or be in the same friend group. These people could have Antisocial Personality Disorder. 3% of American men and 1% of American women have been diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder (Friedland , 35). Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) is a mental illness in which a person has a pattern of manipulating, using, and violating the rights of others without any remorse or guilt. Other names include: psychopathy, sociopathy, and dyssocial personality disorder (“Antisocial” Gale, 68). Individuals with Antisocial Personality Disorder tend to have many characteristics, causes, and perceptions of their victims.

The most common symptom of ASPD is the lack of guilt and empathy. In fact, they often show few emotion except an inflated sense of ‘self-worth and charm’ to cover up their lack of empathetic emotions (68). Because they show few emotions, they might try to mimic emotions by observing others in different settings and situations, like intimate relationships, friendships, and work relationships with co-workers. For example, someone with ASPD could steal a wallet with personal information and the only money that the person who the wallet belonged to had left and they would feel remoreless. It is as if they can’t tell right from wrong (68). “They do not adhere to accepted principles of right and wrong because to them the world is a harsh, ruthless place and to manage in it, one must be just as harsh and ruthless” (Friedland, 34).

Another prominent symptom is having little regard for the safety of others. They do not care about the rules, authority, or others’ rights because they are highly distrusting of almost everyone so why should they care about what happens to the people around them (Friedland, 34). Not being able to care about one’s feelings and safety and the lack of empathy may justify for them to hurt and mistreat others gives them a sense of power (34). They also are impulsive, aggressive, and may use illegal ways to get what they want and this makes them quick to argue and easy to anger (34). Their impulsiveness makes them risk takers and thrill seekers, because they do not care about what it will do to themselves and the people around them. This can sometimes lead them down a path of crime resulting in arrests and jail time.

In fact, 75% of all imprisoned criminals have Antisocial Personality Disorder (35). Another example, John Wayne Gacy raped and killed at least 33 young males. In John’s last trial, arguments were focused on the mental state of Gacy, but the jury found him guilty of the crimes. Today, Gacy is known as one of the most ruthless serial killers in American history. But how would Gacy’s life played out if hadn’t been burdened with obvious mental issues. People with ASPD, like John Wayne Gacy, only lookout for themselves and what betters them in the ‘harsh and ruthless’ world, giving the perfect segway to the next symptom.

The ability to manipulate others may come naturally to these individuals because they only care about what is in it for them. They take advantage of the goodness and soft heartedness of people (“Antisocial” Harvard). Ted Bundy was another historical serial killer. Bundy would often lure his victims into his car by pretending to be injured and asking them for help. Their kindness most likely got them killed. During Bundy’s trials, his intelligence, charm, and good looks made everyone rethink what a serial killer looked like and how one acted. Some people thought that someone as handsome and charismatic as Ted could not possibly commit such crimes as he did. Someone with ASPD can be a very good ‘con-artist’ because of their charm and fast talking abilities (“Antisocial” Gale, 69). They also lie and cheat to gain wealth and power over others (69).

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How does one contract ASPD? Well there a couple theories about where this mental illness comes from. “Personality is a combination of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that makes everyone unique. It’s the way people view, understand, and relate to the outside world. Personality forms during childhood, shaped through an interaction of inherited tendencies and environmental factors” (“Antisocial” Mayo). There have been many debates between nature vs. nurture and heredity vs. environment (Friedland 37).

In some situations, parents have abused substances. This can lead to a child having ASPD because the parent cares more about drugs or alcohol than their own child. Studies have suggested that having a substance abusing father is a powerful indication that the child will develop ASPD (37). When a child’s brain is still developing the parent is not in the right headspace to be teaching that child right from wrong. As a child, trying to learn how act is an important skill that needs to be taught, but instead the only thing that child knows is their parent is doing bad things so it must be okay to be bad. Parents who abuse drugs and alcohol will most likely lead to abusing their child(ren).Being abused or neglected as a child is another cause of ASPD. “When a child had been abused or neglected they have failed to develop the close, emotional characteristics of a normally developed personality and instead have learned to be angry and hostile” (36). People with this illness have been raised in homes void of love and affection, which has taught them to have all the symptoms of ASPD.

Genetics and brain development play a huge role in the causes of Antisocial Personality Disorder. Genes may put one more at risk of developing ASPD. The illness is more likely to develop in a person who has a parent with ASPD. Changes in the way the brain functions that may have resulted during brain development (“Antisocial” Mayo). “The frontal lobe, the area of the brain that governs judgment and planning, also appears to be different in people with ASPD. People with this 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 the brain structure are a cause of Antisocial Personality Disorder” (“Antisocial” Harvard).

If an individual with ASPD has committed a crime, such as murder, rape, etc., they could have ways of picking their victim or it could just be random. When a criminal has ASPD and is looking for a victim they might have a vision of their ‘ideal victim’ based on race, gender, physical characteristics, or some other specific quality. Someone with ASPD has the need to be in control of their environment and the people in it, so they want to have complete control of the victim. Metaphorically speaking, they are predators. “Social predators express unique nonsexual interest in potential victims, a tactic designed to test receptivity and create vulnerability without using any inappropriate behavior or language. Such behavior comes after the predator has gained the victims trust’ (Patrick, 85). The victim’s body language can tell everything about themselves depending on what the ‘predator’ is looking for. If the victims has their hands on their face or biting their lip, it means they are anxious so the individual with ASPD may try to befriend the victim by asking them about why they are nervous. Posture is very important. Slouching the shoulders, avoiding eye contact, and being hostile might mean that the victim is insecure and shy, making it easy for the victim to be flattered by the ‘predator’. They would play with the victim’s confidence so the victim would doubt them self and trust the one with ASPD (Eddy).

Remember, they are master manipulators so they are highly effective at getting their victim to overlook the warning signs because of their good manners and charm. They will say anything to get what they want and make their victims feel like the ‘bad guy’ and will play the victim if needed. The victim will feel bad but that is exactly what the ‘predator’ wants (Eddy). They want you to feel empathetic for them so they can get you into their trap. The way a victim could be chosen may even be just by their physical characteristics or their habits. Maybe a person with ASPD had an abusive mother that had a drug problem, that person might commit a crime just against people who abuse drugs and looked like the mother.

In conclusion, people with individuals may have had a abusive childhood or genetic deficiencies that has caused them to feel no emotion such as empathy, guilt, or fear so they mask their lack of emotions with arrogance and charm. They will say and do anything to get what the want from someone because they cannot tell right from wrong; it is as if they have no conscience (Menninger, 150).

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The Role of Antisocial Personality Disorder in Crime. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“The Role of Antisocial Personality Disorder in Crime.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
The Role of Antisocial Personality Disorder in Crime. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Sept. 2023].
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