Is Psychopathy Genetic?

Interest in the most severe form of character disturbance (psychopathy) has grown rapidly in the past several years, thanks mainly to the research conducted by Dr. Robert Hare of Canada and others.  And one of the more interesting findings to come out of clinical studies on brain functioning is evidence of a possible biological basis for the psychopath’s diminished capacity for empathy.  So does that mean that the most seriously disordered characters among us – or for that matter, all disturbed characters – are simply born the way they are?

It’s been established for some time that genes play a significant role in the makeup of those individuals eventually diagnosed with such conditions as Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD, sometimes also now termed Dissocial Personality Disorder or DPD).  And while the concepts of psychopathy and sociopathy have been around for a long time, neither has been recognized as an official disorder (although it’s likely that the upcoming revision of the official diagnostic manual will include the key aspects of psychopathy as a variant form of APD).  Historically, the evidence for a genetic predisposition to APD has come from studies of monozygotic (identical) twins reared apart.  The fact that the twin of an individual with an antisocial behavior history is more likely to show the same kind of behaviors despite being raised in a different environment argues for a genetic predisposition to the disorder.  And it’s of particular interest that twin studies have shown that the key component of psychopathy (i.e. lack of guilt or remorse and callous use and abuse of others rooted in empathy deficits) also appears to be influenced by biological factors.  The “concordance” rate between twins reared apart for the various traits associated with APD, DPD, psychopathy and sociopathy is not strong enough to confirm a strictly genetic basis, but there can be no doubting a strong biologically-based predisposition.  And one fairly recent study on monozygotic twins reared apart demonstrated that the biological predisposition toward empathy deficiency shows up even in children as young as 7 years old (see: Evidence for Substantial Genetic Risk for Psychopathy in 7-Year Olds).

In the past several years studies of brain activity in individuals meeting the criteria for psychopathy have yielded some groundbreaking findings. CAT scans reveal that with psychopaths, areas of the brain typically associated with emotion, especially the integration of emotion with other mental constructs, do not operate in the same manner as they do with normal individuals.  Show most people a picture of something typically associated with a sentiment (e.g., a wedding ceremony), and areas of the brain that process information about the event as well as areas of the brain involved in emotion both show activity.  But show the same image to a psychopath, and although the area of the brain recognizing the image or event is active, the area of the brain typically associated with an emotional response appears dormant.  Other brains studies measuring different aspects of the integration of emotions with other human experiences have shown the same abnormalities when it comes to psychopaths.

So, what does this all mean?  And would it be fair to say that all the disturbed characters among us are simply born the way they are?  Naturally, the answer is not all that simple.  Suffice it to say that many of the traditional assumptions about traumatic or impoverished environments being the “cause” of some of these conditions have now been rightfully and significantly challenged.  There are biological factors at work and some of these factors are strong contributors to some of our more serious character disturbances.  And there at least appears to be a strong genetic component to an individual’s capacity to experience empathy, guilt, and remorse.  And while all this might come as welcome news to those exasperated parents who used to blame themselves and who we used to blame for raising monsters, there’s still a lot we don’t know about all the factors that contribute to someone becoming a full-blown psychopath.

While for some time I was nearly alone in the field, many other professionals are recognizing the broad continuum of character disturbance that plagues society these days.  And while much of the research of late has focused on the most extreme cases (i.e. psychopathy, sociopathy), we’re gradually coming to understand more about the entire spectrum of character disturbance as well as the various factors, the presence and intensity of which might largely determine the kind of character disturbance that might develop.  We’re also gradually coming to understand the phenomenon of character disturbance within the context of evolutionary history.  There was a time – back in our more primitive days – when two of the factors we now think of as highly problematic:  fearlessness and the capacity for the remorseless perpetuation of violence,  were the very qualities the tribe valued most in its dominant leaders.  The truth be told, psychopaths probably helped us survive and get to where we are.  But in an evolved and civilized world, they have little place.  They’re natural predators, but there are no wild beasts to slay.  So, as Hare notes, they’ve become intra-species predators (which is why in both of my books I suggest that the most appropriate descriptive label for these personalities is “predatory aggressive”).  They’re also not killing each other off in great numbers in tribal wars.  As a result, they’re now estimated to make up between 2 – 5 percent of the population.

In In Sheep’s Clothing, I expose the manipulative characters who fall just short of being true psychopaths.  And In Character Disturbance, I not only outline the entire spectrum of character dysfunction but also address the biological, environmental, and other factors thought to contribute to character development.  And I make the case that the degree to which genetics outweighs other factors as the main causal agent for a disturbance varies.  Suffice it to say, however, that when it comes to severe character disturbance, the evidence is strong that biology might be the greater culprit.  That’s why it’s so important to cultivate good “radar” for the predators among us and to keep a safe distance.  We’re not in caves anymore and we don’t need a champion with ice water in their veins slaying every potential threat for our survival.  And we have to remember, that given their predatory instincts, and the lack of dragons in our midst, if we’re not careful, they’ll prey on us.

Some have suggested that psychopaths might rightfully be considered a different species because they’re so different with respect to the critical attributes that most of us think define us “human.”  But there’s certainly no solid scientific foundation for that notion.  Nonetheless, during my many years dealing with psychopaths, I was most struck by the fact that many considered themselves not only very different from the rest of us, but also clearly superior to us because they did not carry with them the vulnerability that typically accompanies having feelings and a conscience.  And it’s their pathological sense of superiority, a truly malignant narcissism, that gives rise to their sense of entitlement to prey on those they regard as inferior creatures.

Whether it’s the result of genes, a peculiar mindset, an ingrained pattern, or even an evolutionary variation, psychopathy is a very different and dangerous animal indeed.  And according to DeBecker, nature has given us the “gift of fear” (e.g., hair standing up on the back of our neck, uneasiness and queasy stomach, etc.) to alert us when we’re in the presence of a predator.  Unfortunately, some of us fail to trust our instincts and allow ourselves to be taken in by the the great charm of which they’re capable and to fall under their spell.  And by the time the spell is broken, it’s often too late.  That’s why, as I advise in all my writings, it’s so crucial to trust your gut over your heart or even your head.  And when your gut tells you you’re in the presence of a predator, run!

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244 thoughts on “Is Psychopathy Genetic?

  1. Psychopathy is without a doubt genetic. My x-husband is a psychopath . . and my X-son (brought up by me exclusively) is a clone of his psychopathic father. i.e., the lying, the blaming, the aggression, the need to dominate, the need to win, the inappropriate rage outbursts, the constant put-downs, the manipulation, the sense of entitlement, the lack of empathy & compassion, the unbridled narcissism, the sadism…the EMPTY SHELL!

    1. Is there any treatment for this ? My mom was in exactly same condition as you. She divorced my father and i am in her custody. The trouble is i am too a clone of my father(i think that, not her) because i have felt and committed all those actions which make me a psychopath. But i want to change myself, i don’t want her to think that her efforts went in vain. I do not want to end up like my triple-damned father, who used to beat her every night after getting drunk and sometimes for no reason at all. He used to dominate us, abuse us. He made our life hell !! I repeat i do not want to be like him, but sometimes i just can’t stop myself from doing those psycho-things, it makes me feel so helpless. For example – Lying, i don’t know why i lie, i feel like i am on auto-pilot.. PLs help !!

      1. Reckoning with a problem is such an important first step. And yes, there are several help options available. Although I can’t give direct advice here, I can give you some options to consider when seeking the right kind of help that you might find useful. Contact me through the back channel, using the “Contact Dr. Simon” feature.

      2. You are not a psychopath if you are able to realize you’re a psychopath. I think these would be considered sociopathic tendencies, which a significant portion of society suffers from, including my father and myself. I recall my father once sh*tkicking me for serving my own food at the dinner table after he said he was dishing it out. The emotional abuse through my preteen years is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I don’t believe Dad is capable of reconciling his issues, let alone admitting there are any, but I am very aware and swear to never become that. You are obviously on the same path

        1. Ross, Im not sure about the first sentence in your post. I think they do realize it but don’t admit it CERTAINLY! Although some do.

          1. Yeah thats true beca use antisocial people nowdays have information at their hand so they can identify T. Themselves.

          2. As a psychopath myself, I’ll freely identify it to people who care about me. The disorder implies that you’ll do anything to get what you want, which may not be violent. If you can get that by being honest better than lying, any psychopath will admit it.

            The stigma associated with it generally discourages it.

        2. Ross some do know they are psychopathic in fact probably most of them. Take Sam Varknin for example. He is a self confessed psychopath claims to have taken Hare’s PCL and is one. He wrote Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisisited. He’s done a lot of UTubes free which are actually very good. He does indeed have first hand knowledge of their behaviors and motivations. I recommend listing to him.

      3. Good for you Kane. Admitting you have a problem and seeking help proves you are not pre-destined because of gentics. You can control your life. Its unfortunate your hardrive got programmed when you were young, but like a computer you can reboot and make a permanent change. My advise…..try yoga. Its something new, deeply spiritual and will create a new part of your brain that will be pure, calm, beautiful and free from the viruses that haunt your old hardrive. Wish you luck!

        1. Hmm…not that his approach to yoga would be more sincere, and Not that yoga isn’t good for some or even all, but I have witnessed first hand a psychopath get into yoga rather religiously and it didn’t do him a damn thing, he was still just as narcissistic and unemotional as ever, maybe he was hiding it better with his yoga phase, perhaps even more so now (seemingly) because he recently stopped doing yoga.. But I think it’s because his yoga phase was fake, it was another type of mask to be this healthy spiritual guru and it was a way to find the prey that he preferred (hot, fit yoga women both young and old) and it made him seem like a leader because he was so into it, but he was manipulating me at this time heavily and I know that he was absolutely disturbed even though he was doing tons of yoga every day, it didn’t make a damn difference. He later found a new type of prey (a different kind of woman to be into that was some how preferable to his own logic) and ceased to do yoga and found something more appropriate to be into to seem more charming for those kinds of women.

      4. You aren’t a psychopath. If you were, you wouldn’t care about being like a psychopath, at best you wouldn’t want to be perceived as one because it might stand in the way of you getting what you want. Normal people can even do crappy things and half of them may not even care much, for you to be disturbed by indicates that you’re good and figuring stuff out.

      5. I doubt that you are a psychopath, as you want to behave differently than your father, but feel compelled to behave as you sometimes do. These are feelings psychopaths don’t have. Some psychoanalytic terms to look up are “reversal of self and object,” and “projective identification.”

      6. I would have to ask you to honestly reflect. Do your Sociopathic behaviors truly concern you, make you feel guilty or cause you regret? Why? Is it only due to fear of getting caught? As a treatment provider, I will tell you that Sociopaths do not experience true remorse, guilt or grief over their actions. Not unless those actions caused them to be caught/jailed. You say you’ve committed terrible crimes and are a compulsive liar. That is completely possible, without you being a Sociopath! That’s very good news. Your rehab depends on your COMMITMENT to your recovery (not whether you have a shitty Therapist, are stressed out, had a great/horrible day). GOOD LUCK!!!

        1. We convict a man of a capital offense in criminal court and sentence him to die after a jury comprised of qualified citizens vetted rigorously by the defense counsel for impartiality unanimously finds him guilty beyond any shred of doubt—a decision reached at the conclusion of rigid and elaborate court proceedings conducted in a manner adhering without fail to the rigid rules of order and procedure which govern a trial whenever prosecutors internd to argue for the death penalty. All of that costs millions and millions of dollars and requires hundreds of hours of effort from already busy judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, expert witnesses, courthouse staff, etc. Finally, if the smallest breach of protocol occurs, the defense counsel will appeal the ruling, which may very well be overturned by higher courts—then a man found guilty of a capital crime walks without a sentence and powerful people at the DA’s office watch their lucrative careers evaporate into thin air. A hell of a lot goes into a trial if sentencing guidelines of charges leveled forego years and cells and toothbrush shanks for the needle. Lots of smart people are watching very closely. All of that, and still we hear from time to time of men executed only to be posthumously exonerated of all guilt years later for this reason or that. If we’re going to be killing people for being diagnosed with a medical condition, then those diagnostic criteria are going to have to be bulletproof, as are the doctors who apply them and the means by which they do so. Dealing with a cognitive issue we really know almost nothing about is totally impossible. We might as well just draw people for execution at random, eliminating the need to pay doctors and erect medical facilities. It’d be pretty much as accurate. Your input here is so utterly absurd, I honestly hope you were just trolling for someone like me to come along and go ballistic. I’d rather fall for it completely than believe that someone so stupid actually walks the earth, voting and reproducing and having abortions of logical thought whenever confronted by tasks of cognition slightly more complex than chewing gym without forgetting to contract the heart’s chambers in sequence to keep from going into cardiac arrest and quite literally dying because you’re far too dumb to live. What a way to go. Going out in a blaze of glory, as they say

        2. I agree with AI 100%
          There are people (non autistic and autistic)
          And then there are monsters (psychopaths, narcissists, sociopaths, antisocials)

      7. You are not a psychopath. A psychopath by definition does not feel remorse for their actions. They feel no empathy or compassion.
        If you were a true psychopath you would not care how our mother feels about her efforts.
        I am not a psychologist but I have a lot of experience with abused and traumatized children. I am also raising a psychopathic child. I think you should look into the possibility that your issues have to do with the anger, hurt and betrayal that you and your mother have endured at the hands of a very brutal man.
        I would suggest seeking therapy before labeling yourself with this horrible defect.
        Good luck to you!

      8. Meditation can help raise self-awareness, as well as time alone in nature, forest, mountain climbing.
        Thanks to epigenetics if we are self aware we can positively influence our genes.. emotions.. also recommend reading The Fall by Steven Taylor..

        1. Monica,

          I appreciate your sentiments about the power we have to influence our internal and external environment. What you call epigenetics, I would describe as miraculous though. It seems like more of a spiritual phenonomenon? That being said, I believe miracles happen all of the time. I just can’t source them!

    2. Reading your words its like if I my self had written them….I go through this pain every day of my life with my son who has all those personality traits you describe and he is the son of a psychopathic person my ex husband….

    3. Oh my God Sarah. I’m in the same predicament. soon to be ex husband and son. how do you deal with the son if you don’t mind me asking? mine is a young adult.

      1. The key to understanding this is to understand how you were attracted to a psychopath in the first place. It is very likely that you partly created this situation, and that you also see your son as more like his father than he really is.

    4. I hope your not serious. You have ONE personal experience and it MUST be true. Have you ever wondered that maybe your son was just into his father more and developed some of his same qualities due to living with him? Children adapt to their environments. For example, if a child listens to, I don’t know, rock at a young age, then as he gets older, he will have a preference towards it since it’s what he grew up with. If your ex-son was raised with a psychopath, then he may become psychopathic too. What you stated is like someone else stating that they once saw a turtle that was angry around other turtles, and one of those other turtles was also angry.

      1. Points well taken, Alex. As all my articles on the topic assert (as do my book), biological factors are only a part of the picture, albeit in some cases, a greater part than we once thought. I resisted a forceful contest to the comment here because Sarah and I have debated this point before, and quite intensely. But many factors shape personality development (e.g., temperament, biology, early learning and environment, cultural “reinforcement”, etc.) and the extent to which one factor or another plays a more dominant role in someone’s character formation varies. It’s always dangerous to paint with a broad brush or to overgeneralize based on unique experiences (Freud made this very same mistake when fashioning what he thought were general rules about human behavior based on his observations of one very small non-representative group of patients). And one does have to be able to explain why some folks, despite the most optimal of environments turn out horrendously evil whereas others, despite the most hostile and neglectful environments emerge with a most impressive character. That’s why the longstanding “nature vs. nurture” debate has always been a red herring of sorts. It’s not an either-or thing. Both, along with other factors, play roles in character formation, and as I mentioned earlier, the degree to which any factor or cluster of factors plays a more dominant role varies from individual to individual.

        1. Appreciate your point but if there is a spectrum?
          there are some who will develop into extremely callous psychopathic adults no matter how well they are managed or “trained” in their youth.
          What do you get if you educate a true psychopath?
          An educated psychopath …
          more manipulative and some would say all the more dangerous because of this.
          as they now have been given the skills to essentially get away with their awful behaviour whilst avoiding jail.
          They are truly irredeemable individuals once you really know them.
          A “good” upbringing that would suit am empathic child with appropriate and reasonable discipline does not necessarily suit the psychopath, they are adaptable and literal and are adept at feigned innocence , in my youth growing up with my older brother he was the insufferable little adult when the chance came…
          monsters breed monsters and my parents saw nothing wrong with him , they treated us all as psychopathic , they dont trust eachh others words and never will…communication becomes who can sound the smartest and be most “right”….
          growing up round that was a fucking nightmare i tell you…

          the irony being i went to jail for belting a psychopathic cop and read a few books on the subject.

          they can never admit to their psychopathy they dont really have the capacity to quite understand the concept.
          except my brother,,,hes read every book on the subject but he will still call you “fucking crazy and deluded” without knowing quite qwhat flavour of crazy he himself is.
          its genetic and there is no treatment you just got to keep an eye on them and dont trust a fucking word they say.

          1. Psychopaths do understand that they lack a conscience and empathy – they just don’t see it as a problem. If they deny it, it is just another con.

          2. “monsters breed monsters and my parents saw nothing wrong with him , they treated us all as psychopathic , they dont trust eachh others words and never will…communication becomes who can sound the smartest and be most “right”….”

            I’ve wondered myself whether psychopaths fool others psychopaths, too. Not to be Captain Obvious here, just to point out a detail interesting me: In the case of your family, at least, it would seem psychopaths expected each other to deceive. And apparently hadn’t enough trouble with that?

          3. Timothy,
            Not a good place to answer, I do believe most psychopaths do sense one another, example such as a fictional vampire can sense or smell another one. There seems to be a pecking order though depending on the intellect of the psychopath.

            Narcissists seem to have a similar sense depending on where they are on the continuum, intellect and other conflicts and facters such as paranoia etc…, can play a part in this too.

          4. BTOV, from what I remember, you’ve met way more of such than I have. Thanks for tipping in.

            Then again, can it even studied empirically? Psychopaths (not-so) obviously are slick, consummate, pathological liars, but it ain’t the only thing. We can only compare what each of us has seen and exact dynamics are in the fog.

      2. I understand what you are saying. However, if the son is not psychopathic and has empathy and his limbic system is in tact then he can mirror back psychopathic traits while not being one. For example, I take care of someone who had a very abusive, narcissistic or psychopathic father. He is not a psychopath himself as he does have a considerable amount of empathy, he is also on the autistic spectrum. However, he learned some of his father’s strategies which have long frustrated me. In saying that he’s been an excellent teacher in order for me to hone my own strategies for dealing with his. He is not motivated by malice but clearly demonstrates total lack of emotional maturity stunted anywhere between that of a 4 – 7 year old (I notice that in all of them though). He was never well socialised lacking good manners, cordial social skills, emotional reasoning and does not respect other peoples boundaries and again not maliciously or callously, simply because he did not evolve past a certain point nor did he receive responsible guidance. For example he will poke people and laugh their face and once at a birthday party of a friend he was on the dance floor pushing people and laughing. It is like taking a 7 year old out in a 76 year old body, he might be able to have a couple of beers but he’ll do other things that shock people. I stopped him from drinking anything heavier than light beers a good while ago. When a child only has maladaptive parent/s to mirror back to him/her it is going to impact that child’s development. How can emotionally immature parents raise an emotionally mature child? Unless that child has additional care givers who do then that child is going to be severely emotionally handicapped.

    5. My God! You have described exactly my situation. I am sure my ex husband is a psycopath – there is no other explanation for is sense of entitlement, need to win, lack of emotion, and the pleasure he takes in wrong-footing people (particularly me). My eldest son is exactly the same. The one difference is he seems to be aware of his personality disorder and is seeking psychiatric help.

      I would love to know how you have survived with this situation.

    6. NOTE: THIS COMMENT HAS BEEN EDITED BY THE MODERATOR DUE TO PROVOCATIVE TONE AND CONTENT. Your “ex” son? This seems to me a cruel thing to say.

      (THE COMMENTATOR HERE APPEARS TO ASCRIBE TO THE NOTION THAT ALL BEHAVIOR IS LARGELY LEARNED): I think you may have a bit more to do with both your SON’S (not ex-son) and your ex-husband’s behavior than you’re willing to admit.

      If he was brought up by you exclusively, I have to assume that he learned a great deal of these behaviors from you.

      Ex-son though…. wow… This to me sounds like there’s some dysfunctional all-around in this family.

      I WOULD ASK ALL COMMENTATORS NOT TO SHY AWAY FROM SERIOUSLY THOUGHT-PROVOKING COMMENTS BUT TO STILL BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT BLANKET ASSUMPTIONS AND THE TONE OF COMMENTS. THANKS!

      1. “If he was brought up by you exclusively, I have to assume that he learned a great deal of these behaviors from you.”

        You might say that, but after watching my adopted nephew grow up form the age of 2 in a loving supportive, caring and non abusive household, I strongly disagree.

        Psychopaths can be made or born. Environment can play a role, but does not have to be involved. For example, my nephew’s psychiatrist informally diagnosed him at 7 as a budding anti is a psychopath who hurts animals, punches people in crowds, lies and manipulates. His parents have gotten his treatment, therapy, specialists and supportive activities to no avail.

        He may conceal his psychopathy better now as a result of this theraputic “training”, but it has not changed who he is as a person. Although his genetic history is unknown due to his adoption, I would bet that one parent is a violent sociopath. This child was born with this brain. No therapy, no treatment environment and no different adoptive parents would change who he is.

        If he were an animal, he would be euthanized for the safety of those around him. As a person, he is allowed to prey on people and live his life while others hope for the best. All I can say is never assume that everyone has some good inside them. That is a cliche. Psychopaths do not have a good side. They are manipulative, cunning and have no remorse unless it serves them to pretend that emotion.

        1. Psychopaths are born not made. I have researched these types extensively. The common denominator found in them is the MAO A gene mutation known in neuroscience circles as The Warrior Gene. It is a monoamine oxyidase inhibitor and literally puts the brakes on the amygdala which is the part of the brain that controls aggression, appetite, sex, eating, sleeping etc. In psychopaths due to this gene mutation (there are several varieties of this mutation causing differing levels of impairment) it is found those with a certain mutation 2R or 3R are associated with increased violence and aggressiveness especially 2R and it is this variant known as The Warrior Gene. That is only one facet of this serious condition. There is much information at the link provided below (and this is just one study) to show there is a brain malfunction in the amygdala of psychopaths even though the MAO A correlation is not mentioned. There is significant data available for those who wish to learn as much as they can about this condition available. It’s a good choice to make to understand why these individuals literally malfunction.

          1. Interesting information. Are they looking for an excuse for these beasts not to be responsible for their crimes?

          2. I think they are. To put it one way – once you know a White Pointer shark is a White Pointer would you allow it to swim with your children? To understand them is a good gauge in order to make a wise choice. Do I or don’t I. Just because their teeth are this long due to this – does it make them any more safe? Hell No.

      2. You are clueless.i grew up in a family of predators,aka,pyscopaths.my poor father and I never had a chance.until you have to deal with them don’t pass judgement.i just passed a niece to her sister who is a full blown psycopath.i will not raise one alongside my own children who are not.while she was here we were pawns on a chessboard for her amusement.she abused my youngest regularly,manipulated everyone she met,lied,cheated ,stole and acted on every threat she ever made.all of these psychopaths are ex family members.they are all dead to me and quite frankly,I don’t care what you think about that.again,you have no idea what you are talking about.these predators prey upon your emotions,of which they don’t possess for amusement and personal gain.love for them is another weakness to exploit.btw…that niece was an 8 yr. old child who knew exactly what she was doing and merely perfecting her art.the only thing that child was naive about was being a kid.

        1. Wise choice – I’d have done the same. We can’t allow these predators loose on our kids or anybody else once we know what they are and they can’t be fixed or cured.

      3. Strange that this comment is considered provocative and not the comment it was replying to. Calling a son your “ex-son” is colder than ICE (the anti-immigrant police).

        1. Fran Nowve,

          I don’t want to go into what was provocative and what wasn’t… if someone generalized a single incident, and other pointed out this flaw in reasoning.

          Regarding “calling ex-son is colder than ICE (the anti-immigrant police)”…
          Most if not all Americans have several “ex-girlfriend” or “ex-boyfriends”.
          A large number of them have “ex-wife” or “ex-husband”, sometime more than 1 “ex-“.
          What is wrong if some of them have “ex-son”. Some son deserve that label.
          Again, there is nothing wrong if some have “ex-mother”. Not all women who conceive and produce a child, are saintly holy “The Mother”.

    7. Do you think psychopathic behaviour can be learnt from a parent? My son’s father shows all the signs of being a psychopath, but having spoken to members of his family, his father (my son’s grandfather, who I never met, and who my partner hated until the last few weeks of his life) was a true psychopath. As I cannot discuss his behavior with him (calls me crazy, obviously!) I can’t truly tell whether or not his emotions are real. Is the lying, cheating, stealing, cold-heartedness and manipulation just something that he’s learnt? Or am I just clutching at straws and looking for excuses for his inexcusable behaviour?

      1. Heather,

        I think you are just clutching at straws and looking for excuses for his inexcusable behavior. Simple thing is that if there is a bad behavior then it must be corrected. Period.

        While many of the dysfunctional traits run in families. Like father, like son. Like son, like grandson, and so on. Psychopathy is quite extreme, it may have biological root or it maybe learned behavior. And, if it is learned behavior, then it is something that particular person choose to learn very early on in his life.

        I suspect you are just dealing with a character disturbed person. You may want to read more blogs around here to get to know the characteristics and behavior of character disturbed person.

        1. Thank you Andy for your quick reply. I suppose I was hoping that if it was just a learned behavior then maybe I could help him to see the error of his ways, to change him, as opposed to it being his true, built-in personality that would be unchangeable. But I understand what you are saying, and will take your advice onboard. I have been naive, and I suspect I have quite a battle ahead of me. I pray that my son does not grow to be anything like his father. Many thanks again

          1. Heather,

            Regarding “maybe I could help him to see the error of his ways, to change him, as opposed to it being his true, built-in personality that would be unchangeable”

            They see, but they disagree. 🙂
            That is one quote from Dr. Simon, that you may come across it in blog or book.