Integrated in this review are most of the social aspects from past environmental research to more current trends from within the field of neuropsychology, personality, clinical and forensic psychology, biology and psychiatry in order to create a holistic understanding of the underlying dynamics of psychopathy. In despite of its ethical weight, focus was put on childhood and adolescence, even though these areas still remain as relatively uncharted territory because of the notion that children can change. Although it is especially difficult to measure personality traits in children, research seem to be suggesting that several traits connected to psychopathy can be recognized even from one to three years of age. Several case studies, including attempts to disentangle the confusion of DSM-IV classifications and the wide array of diagnostic tools for the condition will also be presented.
The Underlying Dynamics of Psychopathy with Focus on Early Childhood and Adolescence
Acts of violence and deceit are generally appalling to most people, even more so when such acts are of a deliberate nature. Furthermore, most of the conduct connected with psychopathy, often goes unnoticed in our society (Babiak & Hare, 2006). It is only recently that scientists have begun to properly understand the importance of further research on a condition, with a following psychological make-up, that is clearly different to that of the general population (Cleckley, 1941; Hare, 1993). The issue of psychopathy can be traced back to the first large-scale civilized societies, such as the ancient Roman Empire. Possibly the most well-known example would be the conniving nature of Emperor Nero and his alleged attempt of burning down the capital of Rome (Collins, 2010). Today, most of the layman’s intuitive understanding of the condition is mostly contrived out of cinematic or literary fiction, such as the portrayal of cannibalistic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Harris, 1989). More contemporary examples include such real-life serial killers as Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer. Most people would not hesitate in drawing a parallel between psychopathy and criminal behaviour, yet a large majority of psychopaths are neither violent nor are they incarcerated.