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New research shows single parenthood blamed for problems caused by sociopathy

New research confirms something I have long suspected: There is a relationship between single parenthood and sociopathy that explains problems found in young people. Before I describe the research I have to give some background. Sociopathy is a set of personality traits that group together. These traits are also largely responsible for addiction and alcoholism. To read more about the connection between antisocial personality traits, addiction and alcoholism, see The Inner Triangle helps you understand sociopaths, psychopaths, addicts and alcoholics. I believe that people with sociopathic personality traits likely create many of the single parent families in Western countries.

The problem is that assessing parents for trait sociopathy, and relating that assessment to child outcome, is very difficult. It is much easier to study divorce and number of years living in a house with only one parent, then blame these two things for later problems. The issues, in my opinion, are what caused the divorce? And why are children living with only one parent? If I am right that sociopathy is the answer to these two questions for many families, then blaming divorce and single parenthood for problems will create even more problems. Many people who continue to share life with partners that have sociopathic traits do so “for the sake of the children.” However, continuing to live with a sociopathic partner often means that more children are born to that relationship AND existing children are further damaged.

When we consider outcomes for the children of people with sociopathic traits, we have to understand that the sociopathic parent contributes to both the genes and the environment of his offspring. For more on the genetic causes of sociopathy see Parenting the At Risk Child. Problems for children are therefore due to complex interactions between genetics and family environment.

In a recent paper Exposure to Single Parenthood in Childhood and Later Mental Health, Educational, Economic and Criminal Behavior Outcomes, Dr. David M Fergusson and colleagues from New Zealand report the results of a 25-year longitudinal study. They followed 746 boys and girls from birth to age 16, then followed up when the subjects were 21-25 years old.

These authors report that lower educational achievement, welfare dependence, low personal income, criminal arrest and conviction, and violence and property offenses were all significantly more common in young adults who grew up in single parent families. BUT before we blame single parenthood for these findings we have to look further. These authors also found that when they controlled for “family problems,” such as the parent’s criminal behavior and substance abuse, the association between single parenthood and these variables disappeared. The authors therefore conclude, “These findings clearly suggest that the associations between single parenthood and later adverse outcomes largely reflected the societal context within which the single parenthood occurred, rather than a direct effect of single parenthood on individual functioning.”

These authors further point out, “there have been ongoing social and political debates that have focused on the need to reduce rates of single parenthood to increase life opportunities for children. In general, the results of this 25-year longitudinal study do not support this focus.”

Where should the focus of our efforts to improve the lot of children be? We need to focus on the very deleterious effects of life with a sociopathic parent! We also have to work to educate people about sociopathy. Sociopaths generally mate through deception. The partners of sociopaths need good guidance about what to do once the deception is discovered. Staying with a sociopath “for the sake of the children” is likely the wrong answer. For more on single parenthood see Single Parents.


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12 Comments on "New research shows single parenthood blamed for problems caused by sociopathy"

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This is a great article and makes a lot of sense. I would love to hear more on this topic.

I am sure if I left my psychopath husband when I first thought about it after my children were born, I would have had a much better relationship with my children of whom I have reason to be very proud of, especially the youngest one who were the least in contact with his father. I truly meant it when I texted him last week on his birthday to say that 32 years ago I gave birth to a small, thin, crying little baby and look what a handsome young man he’s become. But the best of all is the kindhearted, softspoken gentleman underneath. That is truly what he has become and not because of his father but in spite of him.

Their father lied so much to my middle son that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. He doesn’t want to discuss it at all, but once said it was what I did to his father.

If I have left him there would have seldom been the fights and heartbrokenness.

Thanks for this excellent article.

My son’s father was raised by a single alcoholic mother. His best memories of his childhood consist of being alone, playing in the car while waiting for his mother or a family pet that died. He is the coldest, most unempathetic person I have ever met. He justifies all the wrongs he does to his only child by pushing the blame onto everyone else but himself.

It scares me to think that my son who is hitting the “tween” years will fall prey to his father’s ways. I have purchased all of your books regarding this issue and continually work with my son. That seems to be a 24/7/365 need, but in four hours with his dad once a month, all of that monitoring and positive reinforcement flies out the window and I have to start all over.

The courts do not know how to handle this because mental illness is not tangible and his father is an oscar winning actor in the court room. Any thoughts?

I am a mother of 20 year old, I believe he is a sociopath, he displayed many problems from a very early age. His father is a narcissist. The story is long and heart breaking, his father and I divorced when my son was 7, I was left to raise three children with no help. My son was displaying many problems and could not seem to get to the right councellor or the right doctor, we just slipped through the system, My ex decided that I was the problem and took my son into his care, out of exhaustion and hopelessness and worry for my two daughters i reluctantly agreed, the problems got worse and he has dropped out of school, gets fired from every job, thinks he is going to make to the major baseball league, he lies, cheats, steals. He recently was investigated for rape. there were no charges laid, but I do believe he is capable, he has hurt our family in so many ways and I cant continue, its a rollercoaster ride, I have guilt for letting him live with dad at 10 years old and I have guilt from deciding not to have contact with him. I know a lot of you have dealt with your own sociopaths but Im a mom, how do I let go, how do I move on, how do I squash the guilt, it is not natural. I feel love and hate simulatneaously in my heart, how is that possible and it paralyzes me at times, any help from anyone would be greatly appreciated.
I have also read that a sociopath might be caused because a child cant bond with his mother, I am a loving, caring mom, I have never had difficulty showing my emotions, and have always wore them on my sleeve and shared them. I loved my son, and I held him and smiled at him, and nursed him. I dont know what to think, is it my fault? I did not abuse him.

Although you caution not to place blame entirely on single-head households for the development of sociopathology, I am still disappointed at the suggestions of this article. Of course I am only an individual, but I can say that I was involved with a sociopath who was raised in a two-parent household. My mother removed us from our father who was physically, emotionally and verbally abusive. I was raised by my mother, and I am extremely grateful for this, for the years of abuse she saved me from experiencing…I agree with your assertion that children need to be removed from sociopathic parents (i.e. my father), but the title of your article suggests single parenthood contributes to the development of sociopathic traits in children. I’m not sure why you would want to give this impression through the title of your article…In fact, this is the type of text the sociopath I encountered would present to me to prove that I, not he, was more prone to “insanity,” while he had a good, moral upbringing with two parents. It would additionally be loaded with stereotypes associated with single, in particular, single, female headed households that would have provided subtler insults regarding class, education, and moral upbringing…

Dr. Leedom

Thank you for this interesting article. As many “studies” seem to show (and are quoted in the media, and money thrown at fixing them) this is just another example to me where “common sense” is thrown to the winds in the name of “social science.”

I think CORN FLAKES are the cause of psychopathy. If you do a study and show that ALMOST ALL PSYCHOPATHS ate Corn flakes as a child, this will “prove” my “theory” that cornflakes are the problem and if we eliminate them, life will be wonderful.

The teenaged birth rate which is quite high, and the unwed birth rate which is even higher, and the high number of children born to young women in low socio-economic circumstances, and the frequencny with which these same teenaged mothers are having children by multiple partners in short term relationships–seems to be a “garden” for the development of sociopathy from both the genetic and environmental points of view.

Young male sociopaths seem to start sexual activity very young, as do girls who are from dysfunctional families and/or are personality disordered themselves. The off spring of these unions get the “double whammy” of genetic and environmental programing with little likelyhood of “turning out okay”–the statistics of of young people on the street, juvinile crime, drug use, and dealing in this age group is chaotic at best.

The more fortunate children with personality disorders are filling the special schools and the mental hospitals and clinics at an every increasing rate it seems to me.

To blame the single parent as the ONLY “constant” in this mix of potential causes is not “scientific” cause and effect to me.

To blame low financial status is also not proof that it is causitive. Low socio-economic status is many times the RESULT of P traits where the P becomes criminal and/or alcoholic or drug addicted early in life. This is not conducive to a raise in any kind of status.

It seems to me that more of the women and men on most of the blogs and support groups are people of a more advanced educational level, that have the resources for a computer, and the knowledge on how to use it. Many of them may be lower middle class, or even in poverty due to the experience with the psychopath, but most have more than the “average” dysfunctional and/or disordered family situation, I think.

The “underclass” of criminal psychpaths with little or no education, a chaotic life style, with few educational acheivements, little or no work history,etc I believe is a much greater percentage of the psychopaths than we see here on this blog especially…which to me is more of a upper-middle class and more highly educated group than the “underclass” in financial and eduational levels.

In many if not all states prisons, parole oversight, and jails are over burdened to the point that only the most serious of crimes can even find “bed space” in a prison.

I just found out that the P (professionally diagnosed) friend of my sons who has been in and out of pr,ison for his entire adult life, and is designated as a VIOLENT sexual predator of a 9 yr old, an 11 yr old and a 14 yr old as well as other crimes, who recently tried to kill members of our family, got a plea bargain down to “person in control of a hand gun” and received no prosecution on the other charges, of attempted breaking and entering, failure to register as a sex offender, and attempted murder for hire. He received a 5 yr sentence, with 2 suspended, and just was transfered from jail to prison last week.

His first PAROLE HEARING COMES UP IN APRIL OF 2008, agfter being incarcerated from August 3, 2007.

I intend to BE AT THAT PAROLE hearing, I am writing to the governor and the parole board. If they will not hear me, I will be out front of the prison with a PICKET SIGN AND THE LOCAL NEWS CHANNEL TEAM on the day they hear his parole request. Our governor previously released a rapist who had been given a life without parole sentence because someone castrated him. Within one month he had murdered and raped another woman, so I hope that that “unfortunate incident” as the governor’s office called it, will be recalled when I make protest to this man’s speedy release after less than a year in jail and prison.

I had to flee my home to get away from him until he was arrested, and if he is released I will have to go into hiding again. I have only recently returned to my home, to take care of business here and to shut down my business and make arrangements to leave again if it becomes necessary.

Yes, I am angry at the INJUSTICE SYSTEM of our country blaming all kinds of things for psychopathic behavior and trying to “rehabilitate” them. To say nothing of forcing normal parents to “share custody” with these monsters. I am at least fortunate that I did not have to do that thing.

Your voice of “sanity” in the “studies” is one of the few sane voices I have heard like John the Baptist, “crying out in the wilderness.” Unfortunately to too many deaf ears.

So Bloggert7165 I searched your selected set of letters and numbers ! Seems I am still Ignorant of who you are?

Do tell ! ?

LOVE jere

I still think this is one of the best articles on love fraud!!! Just a follow up on the parole hearing I mentioned above.

The parole board ILLEGALLY excluded me from the hearing, and approved his parole, releasing him into a half way house. However, Act 679 of the Arkansas legislature prohibits any convicted SEXUAL offender from residence in a half way house in ARkansas, and since he had NO other place to go, the parole board was forced to cancel his parole which they had already illegally approved (hoping i am sure that it would fly under the radar) when some old woman (I wouldn’t know who, hee hee) called the office and told them that if he was released ILLEGALLY I (ah, I mean SHE) would be on the state capitol steps with the media screaming their names! His parole was canceled. He won’t come back up til April or May of 09, in which case I will BE THERE if the Lord wills and I am not dead.

An interesting take on being a single parent. As a child of a narcissistic father, who walked out and left my mother to raise two children alone (despite developing schizophrenia) and myself going onto being a single parent. I can see many aspects of being a single parent. In the UK, there is still a stigma attached to being a single mom – and believe me the indifference that has been shown to me by neighbours and couples is shoutingly obvious. But having said that, I have broken my back to bring up my daughter well, and without any support of any kind. I believe that women only opt for single parentdom, out of sheer desperation – it is a very hard road, bringing up children and working and paying bills etc, as every single parent will know. If you ask me, whether my background contributed to me being a single mom, I suppose it did – but if I did anything right, I have given my daughter the kind of depth in spirit that cannot be cultivated or bought.

Hi…the article talks about the need to take into account the social context of single parenthood- of course this is true…but just as important is to look at the role of dysfunctional 2 parent households and its effects on the sociopathy…I look at my ex and I believe that his sociopathy is a result of not only genetics but the oppressive home environment and sociopathic example of his father (including sexual abuse by the father)…the mother supposedly tried to leave the father at different points but was unable to…I think that if she had then she would have saved many people down the road suffering; instead she chose to live in denial and allow the dysfunction to perpetuate…she still does…

I am a single mom with 3 daughters from 2 marriages with no help from either father (my own childhood environment was very supportive and caring) and have always devoted as much as I am capable of to their well-being…Sometimes when you are on your own you are even more conscious of what you should be doing as far as parenting goes. Of course a good marriage with 2 parents would be better but being exposed to abuse in such an environment is worse than doing it alone…

Good point maniatissa.

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