Sex differences in antisocial behavior (part 4):Personality explains it all

Can sex differences in personality traits help to explain sex differences in antisocial behavior? Over the past month we have been discussing the results of the Dunedin Study of the development of antisocial behavior. In this study, researchers got to know over a thousand people through self reports, interviews, interviews of friends, teachers, parents and significant others, and official school/arrest records. One finding was a higher rate of antisocial behavior in males as compared to females. The study also explored the causes of the observed sex difference.

The Dunedin findings

Among both males and females antisocial behavior was positive associated with aggression, alienation, and stress reaction, suggesting that young men and women who are involved in antisocial behavior were likely to take advantage of others, to mistrust others* and to feel betrayed and used by their friends and to become easily upset and irritable**.

Antisocial behavior was negatively associated with self-control, traditionalism and social closeness. The term self control here is part of what I call impulse control and others call Constraint. Constraint means reflective, cautious, careful, rational, planful; people high in Constraint endorse high moral standards and prefer safe activities even if they are tedious. Constraint is the opposite of the psychopathy inventory Factor 2 (stimulation seeking, impulsivity, irresponsible, parasitic orientation, lack of realistic goals, poor behavioral controls).

Antisocial behavior and personality in men and women

Overall the relationship between personality and antisocial behavior was the same for men and women. Lack of Constraint and Negative Emotionality were robust correlates of antisocial behavior among both men and women. Lack of Constraint was more likely to be associated with antisocial behavior in men than it was in women, however the difference was small.

Sex differences in antisocial behavior boil down to sex differences in personality. Sex differences in personality (self-control, harm avoidance, traditionalism, aggression, alienation, stress reaction, social closeness, achievement and social potency) explained 96% of the sex differences in antisocial behavior and 78% of the sex differences in conduct disorder diagnosis.

How to prevent antisocial behavior-work on personality

Individuals at-risk for sociopathy are at-risk because their genes make it difficult for them to develop Constraint and Ability to Love. A human being’s fate isn’t set at birth! Nor is it set in cement at 15, 30, 45”¦ Parenting an at-risk child means helping that child develop Love and Constraint. Parents need the help of the rest of society and our schools to do that.

Experiences make a difference

Some schools have instituted programs that I believe make a difference. I was very proud this week when my 6 year old son brought home a note written from a girl in his class. The note said “Dear______ I noticed you were kind because when you wanted to get blue you said I could get the blue. Signed A____” The class has a program of recognizing kindnesses by writing notes to peers. In order to let A___ have “the blue” my son had to practice holding himself back for the sake of another. That is the essence of Constraint, and love to an extent. Experiences like this are extremely important for at-risk kids. These experiences have to happen both at school and at home.

Constraint improves with practice but there has to be a reason for kids to practice it. Furthermore, the heartfelt practice of Constraint is more effective in building personality than is the “forced” practice of constraint. So programs with positive rewards work better than programs that focus on punishing bad behavior that has already happened.

If you read this and notice that you too have issues with Constraint, I encourage you to work on it. We do not have to be slaves to our temperaments. We have a higher brain we can use to become better. My friend who is a Buddhist says that a human life is celebrated because it comes with choices and possibilities not available during other lives”¦ What do you think?

*As per Kathleen Hawk’s theory of sociopathy!
**That exact profile has been called secondary psychopathy as opposed to the low emotionality of primary psychopathy. Some people also equate secondary psychopathy to sociopathy and reserve the term “psychopath” for those who are cold and generally without emotion. The “psychopath” that narrowly defined is very uncommon. Perhaps less than 0.8% of the population. Sociopaths comprise up to 10% of the population. I explain all these numbers in Driven to Do Evil, my next book which is coming soon…

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17 Comments on "Sex differences in antisocial behavior (part 4):Personality explains it all"

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The words “they cannot ever love”…they see loving as a weakness. My ex psychopath even said those words once. That being “inlove” was a weakness. His mother told me never to believe a word that came out of his mouth because he was such a liar. At the time I thought that SHE was the liar! Wasn’t I the fool!


If we had acknoledged the first Flags of our natural instincts our Gut feeling that , Wait a second here! Something is not right about that statement , why would anyone!!!!!! say this about any person. And thought that hey there is something I am not seeing or recognizing here ?! BUT NO! we are so caught up in the deception and seeing only What we want to see, What we think is a beautiful HUMAN being! We act on emotion instead of common sence! We give them the benifit of the doubt because we are not educated that these Non-Humans exist! We learn sooner or later that it’s a scam!

But take heart they cannot keep all the lies in order and all that they attempt to do to us comes back to them ten-fold.
My P’s mother told me that he had no friends! My P told me early on that he had Anti-Social-personality-disorder. I hadn’t a clue what these words really meant!


That is interesting that your P would TELL you he was ASPD, I’ve seen them before who would BRAG about that diagnosis, almost like it was a badge of HONOR. Odd! You would THINK they would try to HIDE that diagnosis, but they don’t “get it” either.

Kickbacks post is SO RIGHT in my opinion!! We werent aware, educated or able to deal with an essentially non-moraled and non-valued human being!

We didnt want to believe thier real truth. And they didnt want to tell us..Because they thrived off of us until we said no more, or whats up with this/that….and they said, Damn, gotta go find someone else to leech off of now and drain them and confuse them and see how long that lasts and how long I can get away with messin w/thier heads and thier lives…til the next…and the next….

I never asked his mom why he had no friends, But I learned why the Pway and I never ask him who diagnoised him ASPD but they sure got it right!
He has a web page and has advertized that he is back in rehab! I think He knows and gets it but what is he suposes to do about it? If your defective and there is no help? Rehab is for the drugs and a free ride, room and board , they don’t help with his mental defect! He just comes out a sober Psycopath and starts his cycle over again.

Liane, the work on fostering constraint in your son’s school is very interesting. You didn’t mention how he felt about the note he received and the positive reinforcement of his sharing behavior. I assume it’s meaningful to him, particularly since this note came from a peer and incorporated attention from his teacher as well.

The technique reminds me a bit of the one used in “Humanizing the Narcissistic Style” by Stephen M. Johnson, where the narcissistic attempts to behave as though non-selfish behavior will work out well for him (in terms of rewards and emotional safety). When it does, it creates a little chink in the emotional belief system supporting the narcissistic behavior. Over time, this enables the narcissistic to expand his “repetoire” from purely selfish behavior to increasingly socially aware behavior.

I like it, because for someone with an inclination toward no-trust behavior, it enables controlled entry into a world of trust. Positive results are the motivating and teaching factor. And they snowball over time. The way he sees his character is reflected in what he gets back from the world around him. That helps him gain pleasure and pride in these new aspects of himself.

Your school is doing this at an earlier age. Literally teaching behavior that involves trust that it will all come out well in the end, despite a short-term sacrifice. You son is at a great age for this kind of learning. Hooray for you for having found this place.

There are other things in the article that made me scratch my head a bit. The description of characteristics associated with anti-social behavior sound like they could belong to a lot of people that aren’t in the N/S/P range. Likewise the description of constraint just gave me the willies. Parts of it sound like someone I would hire as a personal assistant, detailed oriented and careful. But not someone I’d be particularly interested in knowing socially.

Based on the whole list, I’d rate myself pretty high on likelihood to have anti-social behavior. And it’s a problem (for me) I’ve sensed with this research from the beginning. It seems to be oriented toward or based on a very conformist notion of what’s healthy. They seem to be considering people who fit in and don’t think much for themselves as optimal human beings.

This is just a personal reaction based on my own “trances.” I’ve lived around a lot of emotional damage, and my social life is largely composed of artistic and entrepreneurial people. They are self-centered, non-traditional, but also exceptional and high-performing people. They are also highly results-oriented (in the relationship vs. results spectrum). So I think that they too would be more likely to fit the characteristics associated with inclination toward anti-social behavior.

I know it was not the intention of this study, and so this is a kind futile plaint, but I really wish there were more sociological research here about family backgrounds and then ongoing experiences in the subject’s lives. These are the correlations that would really interest me.

As you know, I’m a lot more comfortable with causative environmental theories about N/S/P afflictions than I am with genetic ones. Which is not to say that there aren’t genetic temperament issues that can make people more likely to respond to environmental conditions by shifting entirely to self-referenced, untrusting, aggressively exploitative survival strategies. I see it in my own family. But I’ve also seen the powerful impact of environment in my family and others, and I wish there were more research in that thread.

Thank you for a very interesting article.


Just a thought . . . I think there is a “TELL”, i.e., a red flag, a sign . . that P/N/S often exhibit . . way before it becomes clear that they are P/N/S. It seems harmless enough, and goes unnoticed . . but in my experience . . ALL the people that I have known that do this . . were later shown to be P/S/ N.

This is the “TELL”. When you are taking to a person . . and you say something like
1)”I had cancer” . . or my
2)”My father died at an early age”, or
3)”My job requires me to work 24/7″ . .
whatever . . and instead of having sympathy (or empathy) . . they immediately “TOP IT” with something like
1)”Well, I had a cold that lasted 2 weeks”, or
2) “My mother worked”, or
3) “My job doesn’t give us coffee breaks”
Or if they see your great apartment or house . . and immediately are comparing it to what they have (in rent or space)…

These people are envious, jealous, and in competition with you. Instead of being sad or happy for you . . They are thinking of themselves only.
Which is one of the TELLS to watch out for in a P/N/S IMHO.

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