Prenatal smoking increases the risk of sociopathy

The prevention of sociopathy is something we all should be concerned about. Last week, we had an excellent discussion about sociopathy and lying. We all agree lying is the cardinal symptom of sociopathy, thanks to all those who posted comments. Your comments truly help those who are new to the site. Lying is part of the poor impulse control that sociopaths have. Poor impulse control or impulsivity and lying are recognized as central to sociopathy by every expert and diagnostic method. To prevent sociopathy we must start by preventing impulsivity. Unfortunately the brain structures responsible for impulse control are very sensitive to damage, especially early in life; although, damage to the frontal lobes can produce sociopathy at any age.

If I were given the option of one intervention that would reduce the prevalence of sociopathy in our society it would be to get all pregnant women to stop smoking both actively and passively (through second hand smoke). Although there are no direct studies of second hand smoke and sociopathy, second hand smoke is associated with an increased incidence of SIDS and other problems also linked to active smoking.

Where is the evidence that links maternal smoking directly to sociopathy? One of the largest studies to explore this link is reported in the Archives of General Psychiatry, arguably the most reputable journal in the profession. In this paper Maternal Smoking During Pregnancy and Adult Male Criminal Outcomes (follow link to read it yourself) Patricia A. Brennan, PhD and colleagues report data obtained from 4169 males born between September 1959 and December 1961 in Copenhagen, Denmark. They conclude, “Maternal smoking during the third trimester predicted nonviolent, violent, and persistent crime even when controlling for parental, psychiatric hospitalization, pregnancy and delivery complications, mother’s use of prescription drugs during pregnancy, father’s criminal arrest, maternal rejection, mother’s age, and SES.”

In a recent review of 7 independent studies of the association between maternal smoking and antisocial behavior, published in the American Journal of Public Health (folow link to read it yourself) Lauren S. Wakschlag, PhD and colleagues discuss the magnitude of the problem. They calculate that more than 500,000 infants a year are exposed in utero to direct smoking. They further estimate that this exposure increases the risk of sociopathy 1.4-4 times. It is estimated that 3% of the general population is sociopathic. This estimate already includes those exposed in utero to tobacco. If we conservatively estimate that 6% rather than 3% of the 500,000 will develop sociopathy, smoking may produce 15,000 additional sociopaths per year!

The problem of maternal smoking may be even worse in other countries. One internet source reports, “In ex-socialist countries about 28% of women are smokers, in developed countries about 23% and in South America about 21% of all women.” If the stats from the US apply here, at least half of these women will continue to smoke when they become pregnant.

In the beginning of this article, I proposed that maternal smoking increases sociopathy by producing impulsivity/impairing impulse control. Although there are many good studies linking sociopathy with maternal smoking, there are even more studies linking maternal smoking with ADHD. ADHD is strongly associated with the development of sociopathy. Reviewing the relevant studies for my book, I estimated that adult sociopathy develops in about 25% of kids with true ADHD.

To see some data for yourself, read Effects of low birth weight, maternal smoking in pregnancy and social class on the phenotypic manifestation of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and associated antisocial behaviour: investigation in a clinical sample by Kate Langley and colleagues. They examined 356 British children who were patients at their clinic diagnosed with ADHD. In their sample, half of the mothers reported smoking during pregnancy! Maternal smoking was associated with impulsivity, conduct disorder and symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) even when other risk factors were taken into account.

That symptoms of ODD were related to maternal smoking is of particular interest to me because I have said that these symptoms are a sign of an excessive drive for social dominance in children. In my view it is the dominance drive, or power motive that produces the evil behavior of sociopaths.

The major developmental task of childhood is to learn to love and cooperate. To do so we must be able to exercise restraint over our dominance drive. If a child lacks the capacity to exercise this restraint, s/he is handicapped when it comes to learning to love and cooperate.

As a group of people who know first hand the devastation caused by sociopathy, I propose we all work toward the prevention of this disorder in any way we can. If you smoke, please quit. Stop financially supporting the tobacco companies and stop contributing to the problem of second hand smoke. Please also support anti-smoking legislation and government programs that encourage women and pregnant women not to smoke.

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153 Comments on "Prenatal smoking increases the risk of sociopathy"

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StillReeling……{{{{{Gentle Hugs}}}}} Yeah…….the “gloom and doom” can be almost paralyzing. I’m kind of in the same boat and I understand the anxiety issues and the seemingly endless reasons to feel depressed.

I tend to look at the vast picture, and this tends to really FEED my insecurities and vulnerabilities, I think. If I look at every challenge that I’m currently facing, it’s enough to make me convince myself that there’s no point in doing ANYthing because there’s too many obstacles for me to manage. I really, really am good at convincing myself of what a failure I am, and how I’ve made so many errors, left myself open to abuse, etc., etc., etc……Oh, I’m quite an expert at this. Then, when I’ve sufficiently convinced myself that there’s no point in attempting anything positive, I curl up in my emotional ball and hate myself for my lot in life and feed my Resentment Monkey some more.

Well, goddammit, I do NOT deserve to do this to myself, let alone allow someone else to determine who I’m going to become or define the sum of my life! So…..I’ve actually been taking one challenge at a time and staring it down until I sort out something that I can do about it. I don’t like this, because it’s out of character for me to take a bull by the horns and jerk it around. But, it’s the only way that I can determine how to manage my situation. If I look at all of the farking bulls that I need to wrestle, then I’m finished.

You’re not “being punished,” StillReeling. You’re punishing yourself, for whatever reason. Perhaps, you haven’t been able to forgive yourself. I don’t know, but you ARE a valuable human being regardless of past errors in judgement. I mean, really: who among the human race has NOT made an error in judgment? Who hasn’t made mistakes? It’s really OKAY – it really is.

Perhaps, discussing these issues with a strong counseling therapist may be helpful. A therapist that “gets it” can provide you with tools and instruments that you can use to work your way out and begin the process of healing yourself.

Try attending to one thing, today. Pick something that “needs” to get done, and see it through, EVEN if you don’t think you’re “doing the right thing.” Try believing that you can tend to this one task – the rest can just wait.

HUGS to you

still reeling,

No, it’s not just you nor the time you have been NC with any man. The times are rapidly changing and quickly in the areas of social ‘norms’ and what is acceptable and what is not. It’s not us changing, it’s the times. I really do believe that.

I think there may be something to your saying that he haunts you because of the bad times you are coming through right now. No, that’s not entirely true: spath isn’t just a convenient place to put the blame. I am sure yours earned every single blame, just like mine has, while perhaps we might take a ‘tad’ of that blame upon ourselves for being too trusting and/or kind.

Right: living marginally; I understand that as well. I have been too wrapped up in this ten year period of misery with spath that I haven’t had time to even think about myself. I know how that works. I SAY: I am thankful to be rid of the demon and I am not ever going back to all that ugliness, not ever again. Although “IT” continues to stalk me, from time to time, the incidences are getting less and less and the quiet is increasing, more and more. It’s starting to fade because I haven’t been ‘feeding’ it but ‘feeding’ MYSELF more; as much as I possibly can. It has taken me the last two months just to ‘rest up’, emotionally and physically from the collateral damage this has done to my life. (AGAIN). NC is the only way to handle this for our own sanity and emotional as well as physical well being.

“Blithering idiot around him…” Oh yes; I know the feeling…
We were taken advantage of by our extreme affections….they used that against us as a weapon and still does to some extent because we aren’t forsaking that ugliness but contemplating it.

Thanks for saying I sound great. I know I still have a ways to go but I am seeing things now the way they REALLY ARE and not some manufactured ‘dream’ “IT” devised for me to snare me into his ‘good little worker bee army’ of women. I am trying to stay here, still reeling…every day is a new struggle but I am managing to claw my way out of this rabbit hole I was buried in. Little by little.

YOU take good care of yourself, my Dear…
I will pray for you and send you positive thoughts…
More hugs back xxoo


Turth and Dupey, thank you so much for your perspectives, understanding and thoughtfulness.

Truth, yes, the big picture. This is something I have tried to do all my life, stop analyzing so much and look at the overall deal. This is what I am trying to do with path, the roll his a** up into a ball or break him in half (like I did the CD) and blow him out of my mind. G-d know, I was never really in his life, yet he started it.

I really have to stop looking at what happened, why it happened and how could be do/say that when he didn’t/doesn’t really care? Even tho, he has had ample chance to contact me over these months and close things up in a kind way, he has chosen not to. I need to do whatever it takes to exorcise this beast, no matter how it ended. As you said Dupey:

“We were taken advantage of by our extreme affections”.they used that against us as a weapon and still does to some extent because we aren’t forsaking that ugliness but *contemplating* it.”

Contemplation is key here. Before I can go back to some semblance of who I am, the contemplation must go. Period. Very well put, Dupey!

I’m just completely awestruck by what I did and how easy it was to become like you said, Dupey, one of his little “worker bees.” That’s exactly how he saw me. And boy, I knew something was very wrong, but I decided it was my last chance to cut myself a little slack and just enjoy this obviously karmaic connection, this opportunity to go and eat, see movies, play board games, and actually have someone give into their urges to hang an arm around my shoulder or grab my hand. I’m not going to get this from my husband, altho he is a real person, not like Godzilla who is not. It was just a selfish shot in the dark and though I was scared s.less to go for it, I would have if he would have worked with me to do things very safely. I didn’t want to have a sexual r.ship because I know I would have felt too guilty, but I was ok with being together and enjoying each others’ company.

Truth, listen, I hear things are difficult for you…esp if you have issues with anxiety and your strength is enviable. I see that you have figured out a very good strategy for coping with your issues, one at a time. I just wish you didn’t have them, but hell, we can’t re-trace, can we?
I know it’s difficult not to roll up in the emotional ball and just freaking cry, but I can’t let myself do that because it just makes me sick and wow, it’s tough to come back around to any semblance of positive thinking. But I do entertain the Resentment Monkey quite a bit as well as his brother the Infuriated Monkey…neither are good company.
Hugs back at you – as you say, you do not deserve to feel low. Hell no. I do see a therapist and she is great…have known her for years and she knows me down to the bone. This is possibly the lowest I’ve ever been in the 20 yrs I’ve known her. For the very first time, I broke down in her office, trying to explain my new insurance – another brick in the wall. I was so angry at myself for that…don’t like to cry, even when alone…I know it’s a good release but geez. I don’t know why, I just don’t like it.

She totally gets it and me but she can only do so much, Truth. I know it has to come from inside me…I just haven’t been able to figure this one out so I have to LET IT GO. That’s where the tough part comes in. Goofy thoughts still come to me and it truly gets my ire up…I truly am sick of free rent in my head to that worthless, excuse for a person. I know he’s despicable, Hitlerian, embodies all I detest about people, but because he’s sick, that somehow complicates the whole issue in my head. Hell, I always felt a little sorry for socios and others who committed even heinous crimes because they were sick,.

Anyway, enuf of all that tripe.

I agree with you Dupey…the times are changing and that’s part of why I ever allowed myself to respond to Godzilla’s overtures. A decade ago, I would have completely avoided him and maybe even reported him, which is exactly what I wish I had done and what eventually happened to him. I so hope he isn’t doing well. I do not wish him well. I don’t know his wife but if she’s a good person, I hope she is ok and his child as well.

I want you both to know how much I appreciate and care about you.

Thanks so much for your responses. They are so loaded with understanding and really good advice. Honestly I can’t imagine being with Godzilla for a decade or more…I have so much respect for you and others on this blog that have lost so much but are gaining the perspective and strength and empowerment that some people will never know or even contemplate.

Kudos, positive energy and love to you.

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