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Dr John B
Dr John B, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 557
Experience:  PhD in Clinical Psychology, registered clinical psychologist.
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Are there any studies on the effects of psychopaths on their

Customer Question

Are there any studies on the effects of psychopaths on their spouses and children? Are the spouses and children depressive, manic-depressive, or suffer any other ill effects psychologically? Do they have PTSD? Do they have phobias? I'm asking about 'normal' children, not ones genetically at risk for developing into psychopaths themselves. Psychopaths have to be the worst kind of fathers in the world, and yes, I'm speaking from experience.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr John B replied 5 years ago.


Here are a few articles relating to your question:

As a general statement it would be reasonable to presume that the presence of a parent with ASPD would increase (probably significantly) the rate of almost all of the mood and anxiety disorders as early trauma is a significant risk factor for these groups of illnesses. Whether a child or spouse developed one specific form of illness would depend very much on the individual situation. For example, whether the ASPD was physically violent would likely make the family member vulnerable to PTSD or even Borderline PD.

I'll pause here and wait for your response.

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

I've looked at the three studies you cite, and unfortunately, the sample populations all include alcoholism or other dependency together with the antisocial personality diagnoses in the group of parents, or alcoholism alone. While knowing that parental alcoholism is associated with various problems for the alcoholics' children is indisputably important, that it is impossible to isolate effects of parental ASPD alone on their offspring is most disappointing. The closest any of the papers came to discussing what ASPD alone does is a mention of 6 girls with fathers with ASPD, and that's far too small a population to draw any conclusions from.

Is there only grant money to study alcoholism, and ASPD is a phantom study added to the mix in the hope something will shake out by the time the comparisons are done? Is

there a dearth of ASPD parents who are not addicts to study? Or do ASPD fathers simply not have children whom they stick around to raise, and the kids have no idea how lucky they are, unless they've inherited some genetic predisposition to ASPD themselves?

Is there an explanation for a lack of hard evidence on this topic, as opposed to the 'natural' expectations regarding the likely effects this particular kind of toxic parent can have on his kids?

I appreciate your help, especially in getting me to sites I couldn't access by myself. I'm just so frustrated that I could spit nails. While everyone wants to investigate the dangerous psychopaths, no one seems to take the conman variety particularly seriously, especially with respect to the damage they do within the family, and the isolation they effect of the other family members due to their obnoxious behaviours.

Thanks again.

Expert:  Dr John B replied 5 years ago.


The major obstacle to research into ASPD is that there are so few people with the diagnosis (this is not the same thing as how many probably have it but don't get diagnosed). The vast majority of those don't maintain a family and are usually identified (diagnosed) when sitting in a jail cell. So, the specific potential obstacles to research you suggest are all likely to be true to some degree. This is one of the major reason why ASPD and the other PDs (to varying extents) are so poorly understood.

I will disagree with you lightly on your last point though, I think there is huge research interest in ASPD (not just the dramatic offenders) and that the dearth of research is in fact due to the obstacles mentioned above. Unfortunately media interest is very much in the sensational and so we hear about the offending ASPDs on a far more regular basis.

If I can ever be of any assistance in the future just start any question you post to the category with FOR DR JOHN B. Good luck!

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Thank you very much, Doctor. I appreciate the time and effort you spent not only answering my original question, but also explaining the reason why I can't google my way to a better understanding of the fallout of my father's poisonous personality on all the members of our family. I wish I had the expertise to be able to reorient my brother's understanding of what went on -- he's eight years younger than I am, and I am only now realizing how much he missed. The bitterness between my mother, my brother and me has been life-blighting; my mother is now dead, but I'd like to have a better relationship with him than I have now; I love him dearly.

Again, thanks.

Lisa L.

Expert:  Dr John B replied 5 years ago.
You are very welcome.