The Dominance Behavioral System and Psychopathology: Evidence From Self-Report, Observational, and Biological Studies

Department of Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, 94720, USA.
Psychological Bulletin (Impact Factor: 14.39). 04/2012; 138(4):692-743. DOI: 10.1037/a0027503
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The dominance behavioral system (DBS) can be conceptualized as a biologically based system that guides dominance motivation, dominant and subordinate behavior, and responsivity to perceptions of power and subordination. A growing body of research suggests that problems with the DBS are evident across a broad range of psychopathologies. We begin by describing psychological, social, and biological correlates of the DBS. Extensive research suggests that externalizing disorders, mania proneness, and narcissistic traits are related to heightened dominance motivation and behaviors. Mania and narcissistic traits also appear related to inflated self-perceptions of power. Anxiety and depression are related to subordination and submissiveness, as well as a desire to avoid subordination. Models of the DBS have received support from research with humans and animals; from self-report, observational, and biological methods; and use of naturalistic and experimental paradigms. Limitations of available research include the relative lack of longitudinal studies using multiple measures of the DBS and the absence of relevant studies using diagnosed samples to study narcissistic personality disorder and bipolar disorder. We provide suggestions for future research on the DBS and psychopathology, including investigations of the potential usefulness of DBS in differentiating specific disorder outcomes, the need for more sophisticated biological research, and the value of longitudinal dynamical research. Implications of using the DBS as a tool in clinical assessment and treatment are discussed.


Available from: Sheri L Johnson, Apr 18, 2015
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: According to Rapee (1997), maternal social anxiety (SA) is directly associated with adolescent SA because maternal SA causes overprotective and controlling parental behavior. A total of 127 adolescents who were in the process of transitioning to a boarding school for at-risk youth as well as their mothers participated in the current study, 30% of the adolescents had experienced at least one depressive episode; 17.5% had been diagnosed with SA. We analyzed an expanding model of mediation, of maternal SA and depression in which specifically, adolescent self-perception was constructed as a latent factor that was formed by self-reported dominance and self-criticism. The results supported our hypotheses that maternal SA is not directly associated with adolescent SA. Rather, these relationships are mediated by adolescents' self-perception (i.e., dominance and self-criticism). The results call into question Rapee's theoretical arguments and support Gilbert's evolutionary theory.
    Journal of Adolescence 07/2014; 37(5):577–586. DOI:10.1016/j.adolescence.2014.04.014 · 2.05 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The "dual-hormone" hypothesis predicts that testosterone and cortisol will jointly regulate aggressive and socially dominant behavior in children and adults (e.g., Mehta & Josephs, 2010). The present study extends research on the dual-hormone hypothesis by testing the interaction between testosterone, cortisol, and personality disorder (PD) traits in predicting externalizing problems in a community sample of adolescent males and females. Participants were 106 youth from the community, ranging in age from 13-18 (Mage = 16.01 years, SDage = 1.29), and their parents. Parents and youth provided ratings on an omnibus measure of personality pathology and externalizing problems. Youth provided saliva samples via passive drool from which testosterone and cortisol levels were obtained. Robust moderation of the joint effects of testosterone and cortisol on parent-reported externalizing problems was found for both higher-order PD traits associated with externalizing psychopathology (Disagreeableness and Emotional Instability). Higher testosterone was associated with externalizing outcomes, but only when cortisol was low, and only among youth with high levels of Disagreeableness and Emotional Instability. These findings provide the first evidence for the dual-hormone hypothesis in a mixed-sex sample of community adolescents, but importantly offer novel evidence for the importance of personality traits. Examination of the joint regulation of externalizing problems by testosterone and cortisol in the context of adolescent personality may help to clarify inconsistent main effects of testosterone and cortisol on clinical externalizing phenotypes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
    Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment 06/2014; 5(3). DOI:10.1037/per0000075 · 3.54 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The parenting behavior of psychopathic individuals as reported in prior quantitative studies is reviewed and considered in the context of new qualitative data. This article reports a qualitative analysis of seven published memoirs written by adult sons and daughters of psychopathic individuals and triangulates this analysis with data from two cases. Qualitative data reveal themes of warmth and togetherness as well as manipulation and abuse. A developmental account of children's understanding of parental psychopathy was generated. A model relating the facets of psychopathy as assessed by the PCL–R to parenting and children's responses to that parenting is presented. The article highlights many issues important to professionals evaluating families in custody cases where parental psychopathy is suspected or alleged.
    Journal of Child Custody 04/2013; 10(2):154-184. DOI:10.1080/15379418.2013.796268