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The Problem of Parental Psychopathy


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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.
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Journal of Child Custody
ISSN: 1537-9418 (Print) 1537-940X (Online) Journal homepage:
The Problem of Parental Psychopathy
Liane J. Leedom , Annette Bass & Linda Hartoonian Almas
To cite this article: Liane J. Leedom , Annette Bass & Linda Hartoonian Almas (2013)
The Problem of Parental Psychopathy, Journal of Child Custody, 10:2, 154-184, DOI:
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Published online: 03 Jun 2013.
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The Problem of Parental Psychopathy
University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Aftermath:
Surviving Psychopathy Foundation, Chicago, Illinois
University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Aftermath: Surviving Psychopathy Foundation, Chicago, Illinois
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 profes-
sionals evaluating families in custody cases where parental psy-
chopathy is suspected or alleged.
KEYWORDS parenting, psychopathy, PCL-R, qualitative study,
case report
On July 27, 2008, Sandra Boss was notified of the kidnapping of her 7-year-
old daughter by her ex-husband during his first court-ordered supervised
visitation. The supervising social worker sustained a concussion trying to
prevent the abduction during which the child was also injured. The kidnap-
ping of the girl was the culmination of an elaborate plot that reflected the
cunning of a 47-year-old man who had lived the previous 20 years as a con
Address correspondence to Liane J. Leedom, M.D., University of Bridgeport, 126 Park
Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604. E-mail:
Journal of Child Custody, 10:154–184, 2013
Copyright © Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1537-9418 print/1537-940X online
DOI: 10.1080/15379418.2013.796268
Downloaded by [] at 14:39 30 January 2016
Psychopathic Parents 155
artist. He had successfully conned not only his well-educated ex-wife but
also everyone in the community. The kidnapper’s true identity was that of
German national Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, but he had been known by
many different names including “Clark Rockefeller. His wife of 12 years did
not know his identity until it was uncovered by investigators who were
searching for the child. Father and child were subsequently found several
states away living under yet another set of assumed names.
Nearly a year later, Gerhartsreiter was convicted of assault with a deadly
weapon and parental kidnapping. His insanity defense was not persuasive.
Evaluations by defense and prosecution psychiatrists diagnosed narcissistic
personality; the prosecution expert also diagnosed antisocial personality dis-
order (ASPD). Both psychiatrists stated that the defendant was without empa-
thy or remorse. At the sentencing, the judge remarked, “The defendant was
by all accounts a loving and devoted father to his daughter.” But he also said,
“The defendant displayed no regard for the rule of law. He thought he would
be able to out maneuver Sandra Boss by taking her money and then at the
right time taking his daughter (Cramer & Ryan, 2009, p. 1).” The judge then
noted that the child was herself injured by the defendant during the kidnap-
ping and was traumatized. During taped FBI interviews that were entered as
evidence (WCVBtv, 2008), Gerhartsreiter said regarding Sandra Boss, “I abso-
lutely love her; I wish she hadn’t walked out on me.” He said of his fathering,
“I don’t like to cause problems. I just want to be a father. I just want to be
with her, I want to get her up in the morning, send her off to school, walk
her to the bus, wait when she comes back and give her something to eat at
night and put her back to bed then the same again (WCVBtv).” At trial, the
prosecuting attorney testified that, “When [FBI] Investigators asked the defen-
dant about his long term plans about what would happen when [the child]
asked about her mother, his answer was ‘she wouldn’t have’; and according
to the defendant, this was because ‘we never discussed her mother (WCVBtv).’”
While in prison for the aforementioned offense, Gerhartsreiter was charged
and convicted of murder, a crime that was allegedly committed 13 years
prior to the kidnapping.
In another case, the 9-year-old daughter of Joshua Komisarjevsky testi-
fied via videotape as part of a defense team tactic to save her father from the
death penalty (Dorning, 2011; Griffen, 2011). The girl was born in 2002
during her father’s incarceration for burglary. Her parents shared custody
until he filed for and won sole custody in 2007. The child was therefore
living with her paroled father at the time that he perpetrated home invasion,
rapes, and murders. An interview of the child by a social worker was video-
taped without the child’s knowledge and played in court. The child dis-
cussed her father, saying he was a man with whom she used to play at her
grandparents’ home. She said that he had gone to jail for “something he had
done at work” (Dorning, p.1). The child now lives with a maternal aunt, and
her name has been changed. Her father is on death row in Connecticut.
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156 L. J. Leedom et al.
These cases highlight the tragedies experienced by children whose par-
ents are affected by psychopathy, a personality disorder characterized by
pervasive antisocial behavior and lack of social emotions such as empathy,
guilt, and remorse. Psychopathy of significant degree affects 1% to 4% of the
adult population1 (Lenzenweger, Lane, Loranger, & Kessler, 2007) and is the
best personality predictor of antisocial2 and criminal behavior as well as vio-
lence (Andrews & Bonta, 2003; DeLisi, 2009). Although the Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–IV–TR; American Psychiatric
Association, 2000) states that psychopathy is synonymous with ASPD,
psychopathic individuals typically also have symptoms of other cluster B
personality disorders (histrionic, antisocial, narcissistic, and borderline;
Blackburn, 1998; Huchzermeier etal., 2007).
It is commonly assumed that “psychopaths are characterized by an
inability to form lasting bonds” (Brody & Rosenfeld, 2002, p. 400). However,
a review of case histories (Cleckley, 1964; Fersch, 2006), accounts of family
members (Leedom & Andersen, 2011; Leedom, Geislin, & Hartoonian Almas,
2013), and journalist biographies (Morehead, 2007) reveals that many psy-
chopathic individuals do in fact maintain social ties over extended years. The
theme of love and social ties in the context of psychopathy is illustrated by
the aforementioned criminal cases and is a conundrum for the family courts
where decisions must be made with respect to how much weight to assign
antisocial behavior and personality disorder in decisions regarding parenting
time (Dutton, Denny-Keys, & Sells, 2011). Although the judge and defense
expert witness in the Gerhartsreiter case credited the defendant with the
capacity for love and competent fathering, the many contradictory state-
ments reflect a lack of understanding and consensus regarding the nature of
these capacities.
This paper presents evidence suggesting the need for formal definitions
with respect to what constitutes loving parental behavior. Though now
retracted, the original proposed DSM–5 prototype description for antisocial/
psychopathic3 personality disorder stated, “Their emotional expression is
mostly limited to irritability, anger, and hostility; acknowledgement [emphasis
added] and articulation [emphasis added] of other emotions, such as love or
anxiety, are rare” (American Psychiatric Association, 2012, p. 1). Although
psychopathic individuals do express more irritability and anger than the
human norm, they actually possess a confusing repertoire of loving and
hurtful behaviors. Their “loving behaviors”4 may be as instrumental as their
aggression and are far from “rare” as these “loving behaviors” paradoxically
also serve their parasitic and predatory goals. It is a gross oversimplification
to declare psychopathic individuals “devoid of love” without providing a
precise definition of that term (Leedom etal., 2013). Professionals evaluating
the parenting capacities of psychopathic individuals should be aware of this
mix of loving and hurtful behavior so as to better interpret their findings and
inform their testimony before the court.
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Psychopathic Parents 157
The reader is referred to Dutton etal. (2011) for a discussion of parenting by
mothers and fathers with clusters A, B, and C personality disorders and child
outcomes. To our knowledge, there are no quantitative studies examining
parenting dimensions in the context of scores on the Psychopathy Checklist–
Revised (PCL–R)5 (the “gold standard” for the assessment of psychopathy;
Hare etal., 1990). In one qualitative study, Kirkman (2005) interviewed 20
women who reported relationships with psychopathic men. She estimated
psychopathy using the women’s accounts and the P–SCAN (other report
instrument; Hare & Herve, 1999). In an open-ended interview, the women
were asked how the men behaved toward the children of the family. Analysis
of themes revealed that psychopathic men used the children as pawns “to
victimize their mothers” (p. 385). The men abused the women physically,
psychologically, financially, and socially, often in front of the children. They
also directly abused the children by: lying to them, ignoring them, failing to
provide for them, bullying and terrifying them, breaking promises to them,
and destroying their toys. Beyond describing abuse, this study did not
address parenting variables or the presence or absence of affectionate
Other studies have examined parenting in the context of antisocial
behavior, ASPD diagnosis, or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory–2
(MMPI–2) scores indicative of antisocial disorders. It should be noted that
several studies have found moderately high levels of assortative mating for
antisocial behavior (Krueger, Moffitt, Caspi, Bleske, & Silva, 1998; Smith &
Farrington, 2004). Therefore, in some families both parents are significantly
psychopathic. Considering fathers first, children of fathers with ASPD and
substance dependence are at increased risk for externalizing and internaliz-
ing problems and for affiliation with delinquent peers (J. G. Johnson, Cohen,
Kasen, Smailes, & Brook, 2001; Moss, Lynch, Hardie, & Baron, 2002). Fathers
with ASPD show less affective involvement, control, task accomplishment,
role performance, and overall paternal functioning than nondisordered
fathers (Moss etal., 2002). Other studies have shown a link between chil-
dren’s problem behaviors and father antisocial behavior that is particularly
pronounced when fathers reside with the children (Coley, Carrano, & Lewin-
Bizan, 2011; Jaffee, Belsky, Harrington, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2006). Following
divorce, father antisocial personality traits predict coercive parenting and
maladjustment of children (DeGarmo, 2010). Together, these studies reveal
that contact with an antisocial father may be deleterious and not growth
promoting for children.
In a study of mothers, researchers utilized the MMPI–2 to measure the
antisocial personality disposition (Bosquet & Egeland, 2000). In this study,
mothers completed questionnaires, and their parenting behavior was
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158 L. J. Leedom et al.
observed during two laboratory tasks. High antisocial personality scores
were linked to problem parenting in six areas: lack of warmth, passivity/
neglect, harsh/abusive discipline, inconsistent/ineffective discipline, poor
monitoring and supervision, and aggressive values. The combination of
maternal depression and antisocial personality may be especially deleterious
to children. Depressed and antisocial mothers are at elevated risk for disor-
dered caregiving, including physical maltreatment, high levels of maternal
hostility, and exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV). This risk connects
to the development of antisocial disorders in offspring (Kim-Cohen, Caspi,
Rutter, Tomas, & Moffitt, 2006). Again, it should be noted that due to assorta-
tive mating, antisocial mothers and fathers may pair in volatile relationships,
exposing children to dysfunctional maternal and paternal parenting and IPV
(Kim, Pears, Fisher, Connelly, & Landsverk, 2010; Smith & Farrington, 2004).
No studies have examined the frequency of loving or affectionate behavior
in antisocial/psychopathic mothers and fathers.
Although statistics regarding parenting variables, child outcomes, and
disorders in the context of psychopathy are useful and essential, we also
need to understand the lived experiences of children of psychopathic par-
ents in order to interpret their responses. Children who have been abused
and/or neglected may express love and loyalty toward a psychopathic
parent. These expressions may reflect true feelings, distorted views (indoc-
trination), and/or fear of retaliation from the psychopathic parent. Difficulty
accessing subjects and ethical considerations hamper research on the effects
of psychopathy on family dynamics. Studying the behavior of psychopathic
individuals in the community is difficult because these individuals do not
commonly contact the mental health system, and when they do, the diag-
nosis of psychopathy may be missed (Hare, 1999). In a novel approach, we
next examine parenting by psychopathic individuals from the perspective
of adult offspring. Findings derived from this exploration are triangulated
with data from two family court cases and with theories of parenting and
child abuse.
As a prelude to our ongoing mixed methods protocol examining the retro-
spective accounts of adult offspring of psychopathic individuals, a search
of “Google Books” and “” for relevant memoirs was under-
taken using combinations of the keywords: sociopath, psychopath, mother,
father, and parent. The search yielded seven works and several other books
written by sons and daughters that recalled severe physical or sexual abuse
by parents. Although we concede that the latter writings were likely about
the parenting of psychopathic individuals, we decided to limit the study to
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Psychopathic Parents 159
writings wherein the primary focus was the parent’s psychopathic person-
ality. The rationale behind limiting the study in this way was to provide
data that would be useful to those evaluating cases where at least one
parent is psychopathic and where sexual and/or physical abuse is either
unproven or not suspected.
IRB approval was obtained for this study since following hypothesis gen-
eration the research team interacted with the authors to elicit feedback, as
is common in qualitative studies (Greene, 2007). Members of the research
team separately read each of the seven books while making notes. PDF
versions of the books were obtained from the authors or were generated
using a scanner. These were imported into MAXQDA and coded. Data from
notes and MAXQDA generated codes were analyzed using grounded theory
(Charmaz, 2006; Corbin & Strauss, 2008). More specifically, we used the
Multi-Grounded Theory approach of Goldkuhl and Cronholm (2010). In
this approach, the derived theory is grounded not only in the data but also
in existing theories. The derived theory is also systematically evaluated for
internal consistency. Group discussions, memos, and analytic auditing
ensured the quality and reliability of analysis. Themes that arose in the data
were explored in further detail using newspaper articles, publicly available
videotaped interviews of the authors and psychopathic parents, and our
own subsequent communications with the authors. These other sources
allowed for further validation of the emergent theory and authors’
In our data collection, coding, and theory generation we sought to
answer the following questions that were generated prior to the study:
1. How did the author describe the experience of being the child of a psy-
chopathic parent? What emotions did the writer express? How did the
author describe the parenting he/she received? What is the author’s view
of the psychopathic parent’s love? What kinds of abuse were reported?
2. What symptoms of psychopathy in the parent(s) did the author describe?
Did the author witness parental antisocial behavior? Were symptoms of
other psychiatric disorders described?
3. How did parental psychopathy affect the relationship between the two
parents? How did parental psychopathy affect extended family ties and
relationships with the outside world?
4. How did the author ascribe meaning to his/her experience with the psy-
chopathic parent? How did meaning change over the course of the author’s
5. Have the authors provided information that can be used to inform inter-
ventions with children of psychopathic individuals?
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160 L. J. Leedom et al.
Each of the seven books is outlined in Table 1. Three books were written by
women, and four were written by men. In all but one case, the index psy-
chopathic parent was a father. However, in two cases, enough information
was provided to estimate that in addition, the mother was mildly to moder-
ately psychopathic, and in another case the mother was likely severely psy-
chopathic. Although three of the mothers did not appear psychopathic, one
was alcoholic and another suffered from an unspecified mood disorder and
was in treatment. The third mother was described as emotionally unavailable
with markedly restricted affect and as a victim of domestic violence. Mental
health issues in these mothers appeared directly tied to the abuse that they
suffered at the hands of their psychopathic partners. Of the 14 parents, only
one, a father, was apparently free of mental illness. Four of the authors also
had stepparents. Of the five stepparents, all but one mother were alcoholic
or at least mildly psychopathic. In one case, care was provided by a maternal
aunt who had substance abuse issues and who was likely mildly psycho-
pathic. The pattern that emerged was one of children being exposed to
TABLE 1 List of Memoirs Used in Part 1
Sex of
author Brief summary
1. Transforming Darkness to Light, for
Spiritual Lessons from My Life with
a Serial Killer
M Memoir of Travis F. Vining (2011), son of
John B. Vining, who is awaiting
execution in Florida for the murder of
four people
2. Evil Eyes: A Daughter’s Memoir F Memoir of Cherylann Thomas (2011),
daughter of Canadian career criminal,
Ivan Groseclose
3. Never Tell Our Business to
Strangers: A Memoir
F Memoir of Jennifer Mascia (2010),
daughter of Murder and Gambino
crime family associate, John Mascia
4. Son of a Grifter: The Twisted Tale of
Sante and Kenny Kimes, the Most
Notorious Con Artists in America
M Memoir of Kent Walker and Schone
(2009), son of con artist and murder-
ess Sante Kimes.
5. The Butterfly Garden: Surviving
Childhood on the Run with One
of America’s Most Wanted
M Memoir of Chip St. Claire (2008), son of
child murderer and former fugitive
Michael Dean Grant
6. Shattered Silence: The Untold Story
of a Serial Killer’s Daughter
F Memoir of Melissa Moore (Moore &
Cook, 2009), daughter of serial
murderer Keith Jesperson
7. A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My
M Memoir of Augusten Burroughs (2009)
describing life with his father,
described on the back cover as a
“soulless sociopath” and in the book
as a man devoid of empathy, love, or
remorse for his acts of rage and
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Psychopathic Parents 161
multiple psychopathic adults and lacking a healthy parent to provide them
with security (see Table 2).
One of us (LJL), a psychiatrist trained to score the PCL–R, searched each
book to determine if authors presented sufficient information to estimate the
level of psychopathy in the index parent, a task that can be completed with-
out a clinical interview (Rufino, Boccaccini, Hawes, & Murrie, 2012). In six
out of seven books, there was ample material with which to score the PCL–R.
Newspaper articles and videotaped interviews of the psychopathic subjects
supplemented and validated the authors’ accounts. Scores revealed that these
parents were severely psychopathic with elevated scores on all four facets of
the PCL–R (see Table 3). All psychopathic parents were reported to be sexu-
ally promiscuous, with authors having some firsthand knowledge of their
sexual activities. Five of six psychopathic parents had been convicted in
multiple murders, and the sixth was a career criminal; the level of criminal
TABLE 2 Psychopathology in Immediate Family Members as Reported by the Authors of
Books 1–7
Immediate family mental health issues
Other parent Stepparent(s) Siblings Author
1. Alcoholic not
Stepmother: Abusive of
Internalizing and
Substance Abuse,
2. Mild to Moderate
Stepfather: Alcoholic
Sexual Abuse of Author
Stepmother: Unaffected,
Tried to Help Author
Many Diagnoses
including PTSD,
Depression and
Substance Abuse
3. Mild to Moderate
Surrogate Mother
(Maternal Aunt):
Substance Abuse and
Mild to Moderate
Substance Abuse Not Specified
4. Unaffected Stepfather: Mild to
Moderate Psychopathy
Psychopathy Substance Abuse
5. Moderate to Severe
None Unknown Anxiety Disorder
6. Not Emotionally
Recidivist Victim of
Domestic Violence
Stepfather: Mild
Perpetrator of Domestic
Resilient Eating Disorder
Anxiety Disorder
7. Unspecified Mood
and Personality
None Autism Spectrum
Substance Abuse
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162 L. J. Leedom et al.
versatility in the sample was quite high, such that all five murderers had at
least four other types of offenses including driving under the influence, drug
trafficking, theft, and fraud.
Each of the index parents was also rated using the DSM–5 Trait Rating
Form (American Psychiatric Association, 2012). This form, which will be
used in personality disorder diagnosis, illuminated several symptoms that
are seen in psychopathic parents that are not scored on the PCL–R (and are
not considered part of the psychopathy construct) that may be relevant for
parenting: hostility and suspiciousness as part of Trait Negative Affectivity,
and unusual beliefs and eccentricity as part of Psychoticism. One DSM–5
trait, restrictive affectivity, is part of Detachment. This trait is defined as
“little reaction to emotionally arousing situations; constricted emotional
experience and expression; indifference or coldness” (p. 2). This item was
difficult to score as written. Each of the psychopathic parents could be
described as “volatile” or the antithesis of “little emotional reaction.”
Indifference or coldness was episodic in its expression and in all but two
cases was subtle and not obvious. Behavior that indicated indifference or
coldness occurred in the same individual who displayed other behaviors
indicating warmth.
Although the alleged psychopathic father in book 7 was not described in
sufficient detail to estimate the level of psychopathy present, Factor 1 items
were documented and there was enough material to score some items of the
TABLE 3 PCL–R and Trait Rating Form (TRF) Scores for Index Psychopathic Parents
Book numbers and respective scores
123456 7
Psychopathic Parent
PCL–R Total
34 39 30 35 33 32 NS
Factor 1 16 16 16 16 16 16 NS
Interpersonal 8 8 8 8 8 8 NS
Affective 8 8 8 8 8 8 NS
Factor 2 16 19 14 15 14 NS NS
Lifestyle 10 10 5 9 8 8 NS
Antisocial 6 9 9 6 6 NS NS
TRF Negative Affectivity Total 8 6 5 6 9 6 5
TRF Detachment Total 1 1 0 1 2 2 8
TRF Antagonism 15 15 15 15 15 15 NS
TRF Disinhibition 9 9 8 9 9 9 NS
TRF Psychoticism 2 0 2 4 4 6 NS
Note. NS = not scored due to absence of evidence.
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Psychopathic Parents 163
DSM–5 Trait Rating Form. This father was an alcoholic who, unlike the rest
of the psychopathic parents, was described in a manner consistent with
DSM–5 detachment (see Table 3). Psychopathic parents of books 1 to 6 were
described in a manner consistent with Big Five Extraversion (John &
Srivastava, 1999) and were generally interested in social contact. Convincing
evidence of warmth and affection was presented for five of the six index
psychopathic parents. Little warmth or affection were attributed to the psy-
chopathic father in book 5, however when asked about this, the author indi-
cated that his father spent time with him and did display affection. The
psychopathic mother in book 4 and the psychopathic father in book 1 most
closely resembled the Cleckley prototype psychopath (Cleckley, 1964); they
were described as quite charming, affectionate, fun, and having a good sense
of humor. One author experienced a rather cold, moderately psychopathic
mother and a relatively warm, severely psychopathic father. Psychopathy
was present in both parents of the author in book 3, and both were described
as affectionate toward the author and others.
Psychopathic parents of books 1 to 6 displayed ingratiation, kindness,
and generosity without immediate reward and as a means for attaining
power. One author wrote, “My dad was very generous and I had seen him
pay for lots of people’s meals—men and women alike He let people
borrow his tools and his vehicles, and he was always helping somebody out
of a pinch, even people who never returned the favor” (Moore & Cook,
2009, p. 23). Another author stated, “He really liked for the people he was
controlling to be dependent upon him for money” (Vining, 2011, p. 73). All
psychopathic parents had friends whose company they were observed to
enjoy. Many also appeared to enjoy the company of their siblings and
extended family members; they typically acted in ways to make themselves
the center of attention in social situations. Our research team was impressed
by the idea that even the highly psychopathic parents were perceived as
displaying warmth and apparently had positive social connections.
Psychopathic parents of books 1 to 6 had social connections with
extended family members including their own parents and siblings. These
extended family members were often aware of the parents’ antisocial or
criminal activity and were even complicit in it. This included a maternal
aunt in book 3 and a paternal aunt in book 5 who knew that the parents
were evading justice after escaping incarceration. These extended family
members also participated in deception perpetrated on the authors and
others. The author of book 1 made it a point to say that his father’s siblings
did not know how to assign meaning to their brother’s behavior: “They
were holding pieces separate so they would not have to see the whole pic-
ture. I mean, if you put it all together, what would you do about it? Could
you imagine realizing that your brother is a sociopath?6 What do you do
with the kids? Do you get involved? How do you even begin to approach
this problem?” (Vining, 2011, p. 22).
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164 L. J. Leedom et al.
Relationships between psychopathic parents and their partners lasted over
many years. Psychopathic parents did contribute financially to the family and
engaged in loving behavior toward co-parents. Psychopathic parents also
cheated sexually and were psychologically and physically abusive to their
partners. Generally the psychopathic individuals used a variety of strategies
to achieve and maintain control of their partners. In addition to being pres-
ent and spending family time, these strategies included: plying them with
alcohol and catering to their needs (books 2 and 4); supporting them finan-
cially (books 1, 3, 5, 6, and 7); manipulation (all); and physical aggression
(books 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7). In the case of the psychopathic mother (book 4),
partner violence was bidirectional; in all other cases, it was unidirectional.
The psychopathic parents in book 3 constantly bickered, however, their rela-
tionship was perceived as “loving” by the author.
In all seven accounts, the authors described a chaotic upbringing with mul-
tiple changes in residences. Varying degrees of physical neglect were
reported that included failure to provide food with resultant food insecurity,
failure to supervise with injury to author or siblings, failure to seek medical
or dental care for children, and failure to provide clothing. As a young child,
one author was abandoned for an extended period of time to the care of her
maternal aunt who had a substance use disorder and who was involved in
narcotics trafficking. Chaos in the authors’ homes was indexed by lack of
predictable routines and healthy family meals. Two female authors reported
performing most of the chores of the household and maternal care for
younger siblings. The authors’ and authors’ siblings’ educational needs were
neglected and suffered due to frequent change in residences. In terms of
social needs, authors reported being sequestered at various times and being
relatively isolated from the outside world, friends, and extended family. Part
of the cause of this isolation was due to the psychopathic parent’s fleeing
justice or avoiding rearrest.
All psychopathic parents took an interest in the children of the family. One
highly psychopathic father who was later convicted in multiple murders
gained custody of his children in family court (book 1). The psychopathic
mother (a con artist who was later convicted in two murders) also fought for
custody of her son. Custody was eventually awarded to the nonpsychopathic
father, who later acquiesced and returned the author to his mother (book 4).
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Psychopathic Parents 165
All noncustodial psychopathic parents worked to maintain their parental
relationships. Psychopathic parents played with children, and fathers were
described as enjoying roughhousing and tickling.
Dad loved to tickle me because I was incredibly sensitive and would
erupt into uncontrollable giggles. He would pin my arms back and tickle
my arm pits while I would scream, begging for him to stop. I could tell
that he enjoyed me pleading for him to stop and liked the feeling of
being in control. I would do everything I could to wiggle out of his grip,
but he was far too strong. Finally I told him I was going to pee my pants.
Only when I convinced him that I really was going to wet myself did he
finally let me go. (Moore & Cook, 2009, p. 49).
Psychopathic parents also enjoyed activities with the authors such as watch-
ing/discussing sports, movies and TV, visiting extended family, celebrating
holidays, fishing, boating, camping, going out to eat, and shopping. One
author stated, “There were times when my dad paid a lot of attention to us
kids and I loved it. He would take us to the Monkey Jungle in South Florida
on the weekends and wrestle with us in the house” (Vining, 2011, p. 22).
Psychopathic parents were reported to defend children from abuse by others
and to assist them when they got into trouble with authorities. In all cases
where there were siblings, psychopathic parents exhibited differential treat-
ment; they were noted to select both favorites and targets for abuse or rejec-
tion. Favorite children were indulged and expected to attend to the needs
and desires of the psychopathic parents. The author was the favored child in
books 1 and 3. Differential behavior continued when children became adults
and included an expectation of participation in antisocial behavior. One
author recalled,
My father was very abusive to his second family, but for some reason, he
became best friends with my brother, Gus, when he became an adult.
They were so close they shared women and drank heavily together. Later
they lost touch until my father moved … When reunited, my brother and
father continued to drink and share women as if no time had lapsed
(Thomas, 2011, p. 224).
In addition to the positive attention they received, all authors wit-
nessed psychopathic parents perpetrating antisocial acts such as cheating
on the other parent or stepparent, striking a parent or stepparent, killing
pets, stealing, shoplifting, lying to authorities, and illegal drug use. All
seven authors reported inconsistent moral teaching from the psychopathic
parent or being taught an antisocial value system. One author quoted her
father, “If it feels right, then it is right” (Moore & Cook, 2009, p. 114). And,
“If it feels good, do it!” This same author also said that her psychopathic
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166 L. J. Leedom et al.
father had two rules: one against stealing and another against smoking.
Several authors reported that the psychopathic parent condoned teen
drinking or smoking. Four of seven authors were asked to participate or
were manipulated into participating in criminal activities. As one author
put it, “Without realizing it, I understood that not doing what my father
wanted would cause him not to love me, so of course I did what he said”
(Vining, 2011, p. 124).
Physical abuse of the author was severe and salient in two books, and
episodically present in all but one case. Interestingly, although he killed sev-
eral girlfriends, one serial killer is said to have “prided himself in the fact that
he never laid a hand” (Moore & Cook, 2009, p. 19) on his wife or children.
He is also described as “the protector of our physical bodies” (Moore &
Cook, 2009, p. 10). All psychopathic parents exhibited failure to maintain
appropriate boundaries with respect to conversations regarding sexuality
once the authors reached their teen years. All authors were frequently sub-
jected to denigrating verbal abuse and/or verbiage aimed at inducing shame/
guilt. All authors were also subjected to deception and manipulation. An
extreme form of psychological abuse termed “gaslighting” in American pop-
ular culture (Urban Dictionary, 2012) was described in all cases including
book 7. This abuse, which involves manipulation of the subject’s perceptions
of reality, caused the authors to doubt their own perceptions of reality.
Authors of books 1, 3, 4, and 5 were also either deprived of information that
was required to form their social identity or were provided false information
with respect to their identity (e.g., authors lived under an alias without their
knowledge). Psychopathic parents were described as verbally telling the
authors that they were devoted to them. In their interactions with the authors,
these parents asserted their emotional attachments and efforts to support the
children of the family financially to the point of sacrifice. Typically the psy-
chopathic parent would make a statement to the effect of, “I do it all for you
(the children of the family).” The assertion of extreme devotion on the part
of psychopathic parents is a form of “gaslighting” as its purpose is to invali-
date perceptions of neglect and abuse.
Psychopathic parents were documented to perform behaviors delib-
erately designed to evoke fear in the authors. For example, the psycho-
pathic father in book 5 unexpectedly, without provocation, threw the
author overboard into frigid water while they were boating on Lake
Michigan. The author, a grade-school-aged child, was forced to swim for
his life for nearly a mile and feared he would drown. While out hiking, the
psychopathic father in book 6 had the author walk across a rickety bridge
that spanned a deep ravine. He then shook the bridge causing the author
to believe she would fall. The psychopathic father in book 2 drove drunk,
speeding, on a winding highway with the author in the car. In these and
other incidents, the psychopathic parent laughed as the author experi-
enced abject terror.
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Psychopathic Parents 167
Abuse and rejection by psychopathic parents generally engendered fear and
hatred in the authors. These emotions were part of their earliest reported
recollections. We agreed that the predominant childhood emotion was por-
trayed as fear in books 1, 5, 6, and 7. The author of book 1 stated, “I always
felt unsettled and frightened. Something just wasn’t right, and I couldn’t quite
put my finger on it” (Vining, 2011, p. 14). In books 2, 3, and 4, loneliness was
the predominant theme, but fear was also salient in these authors’ accounts.
All authors stated an explicit belief that the experience of fear caused them
to repress certain memories. Some authors also coped with fear by develop-
ing a strong bond to the psychopathic parent. As one author wrote in an
email to us, “For me, the most disturbing and confusing part of all this was
being in the presence of your worst nightmare while still hoping that you
can go to the very same source for protection.” The reported bonds were
stronger for authors who experienced less physical abuse and perceived
more warmth. The author of book 2 did not report physical abuse but did
report severe emotional abuse by her moderately psychopathic mother.
Although her psychopathic father was violent towards other siblings, he was
rather warm and not violent toward her. The bond that the author felt toward
her severely psychopathic father was stronger than the bond with the less
psychopathic but more abusive mother. The author of book 5 was the most
physically and emotionally abused, followed closely by the author of book
7. These two authors expressed the least amount of ambivalence in their
feelings about their fathers. However, ambivalence in the form of mixed love
and hate was still expressed by these authors who also engaged in experi-
ments seemingly designed to “test” their fathers as described in the
All authors expressed needing and loving their psychopathic parents.
One author stated, “I so loved my dad and this was the place that we were
closest. It was during these hunting trips that I felt closest to my dad” (Vining,
2011, p. 7). Emotions of guilt, self-blame, and self-reproach were commonly
reported emotional responses to abuse by psychopathic parents. The authors
were noted to participate in a cycle of behaviors with the psychopathic par-
ents. The authors actively solicited care or affection from the psychopathic
parent, the parent then responded in a way that engendered disappointment.
The author then withdrew only to begin the cycle again at a later time.
All seven books provided a developmental account of the authors’ attempts
to cope and to make meaning out of the experience of having psychopathic
parents. The experiences and meaning making occurred in four develop-
mental phases: preadolescence, adolescence, emerging adulthood, and
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168 L. J. Leedom et al.
adulthood. A progressive awareness of the nature of the parent’s antisocial
behavior and personality disorder occurred over the course of the authors’
development. Reconciling the parent’s antisocial behavior with the warmth
and intimacy shared with that parent was a challenging developmental task
for all authors. The struggle to make meaning of the mix of love and evil in
her parents was an especially predominant theme for the author of book 3.
She sought consultation with a prominent forensic psychologist in order to
assist her with meaning making. That professional opined that both of her
parents were psychopathic; when she related the diagnoses to her friend,
her friend encouraged her not to forget the love she had received, affirming,
“There was a lot of love there. I remember your Dad! He was so sweet, and
he loved you guys so much” (Mascia, 2010, p. 354). In an email to the
research team regarding this theme, one author commented, “My father was
a confusing mix of maniacal and affectionate, which made it that much
more difficult for me to reconcile his behavior.”
Prior to adolescence, the authors reported much confusion and an
inability to assign meaning to the behavior of their psychopathic parents.
They also reported not fully realizing that their parents’ behavior was devi-
ant. The theme of lacking a “frame of reference” was prominent in authors’
preadolescent experiences. Authors reported repressing memories of fear-
evoking events to which they could not assign meaning. Coping prior to
adolescence involved distraction in addition to repression. Hobbies such as
reading or sewing; solitary play; play with pets, siblings, and friends; and
school were sources of distraction.
Adolescence was a time of increasing awareness of the psychopathic
parents’ deviance due to increasing exposure to other families and to the
outside world, the psychopathic parents’ rather brazen antisocial behavior,
and increasing verbal disclosure of antisocial activities. One author stated, “I
resented that my friends were simply living life as if it were no big deal. It
didn’t seem fair” (Vining, 2011, p. 67). Adolescence was also a time of esca-
lating violence and psychological abuse of authors. As the psychopathic
parents showed more inclination to “intimacy” by including the authors in
antisocial activities and sharing personal antisocial anecdotes with them,
they were also more abusive.
One author learned that her father was a serial killer while she was in
high school. In this and other cases, the discovery of information led to the
authors trying to understand their parents and to reconcile the good with the
bad. In spite of increasing awareness, authors continued to participate in a
family that included the psychopathic parent. Three authors continued close
associations with their parents during emerging adulthood. The author of
book 3 stayed with her parents, helped support them financially, and contin-
ued to be abused. Four of the authors helped their parents financially during
adulthood, even as they realized their parents’ deviance. Later, the author of
book 3 understood with the help of a psychologist that her family had
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Psychopathic Parents 169
functioned like a cult. “When you have to lie to the outside world, when you
have to conspire to keep a secret, the atmosphere inside the household can
become like a cult” (Mascia, 2010, p. 352). That statement seemed to fit the
other accounts as well.
Adolescence and emerging adulthood were times of turmoil, substance
abuse and antisocial behavior, and trauma from extrafamilial sources for a
number of the authors. “I began to behave badly at home and school. I was
acting out and not really caring about anybody or anything. I started to hang
out with the wrong crowd at school” (Thomas, 2011, p. 45). Two of the three
women authors had pregnancies that were terminated. Both of these authors
were also sexually assaulted. One author dropped out of school, left home
at 16, and had a baby at 18. The authors’ own antisocial behavior led them
to question if they were like their psychopathic parents. This questioning
occurred in the context of the authors’ search for their own identities. Authors
of books 1 through 6 searched newspaper articles and media reports for
answers. They also sought information from relatives as they tried to under-
stand both their parents and themselves. The search for identity was particu-
larly important for the author in book 5 because his birth certificate was
forged, and he lived into his 20s with an assumed name. He eventually
obtained a genetic test to confirm that the psychopathic man who raised him
was his biological father.
Labeling the parent “a psychopath” or “sociopath” or someone who
lacked conscience, remorse, and empathy allowed the authors to make sense
of their experiences. All authors were at least in their 20s when this finally
occurred. As the authors recognized their parents’ lack of social emotions,
they became increasingly aware of their own inner experiences of love,
empathy, compassion, guilt, and shame—emotions that they determined
were fleeting in their parents. In five cases, this process was facilitated by the
authors falling in love and having their own children. As they assumed adult
roles, worked, loved, and raised their children, they realized the full extent
of their parents’ deviance and lack of social emotions. With this realization
came a further awareness that they had choices with respect to their own
lives and identity. While acknowledging the role of choice in their own lives,
the authors acknowledged the role of choice in their parents’ lives. Thus the
labeling of the parent “a psychopath” did not exempt that parent from
responsibility for the choices he or she made. The authors of books 1, 4, and
5 assisted in key ways with the prosecution of their parents.
Association with the psychopathic parent ended with the death of the
parent in books 2, 3, and 7. Interestingly all of the psychopathic parents who
died in the accounts that we studied died of smoking-related lung cancer. In
spite of the abuse that they had experienced, authors cared for dying par-
ents. Other authors ceased contact with the parent due to the parents’ arrest
or conduct while in prison. The parent in book 1 threatened to kill the
author, and the parent in book 6 was abusive in letters from prison. Even
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170 L. J. Leedom et al.
though physical association with the psychopathic parents ceased, they
continued to occupy the authors’ thoughts. No author indicated that he or
she had been able to fully resolve the contradiction between the sense of
connection and the evil experienced. One aptly described this struggle, stat-
ing, “I was still incapable of putting both the killer and my father together in
the same thought, I simply couldn’t do it” (Vining, 2011, p. 117).
Authors found meaning in existential questions and spiritualty. One
discovered the idea, “If my father had never killed people, I wouldn’t have
been born” (Mascia, 2010, p.151). Another author realized that due to her
father’s lack of conscience, she had taken over the job of feeling guilty and
blameworthy for his murders. Answering questions as to the deeper meaning
of life helped all of the authors. The authors stated that they hoped that other
people would be helped by their writing and communications with the
research team.
Many of the authors wrestled with their own antisocial behavior and addic-
tion. One stated, “I had a lot of my father in me. The more I learned about
him, the more I wanted it out of me all of it” (Vining, 2011, p. 12). All
authors reported suffering from symptoms of various anxiety disorders and
one from symptoms of borderline personality disorder. Three of the authors
attempted suicide. Authors attributed their own recovery and life success to
spirituality, love from their spouses and children, and their own more healthy
choices. Spirituality was a major theme in books 1, 2, 5, and 6. Sadly, the
aftermath of parental psychopathy extended to the next generation in book
2. The author’s only son developed externalizing psychopathology and had
issues with substance abuse. He died in his 20s, driving while intoxicated.
The autobiographies that we studied were written in the last 10 years with
the authors’ childhoods occurring in the 1960s to the 1980s. This fact raised
the possibility that the authors’ accounts have limited applicability to today’s
families. Scientific advances, the availability of information regarding psy-
chopathy on the Internet, and different practices in family law might have an
effect on today’s offspring of psychopathic parents. To add recent data to our
qualitative examination of psychopathic parents, and to further validate the
identified themes, we present two cases well known to one of us (LJL)
through consultation to nonpsychopathic co-parents. The nonpsychopathic
co-parent in both cases provided consent for the publication of the case with
identifying information withheld and altered to protect anonymity. These
two cases were selected because the high level of psychopathy in the parent
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Psychopathic Parents 171
was very well documented and because they illustrate the amount of effort
a psychopathic individual will expend to win in family court.
Case of a Psychopathic Mother
The child involved in Case 1 is in grade school at the time of this writing,
and is presently in the custody of her father who is not psychopathic and
who is a devoted parent. The child has overnight visitation about every two
weeks with the psychopathic mother, who lives nearly an hour away.
Visitation with the mother is irregular and has not been as frequent as would
be allowed by the court order due to the mother cancelling for various rea-
sons. When with the child, the mother is affectionate and verbally expresses
her attachment, raising the child’s expectations regarding their relationship.
This mother also buys numerous toys for the child and fosters peer relation-
ships near her residence, with the effect of enhancing the child’s desire to
visit. The child has been frequently disappointed due to cancelled visits and
the mother not attending scheduled activities. The child’s father recently sent
us a transcript of a conversation he had with the child who asked, “Have you
been to planet Mom?” then asserted, “That’s where moms think only about
themselves.” When the father denied the experience, the child replied, “I’m
living it.” The father also attributed the following statement to the child at
about age 4, “Mommy’s a little bit liar.” These two statements indicate that the
child has observed and experienced the mother’s antisocial behavior and is
attempting to make sense of it. The child also appears to be seeking some
validation from the father for these observations. The father generally does
not provide much validation because he has been warned that to do so
might jeopardize his custody. He has never spoken ill of the mother in front
of the child.
The psychopathic mother performs a number of behaviors that reveal
neglect and endangerment of the child’s health. She has not maintained
stable employment and has had several changes in residences as she has
resided with various friends and family members who have their own mental
health issues and antisocial behavior. Currently she occupies a basement
apartment, but her utilities have been turned off. The home environment
where the visitation takes place is chaotic, without stable routines, but there
is no visitation on school nights. The mother smokes cigarettes in the car
with the child such that the child’s clothing smells strongly of tobacco. The
child also had a chronic medical condition that required treatment during the
visitation time. The mother has refused this treatment, denying the condition
is a problem.
The mother in this case initially did fight for and receive custody of the
child with child support payments. The parents were never married but did
live together. The father states that he provided all early care as the mother
was not interested in the infant. He also states that he was conned into the
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172 L. J. Leedom et al.
relationship by the mother who “impersonated” a professional and later
“faked cancer.” The mother did have a prior arrest record for impersonation
that the father became aware of after their relationship fell apart. She pre-
sented herself as the needy single mother of several children. The father
desired a family and enjoyed the father role so he was eager to move into
the home to help the sick woman professional care for her family. The father
gave the mother $15,000 to put toward expenses and medical care for her
cancer. The father says that she had “a lump on the back of her neck she said
was metastases from the cancer.” The mother claimed to be receiving che-
motherapy for this condition.
Several months into her treatment, the mother (deceptively) announced
that she was pregnant; an occurrence she had previously stated was not
possible due to her illness. Two months later, the mother claimed to have
suffered a miscarriage and staged a “fake funeral” for the fetus, even involv-
ing her children. At the time of the “fake funeral,” the mother was actually
pregnant and the father believes the pregnancy occurred because with the
“fake pregnancy” he “stopped using protection.” The child from the actual
pregnancy was born healthy. The father later discovered that the mother
had impersonated a professional and suspected that the cancer was also
feigned as well as the prior pregnancy. He confronted her and she admitted
the deceptions but threatened that harm would result to him if he chose to
leave her. Trying to make meaning of his experience, the father, who has no
training in mental health, had a conversation with his mother asking, “What
type of person fakes cancer, pregnancy and stages a fake funeral for a baby
with her own children?” Shortly after the conversation, his mother learned
from a television show that “sociopaths” fake cancer and engage in other
The father moved out and filed for custody of the child. Concerned for
his own well-being, he began to secretly tape all in-person conversations
with his former partner, who he says tried to extort money from him as she
threatened him with loss of access to the child. She is heard on one of the
tapes threatening to have her teenaged daughter say that he molested her. As
part of the custody determination, the two parents underwent forensic psy-
chological evaluations by an independent court-appointed evaluator. The
evaluator found the father to be free of psychopathology but diagnosed the
mother with borderline, antisocial, and histrionic personality. As it appeared
the father might gain custody, the mother followed through with her threat,
and the teenaged half-sibling accused him of “tickling her” inappropriately
several years prior when he resided with them. The father was subsequently
arrested at gunpoint and jailed overnight as the charges came without warn-
ing. LJL was already well acquainted with this case at the time of the arrest
and witnessed the harm done to the father who was then deprived of all
contact with the child for a period of 4 months. The psychopathic mother
never displayed any regard for what effect this might have on the child, who
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Psychopathic Parents 173
was not given an explanation for the father’s sudden absence. The half-sister
who had allegedly been molested was socially tied to law enforcement, and
the father believes that tie influenced his treatment. The prosecuting attorney
offered a plea bargain whereby the father would register as a sex offender.
He refused and underwent forensic psychological evaluation including psy-
chophysiological assessment and was again found free of pathology. While
awaiting trial for molestation, the mother offered the father a custody arrange-
ment that included 50/50 parenting time and child support payments to
herself. The father refused this offer. The criminal case went to a preliminary
hearing where the mother testified, committing perjury, denying her prior
arrest record for impersonation. Although the charges were subsequently
dropped, the entire proceeding cost the father $50,000. It has been a number
of years since the trial; both the psychopathic mother and the half-sister
accuser (now an adult) freely and in a relaxed manner converse with the
father as if these events never occurred.
The trial for custody of the child and visitation with the father resumed
after the charges were dropped. The father was then given custody because
he proved that he had provided the early care of his baby and that he was
the most psychologically stable parent. The mother was ordered to pay child
support but never has. The father has not tried to collect because he prefers
to let the amount accrue in the event that something very untoward happens
in the visitation and he needs to press to have it stopped. He feels torn
because he believes his child has formed a bond toward the mother and
might be damaged should their contact cease. He feels the child is subject to
neglect in the mother’s care and psychological abuse, but these do not rise
to the level that authorities would take seriously. He does not know the
extent to which the mother currently engages in criminal behavior. The
father is doing what he can to recover from the trauma he has suffered and
is trying not to allow it to impact him emotionally or to impair his ability to
father. He is quite angry with the prosecution stating, “I had an excuse, I
didn’t know what she was, but they had all the information (her diagnosis
and prior arrest record) and they were still conned … if having it all on tape
doesn’t protect you, what are you supposed to do to protect yourself?”
Case of a Psychopathic Father
In Case 2, there are two children, one in middle school and one in high
school. At the time of this writing, they have no contact with their psycho-
pathic father and reside with their mother, who is not psychopathic. These
parents were also never married but did partially reside together. The father
had an occupation that kept him from home so he said, but in actuality he
was married and actively involved with another woman and had two other
children. The full story of this relationship is too lengthy to report here.
Suffice it to say that since her discovery of his “double life” and their breakup,
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174 L. J. Leedom et al.
the mother has always had custody of the children. Earlier in their lives, she
agreed formally to allow the father ample visitation with the children. She
states that she was conned into that agreement, and it is also clear that visita-
tion with the father has been harmful due to psychological abuse and neglect
that the children suffered while in his care. Specifically, the father would
leave them with paramours for extended periods, such that they spent most
of the visitation time (three of four weekends per month) alone in their
rooms. The father also subjected them to “talks” where he denigrated their
mother, claimed she was not trustworthy, and lied regarding their lives and
The issue of modifying the visitation has been before the family court
for many years but is still not resolved. The two parents have undergone two
separate forensic evaluations by experienced court-appointed independent
evaluators. Both evaluators diagnosed the father with ASPD; one also stated
that he “is a psychopath.” The mother was noted by the first evaluator to
suffer with anxiety and depression. The second evaluator noted the trauma
that the mother had suffered at the hand of father (psychological abuse and
financial abuse with loss of all of her assets). The mother has been prohib-
ited by the court from providing the children with any information about the
circumstances of their births, lives, or aspects of their identities that have
been falsified by the psychopathic father.
Two years ago, the children refused visitation with the father after a
relative of his contacted one of them over the Internet and revealed that
much of what they believed about their father was untrue and that key
aspects of their identities had been fabricated. The children knew that their
father was not working in his previous occupation because the father told
them that he had “quit his job to spend more time with [them].” However, the
relative told them the truth—that the father had legal problems that pre-
vented him from working. They were also told that their father had lived a
double life and that they had siblings they did not know. The children con-
sidered this deception in the context of the mistreatment they received while
in the father’s care and refused to see him. The father promptly charged the
mother with violating court-ordered visitation and with parental alienation.
She had nothing to do with the decision of the family member to contact the
children and had not spoken to that individual for many years. The contact
from the relative came as a complete surprise. Coping with the now teenag-
ers’ refusal to see their father has been very stressful for the mother.
The court subsequently ordered “therapeutic visitation” in hopes of
restoring the relationship between the father and the two teens. This order
was written without a hearing and prior to the findings of the two forensic
reports being entered into evidence. The forensic reports had been done and
provided to the court well in advance of the adverse events that occurred. In
fact, the second evaluator recommended that the children be entered into
therapy and told the truth in a controlled setting. The children do have a
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Psychopathic Parents 175
“Law Guardian” (LG), an attorney who is charged with representing their
interests. According to state law, the LG is required to fight for the expressed
wishes of the children whether or not he/she agrees with them. However,
that individual has always explicitly stated to the mother and her attorney,
“Studies show children do better when they have two parents.” He has also
called the mother “crazy” in response to her concern over the well-being of
the children.
There have been three separate attempts at “therapeutic visitation” with
three separate providers over 18 months. All three have ended unsuccessfully
due to the father’s conduct. In the first case, the father was able to deceive the
supervising psychologist. That psychologist had no training in developmental
psychology or psychopathy and is in fact trained in an unrelated psychologi-
cal subspecialty. When the mother objected to that psychologist’s credentials
and conduct, the judge told her she could, “take a seat in the parking lot” if
she continued to complain. The psychologist allowed the father to show the
children “legal documents” and continue to fabricate stories to them. They
became very angry and upset, and the older child wishing validation snuck a
recording device into the sessions where the psychologist and his assistant
social worker are heard to join in psychological abuse and intimidation. At
one point, the psychologist said that a court officer was going to take them
away and their “mother would go to jail” if they continued to refuse the rela-
tionship with the father. The children were so distressed that they became
physically ill. They missed sessions, but each time there was a note from their
pediatrician. LJL helped the mother attempt to persuade both the LG and her
own attorney to file motions to stop the visitation. Both refused saying it was
the job of the other. Subsequently the psychologist resigned, sending a letter
to the court blaming the mother for the treatment failure. The father then filed
a contempt motion against the mother. The judge refused to allow the pedia-
trician to testify, saying that he was not qualified to discuss the children’s
behavior or the impact of stress on their health. The judge also refused any
testimony regarding the abuse that occurred in the visitation sessions and
found the mother guilty of contempt but has not ruled on any punishment
pending the final outcome of all of the proceedings.
The second “therapeutic visitation” failed because the father refused to
comply with the rules of the center. A letter to that effect was provided to the
court. The third “therapeutic visitation” was also terminated by the supervis-
ing agency. Those sessions were all videotaped and audiotaped. The center
provided a letter to the court stating that the father had been confronted with
his behavior on videotape. The supervisors showed him a tape of himself
lying to and causing distress in the children. Even when the father was
directly confronted with his own behavior he would not take responsibility,
but instead he blamed the mother for his actions.
It should be noted that the father puts much effort into appearing to be
a caring and concerned parent. Each time he comes to court, he presents
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176 L. J. Leedom et al.
himself as the injured party and “alienated” father. With the permission of the
court, he “faithfully” attends his children’s activities even as he has sent
threatening emails to the mother demanding that the children cease partici-
pation in these activities. The children’s therapist testified in court that the
children feel “bullied” and “stalked” by the father due to his showing up at
their activities. Both forensic evaluators commented that the father is very
adept at deception, and one said that when he is with the children, the
family pathology is not obvious. The father was also able to call to testify a
licensed psychologist who ostensibly conducted a “psychological evalua-
tion.” That psychologist did not verify whether any of the information pro-
vided to him by the father was true even though there are reliable, publicly
available documents that reveal the father’s misrepresentations and state the
nature of the father’s character, and these were known to the psychologist at
the time. The father took the MMPI–2, had questionable validity. That psy-
chologist testified in court that the father was “not a psychopath.” However
he also said that the purpose of the “clinical examination” was to evaluate
the father’s personality as opposed to “diagnose” mental illness. When asked
why he believed that the father was not a psychopath, he said under oath,
“Robert Hare in his book says that psychopaths have no use for, or interest
in children . This man wants a relationship with his children and that is
not typical for a psychopath.
This qualitative study is the first to document that in some cases, very psy-
chopathic parents take an interest in children, behave “affectionately,” spend
time with them, and even fight to gain custody. Table 4 presents a summary
of the themes that we obtained from the qualitative analysis that are also
present in the two notorious cases from the introduction and the two cases
we presented. We are challenged to make meaning of our findings and to
generate a theory to explain them. We believe that the “affection” that psy-
chopathic individuals display is at times a genuine reflection of their plea-
sure with social contact (social reward). This hypothesis is supported by our
own direct observations of psychopathic individuals and data generated in
this study. A close examination of the context of the source of this social
reward reveals its connection to extraversion, dominance, and power (S. L.
Johnson, Leedom, & Muhtadie, 2012). When a psychopathic individual says,
“I love you,” the meaning is likely, “I enjoy you when you do what I want.
Psychopathic individuals appear highly motivated to make social connec-
tions, to achieve dominance, and to control all the people in their lives.
When this control is threatened, they may use an ingratiating strategy,
become deceptive, violent, or fight tirelessly in family court. Psychopathic
individuals can be quite affable when their control is not threatened or when
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Psychopathic Parents 177
they are engaged in manipulation. Although psychopathic parents are capa-
ble of “affection,” none of the parents we studied appeared to have a deep
or abiding concern for the health and well-being of their sons and daughters.
We have to caution, though, that this lack of concern is often difficult to
detect without a comprehensive evaluation. Sons and daughters are cared
for to the extent that this caring serves the social, material, or power goals of
the psychopathic parent.
Evaluating social connections in families is especially difficult when chil-
dren lack a healthy, warm parent or when they feel deeply connected to a
seductive, psychopathic parent. Experiences with a warm, mentally healthy
parent or other adult who promotes age-appropriate autonomy provide
TABLE 4 Summary of Qualitative Findings Regarding Parenting by Psychopathic Parents and
the Responses of Children to This Parenting
Parenting behaviors of psychopathic parents
1. Contrary to prevailing ideas, psychopathic parents are not universally “cold” and
isolative but evidence a mix of loving and abusive parental behaviors.
2. Parents who most closely resemble the “prototype psychopath” use affection and
ingratiation to gain and maintain control over children and partners. In this
context, expressed “love” does not reflect caring motives but reflects power
3. Psychopathic parents may desire to have a relationship with their children and even
fight to gain custody.
4. Although physical abuse is not always salient to children or perpetrated by psycho-
pathic parents, emotional and psychological abuse and all forms of neglect are
5. Pathological lying is an important symptom of psychopathy that is manifest in the
behavior of psychopathic parents toward their children. Pathological lying
underlies severe emotional and psychological abuse.
6. Psychopathic parents may select both favorites and targets for abuse from among
the children of the family.
7. Psychopathic parents may enjoy inducing fear in their children.
8. Psychopathic parents may maintain poor sexual boundaries.
9. Psychopathic parents expose children to their own antisocial behavior and to other
psychopathic adults.
10. Psychopathic parents maintain family ties and may manipulate family members into
covering for them.
Children’s Responses to Parenting by Psychopathic Parents
1. Children may be confused by the behavior of the psychopathic parent and so focus
their attention on only the “loving” aspect of the relationship. Children may
dissociate and evidence amnesia for traumatic experiences.
2. Children may experience and express love and loyalty toward a psychopathic
parent, especially if they have a paucity of healthy adult role models.
3. Children may have difficulty with identity formation if aspects of their identities are
fabricated or withheld from them.
4. Older children and teens desire “the truth” about their parents and themselves as
they seek to make meaning of their experiences.
5. Growing up with a psychopathic parent is associated with mood and anxiety
disorders, substance use disorders, and antisocial disorders.
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178 L. J. Leedom et al.
children with a “frame of reference” with which to evaluate the conduct of a
psychopathic parent. As children make meaning of neglectful and abusive
parental conduct in the context of this frame of reference, they may reject the
psychopathic parent—placing the nonpsychopathic parent in danger of losing
custody or being jailed due to “parental alienation.” The autobiographies that
we studied indicate that when there is no intervention, and sons and daughters
have no frame of reference, they are likely to remain connected to psycho-
pathic parents well beyond adolescence. These connections may then promote
antisocial choices and the further development of psychopathy in offspring—
with tragic results. In book 4, tragedy was the outcome as the author’s brother
participated in crimes including murder with his psychopathic mother.
The choices that offspring of psychopathic parents make are influenced
by the meaning to them of their experiences. Meaning making occurs on at
least three levels: (1) Sons and daughters make attributions regarding the
psychopathic parent’s behavior and develop their own implicit theories of
that parent’s personality; (2) they make self-attributions; and (3) they derive
global existential meaning with respect to love and to the stressful experi-
ences of neglect, abuse, and rejection. Meaning making is an important,
highly developed human capacity that likely drove the evolution of human
intellect (Plaks, Levy, & Dweck, 2009). It is important to study the process of
meaning making in children of psychopathic parents in order to gain insight
that will inform therapeutic interventions. Meaning making has a special
place in psychopathy research as psychopathic individuals are notorious for
skillfully manipulating the meaning making processes of even trained clini-
cians, often to their advantage (Hare, 1999), and professionals and lay people
alike are often baffled by the attitudes and behavior of psychopathic indi-
viduals. Errors in meaning making on the part of lawyers and mental health
professionals and sloppy clinical practice contributed too much suffering
and chaos in the second case we reported.
Two decades of research using the PCL–R have revealed that it mea-
sures the personality diathesis to antisocial behavior and criminality (DeLisi,
2009). Broadly the personality diathesis to antisocial behavior may be
reduced to the four facets of the PCL–R, with each facet making a contribu-
tion to the propensity to be antisocial (Hare & Neumann, 2010). Triangulating
this factor structure with our data and with the literature regarding child
abuse allows for the development of a model relating these facets of psy-
chopathy to parenting and children’s responses (see Figure 1). Although this
model is formulated after the four-facet model of psychopathy and so
includes criminality, it is also consistent with the three-factor model of
psychopathy. In the three-factor model, criminality or facet 4 and the items
relating to impersonal sexuality are removed from consideration. The 13
remaining items form three factors: (1) Arrogant and Deceitful Interpersonal
Style (equivalent to our facet 1); (2) Deficient Affective Experience (equiva-
lent to our facet 2); and (3) Impulsive and Irresponsible Behavioral Style
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Psychopathic Parents 179
(equivalent to our facet 3; Cooke, Michie, & Hart, 2005). Although some
assert that criminality and impersonal sexuality are not part of the psychopa-
thy construct (Skeem & Cooke, 2010), it appears that for the purposes of
considering the impact of parental psychopathy on children, criminality and
impersonal approach to sexuality may each pose unique risks (see Figure 1).
Impersonal approach to sexuality relates to poor sexual boundaries and
exposure to deviant partners; and criminality relates to exposure of children
to criminal behavior and criminal recruitment.
Our findings support the need for empirically based therapeutic interven-
tions and public policy with respect to psychopathic parents. In their ground
breaking qualitative investigation of the effect of schizophrenia on mothering,
Brown and Roberts (2000) identified many of the same themes we have noted
with respect to parental psychopathy. Adult children of psychopathic and
schizophrenic parents both report that their childhoods were colored by the
presence of constant fear. Children of schizophrenic parents at least have the
knowledge of their parent’s mental illness, and it is generally accepted that
they should be educated about it (Brown & Roberts). The authors we studied
and the children in our cases reported much distress at the deceptions perpe-
trated on them, however, current policy may not allow for children to be told
the truth or enable healthy adults to validate their observations. Our research
suggests that children crave both truth and validation.
FIGURE 1 Model relating psychopathy facets to relevant parenting and child variables. Note
that psychoticism is not assessed by the PCL–R but could also contribute to a child’s insecurity
about his/her own reality testing.
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180 L. J. Leedom et al.
The labeling of the parent’s disorder helped all authors to make mean-
ing of their experiences. This understanding also helped them recover, seek
help, and make better choices for themselves. There is no empirical data
available from which to formulate recommendations about how and when a
child should be informed of parental psychopathy. This information could be
useful in the primary and secondary prevention of antisocial behavior, mental
illness, and addiction. Children with one psychopathic parent and one rela-
tively healthy parent could be afforded the best upbringing the healthy
parent can offer. The child and the healthy co-parent would likely benefit
from minimal to no forced contact with the psychopathic parent.
This study was limited by the small number of subjects studied and by
the fact that the psychopathic individuals were all severely affected and
criminal. We note, however, that the individuals in the autobiographical
accounts and in the two introductory cases and in the two cases we reported
lived for considerable time in the community with their spouses and children
in spite of and prior to any arrests or convictions. There are many “success-
ful” psychopathic individuals living in the community who are not under the
supervision of the criminal justice system.7 Lack of an extensive formal crimi-
nal record does not indicate that a person has not committed criminal
offenses. It is likely that all individuals with even moderate psychopathy are
past or present offenders (DeMatteo, Heilbrun, & Marczyk, 2005). When psy-
chopathy is identified in a parent, evaluators should be cognizant of possible
concealed felonious criminality.
This was the first in-depth study of the influence of psychopathy on parent-
ing. Although our data are qualitative and come from a limited number of
cases, they enabled the formulation of a hypothesized model relating the
facets of psychopathy to parenting variables. Although psychopathic parents
do demonstrate “affectionate” behavior and express concern for children,
psychopathy does not appear to be compatible with effective parenting or a
nurturing home environment for children.
1. Psychopathy is a dimensional disorder and when considered as such, overlaps considerably with
ASPD considered dimensionally (Marcus, Lilienfeld, Edens, & Poythress, 2006).
2. Antisocial behavior is defined as a purposeful action that harms another in violation of a social
contract. Antisocial behavior violates the right of another to physical, psychological, or material safety.
Criminal behavior is by definition antisocial, but not all antisocial behavior is criminal.
3. There is continued controversy regarding the name of this disorder. DSM–5 first adopted the term
antisocial/psychopathic; although the proposed DSM–5 criteria now more closely resemble those used to
assess psychopathy, current plans call for the disorder to be named antisocial or dissocial (International
Classification of Disease nomenclature) personality disorder.
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Psychopathic Parents 181
4. By loving behaviors, we mean: physical affection, verbal statements, and provision of physical and
emotional needs. Engaging in these loving behaviors may not reflect caring emotion but dominance
motives (manipulation).
5. Factor analyses of the PCL–R reveal that the disorder constitutes an amalgamation of traits that load
onto two correlated dimensions. Factor 1, “callous, remorseless use of others,” includes traits of grandios-
ity, manipulativeness, callousness, and lack of empathy; Factor 2 “socially deviant lifestyle,” includes traits
such as the need for stimulation/proneness to boredom, parasitic lifestyle, and poor behavioral controls
(Hare et al., 1990). Factor 1 has been divided into interpersonal (INT) and affective (AFF) facets, which
are commonly considered specific or core features of psychopathy; Factor 2 has been divided into life-
style (LIFE) and antisocial (ANT) facets. Since the PCL–R total, factors, and facets are dimensions (Edens,
Marcus, Lilienfeld, & Poythress, 2006; Marcus et al., 2006), in this paper, we do not label any individual
“a psychopath.” Instead, we place subjects on the continuum of scores adopting Meloy’s (2001) conven-
tion of four groups relative to PCL–R scores—nonpsychopathic (0 to 10), mildly-psychopathic (10 to 20),
moderately psychopathic (20 to 30), and severely psychopathic (30 to 40).
6. Sociopathy is another synonym for psychopathy and ASPD.
7. Successful psychopathy may be defined as: community living, lack of criminal arrest, or educa-
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... Legal abuse occurs through the criminal court when psychopathic individuals recruit unwitting partners into their crimes and through civil court when partners attempt separation [6,47]. Some psychopathic individuals are skilled at using the family courts to punish former partners [6,93]. Social abuse occurs when psychopathic individuals spread rumors (a behavior victims have dubbed "the sociopath's smear campaign" [94]) or behave in ways that damage their partner's standing with others. ...
... A comprehensive list of studies of paternal [103,[105][106][107][108][109][110][111][112][113][114][115], maternal [116][117][118][119][120][121][122], and parental [73,75,93,[123][124][125][126] behavior in relation to psychopathic traits is provided in Tables 6-8. There is one large-scale study of parenting and psychopathic traits [123]. ...
... Anecdotal reports and qualitative studies provide first-hand accounts of the human suffering caused by parental psychopathy [6,93]. Children and adults describe a confusing combination of loving and abusive experiences; this mix of experiences and the trauma associated with parental psychopathy produces disorganized attachment and dissociation of parental object representations [64,83]. ...
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... Although withdrawn, this prototype description reflects both historical perspectives and a failure to give credence to the many naturalistic observations of psychopathic individuals that appear in the literature. A review of case histories [28][29][30][31], research accounts of family members [30], and journalist biographies [32] reveals that many psychopathic individuals do in fact maintain social ties 3 over extended years. They often profess love for children and other family members. ...
... Although withdrawn, this prototype description reflects both historical perspectives and a failure to give credence to the many naturalistic observations of psychopathic individuals that appear in the literature. A review of case histories [28][29][30][31], research accounts of family members [30], and journalist biographies [32] reveals that many psychopathic individuals do in fact maintain social ties 3 over extended years. They often profess love for children and other family members. ...
... In a recent paper, myself and colleagues [30] detailed (among other cases) the case of German national Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, AKA "Clark Rockefeller," a psychopathic (traits described by forensic evaluators) con artist and convicted murderer who charmed financial executive Sandra Boss. They married and resided together for 12 years. ...
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Drive theories of motivation proposed by Lorenz and Tinbergen did not survive experimental scrutiny; however these were replaced by the behavioral systems framework. Unfortunately, political forces within science including the rise of sociobiology and comparative psychology, caused neglect of this important framework. This review revives the concept of behavioral systems and demonstrates its utility in the development of a unified theory of human social behavior and social bonding. Although the term “attachment” has been used to indicate social bonds which motivate affiliation, four differentiable social reward systems mediate social proximity and bond formation: the affiliation (attachment), caregiving, dominance and sexual behavioral systems. Ethology is dedicated to integrating inborn capacities with experiential learning as well as the proximal and ultimate causes of behavior. Hence, the behavioral systems framework developed by ethologists nearly 50 years ago, enables discussion of a unified theory of human social behavior.
... Meanwhile, psychopathy could have detrimental effects on long-term relationships as it is often correlated with a lack of investment in partners (Međedović, 2019b;Smith et al. 2019) and abuse in relationships (Kirkman, 2005). Parents with higher scores of psychopathy show lower parental investment and more negative parenting in self-reported (Beaver et al., 2014b;Međedović, 2019b) and offspring-rated questionnaires (Međedović & Petrović, 2019), as well as in qualitative studies (Kirkman, 2005;Leedom et al., 2013). Additionally, psychopathy might negatively influence whether individuals support their children financially (Dion et al., 1997), while also making them more likely to favour partners that also display low parental care (Lyons et al., 2020). ...
... Increased mating effort Psychopathy associated with effective adornment i.e. dressing and presenting oneself in ways that increase physical attractiveness Leedom et al., 2013 Qualitative study based on memoirs Children of parents with psychopathic traits (as described by the children) ...
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Although psychopathy is widely conceptualised as a mental disorder, some researchers question the maladaptive nature of psychopathy, and argue that it might be advantageous from an evolutionary point of view. According to this view psychopathy can be seen as an evolutionary adaptative strategy that relies on deception and manipulation to gain short-term reproductive benefits. Psychopathy is also identified as a fast life strategy in response to early life stress and an adaptation to harsh environments. This paper investigates the evidence that psychopathic traits are adaptive, while also addressing the limitations of current evolutionary models of psychopathy based on frequency-dependent selection and life-history theory. We review recent studies on the fitness correlates of psychopathy and find that psychopathic traits present potential adaptive trade-offs between fertility and mortality, and offspring quantity and quality. On a proximate level, individual differences in stress reactivity and environmental risk factors in early development predispose to psychopathy through gene-environment interactions. We propose that environmental, developmental, social and cultural factors can mediate the relationship between psychopathic traits and fitness and therefore should be considered to make accurate predictions on the adaptive potential of psychopathy. We end by outlining gaps in the literature and making recommendations for future evolutionary research on psychopathy.
... Further, the combination of authoritarian and permissive parenting styles in parents with psychopathic traits could be one pathway that psychopathic traits begin to develop in their own children as well as children's anxiety, hyperactivity, and inattention (Fanti & Lordos, 2021;Krupić et al., 2020). These findings are complicated by qualitative work showing psychopathic fathers were sometimes described by their former partners and their children as involved, caring, and fun despite more neglectful long-term fathering (Leedom et al., 2012(Leedom et al., , 2013. This raises the question of whether men with psychopathic traits engage in "good enough" parenting that allows children to successfully develop without excessive parental care or involvement (Harris, 2011), thereby allowing them to focus more energy on other domains (e.g., mating and somatic). ...
... If, however, men with psychopathic traits were averse to parental stimuli, this might discourage them from having children at all, which does not appear to be the case with respect to psychopathic traits in our study. Instead, they may focus on mating and tolerating, but not behaviorally supporting, any offspring (see Leedom et al., 2013). This strategy is likely to be more evolutionarily successful than one that would be associated with actively perceiving infants and offspring as being undesirable, and it may explain why their perceptions are neutral rather than positive, as positive perceptions might motivate parental investment at the expense of more mating effort. ...
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Psychopathic traits are sometimes viewed as an alternative reproductive strategy that prioritizes mating over parental investment , particularly in men. Two aspects of this research receiving less attention are (1) the inclusion of somatic investment, which refers to the growth and maintenance of oneself, and (2) measuring perceptions of investment domains in addition to behavior and attitude outcomes. In this study, we used a sample of 255 young adult men from MTurk (M age = 29.55, SD = 2.97) to examine how the three domains of investment (mating, parental, and somatic) relate to individual differences in men's psychopathic traits, relationship/parental status, and age using outcome measures of (1) behavioral attitudes and (2) perceptions of stimuli associated with each investment domain (e.g., attractive women's faces and cute infants). Results showed that while they were associated with being a parent, psychopathic traits were associated with higher mating and lower parental and somatic behavioral attitudes. Psychopathic traits were associated with negative perceptions of indirect somatic cues (e.g., working and forming friendships), positive perceptions of mating cues, and no relationship with perceptions of direct somatic (e.g., exercising) or parental cues. Our results agree with previous research but extend them by showing that while they engage in lower somatic behavior, men higher in psychopathic traits do not appear to have aversive reactions towards infant stimuli and are more likely to be parents themselves. We argue that these patterns are consistent with a parasitic parenting strategy that focuses on mating while depending on others to invest in their children.
... Considering the importance of the care-giving behavioral system to human social behavior, there are few studies of caregiving behavior, altruism and parenting within the context of mental illness, though many different disorders negatively impact parenting (Brown & Roberts, 2000;Laurent & Ablow, 2013;Leedom, Bass, & Almas, 2013;Ostler, 2010). e connection between social reward and the experience of empathy is illustrated by the disorders in which both of these are impaired -substance abuse, depression, autism spectrum disorders, and antisocial disorders. ...
... Individuals with a restricted sociosexual orientation are the most biologically monogamous and readily develop bonds toward sex partners. at individuals who appear "sexually bonded" differentially engage in a achment, caregiving, (Feeney & Collins, 2001) and dominance of their partner (Leedom, Bass, et al., 2013;Leedom & Swedell, 2013) is evidence for bonding being a property of the sexual system itself (see Fisher's research below). at sexual behavior promotes bonding in monogamous mammals is not disputed (Carter & Cushing, 2004). ...
Full-text available Drive theories of motivation proposed by Lorenz and Tinbergen did not survive experimental scrutiny; however these were replaced by the behavioral systems framework. Unfortunately, political forces within science including the rise of sociobiology and comparative psychology, caused neglect of this important framework. This review revives the concept of behavioral systems and demonstrates its utility in the development of a uni#ed theory of human social behavior and social bonding. Although the term “attachment” has been used to indicate social bonds which motivate affiliation, four differentiable social reward systems mediate social proximity and bond formation: the affiliation (attachment), caregiving, dominance and sexual behavioral systems. Ethology is dedicated to integrating inborn capacities with experiential learning as well as the proximal and ultimate causes of behavior. Hence, the behavioral systems framework developed by ethologists nearly 50 years ago, enables discussion of a unified theory of human social behavior.
... Moreover, antisocial personality disorders are characterized, on the one hand, by high expressiveness and emotional sensitivity to social stimuli, and on the other, by poor understanding of others, social prejudices, and suppression of negative emotions (Sutker, Allain, 2001). People with antisocial personality disorders are characterized by strong self-focus, experience of unclear and incomprehensible feelings, and inability to identify the valence of emotions experienced, which gives rise to the belief that emotions are useless in relations with other people and in attempts to solve problems (Hare, 2003;Leedom, Bass, Almas, 2013;Lynam, Derefinko, 2007). Thus, their reaction to love is frequently withdrawal. ...
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p>Niniejszy artykuł koncentruje się na analizie związku między cechami zaburzeń osobowości a doświadczaniem romantycznej miłości u więźniów. Na podstawie literatury przedmiotu należy wskazać, że szeroka gama patologii w sferze osobistej i społecznej wynika z patologii miłości. W opracowaniu skoncentrowano się na osobach z cechami zaburzeń osobowości, gdyż przyczyniają się one do wyzwalania wielu problemów społecznych i osobistych. Badaniem objęto 185 więźniów z czterech różnych więzień wykazujących cechy zaburzeń osobowości. Cechy te zostały zmierzone za pomocą Ustrukturyzowanego Wywiadu Klinicznego do Badania Zaburzeń Osobowości z osi II (wydanie 4). Doświadczenie miłości analizowano za pomocą techniki narracyjnej. Analizy regresji wielokrotnej wykazały, w jaki sposób określone cechy zaburzeń osobowości wyjaśniają różne sposoby doświadczania miłości u więźniów. Cechy zaburzeń osobowości na ogół przyczyniają się do zmian w doświadczaniu miłości, czyniąc go zwykle negatywnym, ambiwalentnym lub niejasnym, natomiast pozytywne aspekty miłości są negatywnie powiązane z cechami zaburzeń osobowości. Doświadczanie miłości u więźniów wskazuje na większe poczucie zaprzeczania miłości, wycofania się z jej doświadczania. Cechy zaburzeń osobowości u więźniów wiążą się z odrzuceniem miłości.</p
The role of parental antisocial behavior in the development of adolescent psychopathology is well established in the literature. However, less is known about the role of parental psychopathic traits in offspring psychopathology. Adolescents (N = 210; boys = 107) and their parents participated in a study measuring parental antisocial behavior, psychopathic traits (i.e., callous-unemotional traits, impulsive-irresponsibility, and grandiosity), and adolescent psychopathology, including depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and conduct disorder (CD). Results from the structural equation model suggested that maternal antisocial acts, but not anger propensity, positively predicted adolescent CD, ODD, and depressive symptoms. Paternal anger propensity mainly predicted internalizing problems, whereas paternal impulsive-irresponsibility predicted anxiety and ADHD symptoms. In addition, findings pointed to several indirect effects from maternal and paternal psychopathic traits to adolescent psychopathology, with the strongest one being between maternal impulsive-irresponsibility to maternal antisocial acts to adolescent ODD. The findings suggest that parental antisocial behaviors and psychopathic traits, and especially impulsive-irresponsibility, should be considered in interventions aiming to reduce adolescent psychopathology.
Mothers with mental illnesses are sometimes threatened with loss of custody of their children to the father or another relative simply because of stereotypes about mental illness and incorrect assumptions that if a mother has a mental illness, she cannot be an adequate parent. Some people even assume that any parent with a mental illness will be dangerous to a child. The mental and physical health of each parent is a factor the court is always concerned about, but it is only one of many factors. Custody evaluators who are appointed to assist courts are obligated to base their recommendations not on stereotypes but on expert knowledge. The guidelines applicable to evaluators mandate that they look not simply at diagnostic labels but at actual parenting skills and the interactions between the parent and the child, which can be very positive. Scientific knowledge concerning mental illness has expanded exponentially in the past few decades. There has been significant research on the effects of mental illness on parenting, which demonstrates that diagnostic labels often lead to incorrect assumptions regarding parental abilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 made it clear that not only persons with physical disabilities but also persons with psychiatric or psychological disabilities are protected by the law. Additionally, some state custody statutes specifically prohibit discrimination based on parental disability.
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Psychopathy is an important clinical construct that has been studied for more than 200 years and has exploded in recent years as a guiding explanatory concept for a range of antisocial behaviors across a range of populations and subgroups. In this review essay, I advance that psychopathy is the purest and the best explanation of antisocial behavior. Indeed, psychopathy is the unified theory of crime because it mirrors the elemental nature and embodies the pejorative essence of antisocial behavior, accommodates dimensional and categorical conceptualizations and examinations of antisocial behavior, facilitates the study of antisocial phenotypes over the life span, accommodates the general overlap of antisocial behaviors among diverse populations, and facilitates emerging biosocial explanations of antisocial behavior.
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The purpose of this paper is to challenge some of the cornerstones of the grounded theory approach and propose an extended and alternative approach for data analysis and theory development, which the authors call multi-grounded theory (MGT). A multi-grounded theory is not only empirically grounded; it is also grounded in other ways. Three different grounding processes are acknowledged: theoretical, empirical, and internal grounding. The authors go beyond the pure inductivist approach in GT and add the explicit use of external theories. A working procedure of theory development in MGT is presented, which can be seen as an extension of the grounded theory approach.
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A review is made of research connecting personality disorder in parents to child maltreatment and/or child mental health problems. Research studies indicate that certain personality disorders, notably Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline and Narcissistic personality disorders in parents show relationships to both parental behavior and ensuing childhood problems. However, parental personality disorders can also affect children's behavior through genetic transmission, hence while parental personality disorders are risk flags in custody assessments, parental behavior toward the child remains an essential target of assessment.
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The revised Psychopathy Checklist (PCL) is a 20-item scale scored from interview and file information. Analyses of data from 5 prison samples ( N = 925) and 3 forensic psychiatric samples ( N = 356) indicate that the revised PCL resembles its 22-item predecessor in all important respects. It has excellent psychometric properties, and it measures 2 correlated factors that were cross-validated both within and between samples. Correlations between the original PCL and the revised version approached unity for both the factors and the full scale. We conclude that the revised PCL measures the same construct as the original and that the PCL is a reliable and valid instrument for the assessment of psychopathy in male forensic populations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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The development of a methodology for inquiry into human affairs requires consideration of four interlocking, but nonetheless conceptually distinct domains. Each domain contains a set of issues that are relevant and important to the practice of social inquiry. Collectively, the domains present a justificatory framework and a set of practical guidelines for a given approach to social inquiry. The burgeoning literature in mixed methods approaches to social inquiry engages all four domains, but somewhat unevenly. This is also so for the papers presented in this special issue of Research in the Schools. This concluding article first offers a brief portrait of the requisite domains for a social inquiry methodology, and then connects each of the papers in this special issue to these domains. Comments on priority future directions for the continued development of a methodology of mixed methods social inquiry conclude the discussion. What Constitutes a Methodology for Social Inquiry? A methodology for social inquiry engages four domains of issues and assumptions: philosophical assumptions and stances, inquiry logics, guidelines for practice, and sociopolitical commitments in science. Each domain is briefly described below. Domain 1 – Philosophical Assumptions and Stances A social science methodology is importantly rooted in issues that are the substance of the philosophy of science, in particular, assumptions about the nature of the social world (ontology) and about the nature of warranted social knowledge (epistemology). This domain also includes stances regarding related issues, such as objectivity and subjectivity, the role of context and contingency in social knowing, and the relationship between the knower and the known. In addition to these traditionally paradigmatic issues, this domain encompasses broader facets of an inquirer's own mental model (Phillips, 1996; Smith, 1997), such as value commitments and the perspectives and core constructs of particular disciplines, for example, "disequilibrium" as a catalyst for growth in human development and "maximization of satisfaction" as the fulcrum of consumer decision making in economics. Domain 1 thus guides the inquirer's gaze to look at particular things in particular ways and offers appropriate philosophical and theoretical justification for this way of seeing, observing, and interpreting.
The relationship between psychopathy and violence among incarcerated and institutionalized samples has received considerable attention, but less is known about the risk of violence posed by psychopaths in the community, particularly those with no prior contact with the criminal justice system. Moreover, little is known about why some psychopaths have avoided being arrested. This study considered the role of specific protective factors in relation to Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) scores and three measures of antisocial behavior among 54 community participants with and without criminal histories. The methodology effectively recruited individuals with moderately elevated PCL-R scores. Roughly 40% of the sample reported no history of arrests, and a sizeable portion of both criminal and noncriminal participants reported a history of violent behavior. Results revealed no significant relationship between protective factors and participants' PCL-R scores and involvement in antisocial behavior. Secondary analyses found a significant negative correlation between protective factors and PCL-R scores for participants with higher levels of psychopathic characteristics. Finally, noncriminal participants endorsed considerably more protective factors than criminal participants. Findings suggest that protective factors may hold promise for explaining why some high-risk individuals can avoid contact with the criminal justice system.
Lay theories (or ‘implicit theories’) are cornerstones for social cognition: people use lay theories to help them make sense of complex and ambiguous behavior. In this study, we describe recent research on the entity and incremental theories (the belief that personality is fixed or malleable). In so doing, we demonstrate that each theory does not act alone. Instead, each is associated with a set of allied beliefs, the sum total of which cohere into two distinct meaning systems. We present evidence that these meaning systems produce systematic differences in a range of fundamental social cognition processes, with important implications for the field’s understanding of trait/situation attribution, moral judgment, person memory, and stereotyping. We further argue that because meaning systems serve a central meaning-making function, people are motivated to believe that the meaning system they are using is effective and accurate. Accordingly, we present evidence that people exhibit processing distortions and compensatory mechanisms to minimize the impact of information that violates their meaning system. We discuss the implications of these findings for the field’s understanding of basic social cognition.