Look around the room. In one lifetime, the average person has met at least two or three sociopaths. Look around the room again. It could be someone in the same room, watching for signs of threat. In the study of psychosocial personality disorders, the origin of the sociopath has historically been the most mysterious. It has been a constant debate, and researchers have looked into both nature and nurture. In the end, however, sociopaths are most definitely the product of nurture, especially the adverse conditions of early childhood trauma.
Sociopaths are prevalent among society, and some researchers, like Martha Stout, claim that one out of every twenty-five people is a sociopath. However, this statistic is incorrect. This statistic is based on the assumption that sociopaths and psychopaths are the same people—which is untrue. While the sociopathic and psychopathic traits overlap, sociopaths differ in that they are obviously nervous and agitated, unable to create the illusions that psychopaths are so proud of. They live on the fringes of society, uneducated and unable to keep a steady job. Psychopaths, unlike sociopaths, are suave and able to maintain an illusion of conformity and maintain relationships on a superficial level. Both, however, are dominantly male, tend to disregard the rights and social mores of others, and have a tendency display violent and disruptive outbursts without remorse. Unlike psychopaths, who completely lack remorse and the ability to love, sociopaths may attach themselves to certain people, though they still remain contemptuous of the rest of humanity (7).
There is a pervasive pattern of childhood abuse or some form of neglect in studied cases of sociopaths. “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz’s, adoptive mother died of breast cancer when he was thirteen, and his father remarried to a woman whom he did not get along with. He always felt some resentment towards his birth mother, who’d given him up for adoption, ashamed of his status as illegitimate (1). John Wayne Gacy, the “Killer Clown”, had an abusive alcoholic for a father, whose friend also molested Gacy at least once (2). Gary Ridgway, the “Green River Killer”, had a domineering mother who controlled every aspect of his life. He struggled with his sexual attraction and resentment to his mother and could never maintain long relationships (6).
In all three cases, there was the presence of a parent that somehow wronged the child in a long lasting, detrimental way, a trend that shows up in almost every case. The putative opinion of the world and research in general is that abuse and neglect have an adverse effect on the child. Children need positive reinforcement, not corporal punishment in order to develop into healthy adults. Abuse and neglect often triggered personality disorders such as paranoid schizophrenia (Son of Sam), borderline personality disorder (Green River, Killer Clown), or antisocial personality disorder (too many) as defense mechanisms. Personality...