The making of individual differences
The making of individual differences

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The making of individual differences

9.2 Antisocial behaviour disease

The psychological arena is hugely complex because there are additional issues of responsibility and treatment. Briefly, society takes a more lenient attitude towards the behaviour of someone who is ill (diseased) compared to someone who is well. The diseased person is not fully responsible for their actions (‘They can't help it’). Therefore any individual with antisocial (aggressive) behaviour who is diagnosed as having a disease is largely absolved of blame. Having a disease, means, at least in principle, that the disease can be treated. So rather than being regarded as a criminal and punished for antisocial behaviour, the individual with a disease is regarded as a patient and treated for their symptoms. Finding a genetic association with the antisocial behaviour of an individual then does two things. First, it confers a disease status on the individual; the individual has a genetic disease. Second, as the genes are part of the individual's biology, treatment should be focused on the individual's biology, rather than social circumstances, for instance.

In recent years the idea that family circumstances or upbringing (e.g. sexual abuse as a child) can also result in a diseased state in adulthood has been gaining ground.

Activity 23

Is the idea that family circumstances or upbringing (e.g. sexual abuse as a child) can result in a diseased state in adulthood consistent or inconsistent with what you have read so far in this chapter?


The idea that family circumstances or upbringing can result in a diseased state in adulthood is consistent with the material in Sections 4.2 and 4.3. Environmental factors early in life can have enduring effects on the individual.

The final example in this course looks at two very different causes of antisocial behaviour.


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