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Psychopathy is a personality disorder characterized by antisocial behavior, lack of empathy and sensitivity, and deep selfishness. Contrary to popular belief, not all psychopaths are murderers or evil individuals. Despite unappealing character traits, some have a completely normal life and can even become parents. Psychologists have set out to examine how male psychopaths invest themselves in family life.
In a new study, Kristopher Brazil and Anthony Volk, researchers at Brock University, Canada, looked in particular at three essential components of family life: mating (the search for a partner), parental investment (the taking care of one’s children) and somatic cathexis (which designates the fact of ensuring one’s own survival, of taking care of oneself). ” Although previous studies have shown that males with higher psychopathic traits seem to invest a lot in mating effort and very little in parenting effort, no studies have examined the role of somatic effort. “explains Brazil.
Next, the two researchers tested whether male psychopaths’ perception of stimuli associated with each of these domains (for example, faces of attractive women, cute babies, and different somatic activities) aligns with their actual behavior — whether or not this perception reflects the time spent engaging in each of these areas. Results showed that psychopathic traits were associated with higher mating rate and lower parental and somatic behavioral attitudes.
Fathers who do not care about their children
This study is based on a sample of 255 young American and Canadian men, aged 25 to 35. To assess their level of investment in the three domains studied, participants underwent an assessment of psychopathic traits and then were asked to answer various questionnaires concerning their somatic investment, their sexual behavior and their behavioral attitudes as parents. .
Data analysis revealed that psychopathic traits were associated with stronger mating attitudes and weaker parental and somatic investment attitudes. On the other hand, these effects varied according to the status of the participants: men in a relationship displayed higher levels of somatic investment, but less investment in mating and parenting. Similarly, participants who were fathers showed higher levels of parental investment, but lower levels of mating investment.
” Males who exhibited higher psychopathic traits reported spending more time and energy on mating and less time and energy on child rearing and somatic exertion », Brazil told PsyPost. Therefore, it appears that psychopaths are able to compromise, focusing on mating at the expense of parental and somatic domains. An attitude which is obviously not without consequences for the offspring…
The study shows that men with higher psychopathic traits were more likely to be fathers — even though they admit spending less time and energy with their children. Psychopaths could therefore be “parasitic” fathers, explains Brazil, in the sense that they have many children, but do not take care of them. We are the opposite of the typical investment model of a non-psychopathic father, underlines the specialist.
A study published in 2019 had already highlighted the fact that men with a high degree of psychopathy tended to have more children than less psychopathic men. Psychopaths therefore have no particular difficulty in finding partners and having children, but in fact, they do not worry about them and rather tend to create other relationships to repeat the same pattern.
Maximize the chances of appearing like an ideal partner
The study participants then viewed several images: photos of very attractive women, photos of particularly cute infants, as well as photos illustrating somatic activities (playing sports, eating healthy, earning money, etc. ). The objective was to study the way in which they perceived these images and what they triggered in them. They therefore had to indicate in each case if they were likely to go out with these women, to adopt these children and if the activity presented seemed attractive to them or not.
Researchers found that psychopathic traits were associated with positive perceptions of mating cues, but rather negative perceptions of indirect somatic cues (e.g., work and forming friendships). In contrast, they found no association between psychopathy and how to perceive direct somatic (such as exercising) or parental cues.
” This corresponds to their reported levels of behavior for each of these domains. They like stimuli associated with mating and dislike stimuli associated with somatic exertion, such as working or saving money. But they didn’t show a reduced preference for cute babies as their lower parental investment might suggest. “Summarizes Brazil. This could be explained by the fact that psychopaths here tend to behave like other men to maximize their chances of appearing as an ideal partner to women — who may be looking for certain parental qualities in their future partner.
The researcher summarizes the situation as follows: either psychopaths are aware that not liking children could harm them in their search for a partner – and therefore, the stimuli associated with children are perceived in a neutral way – or they think they like children. (and would like to have some), but ultimately do not have the strength or the desire to take care of it when they become fathers.
The authors of the study believe that further research is needed to dig deeper into the question and to be able to draw an evolutionary perspective on the psychopath profile – in particular by including violent profiles and evaluation measures from the direct entourage of psychopathic men. , as well as physiological measures (this study was based on self-report only). ” It would also be important to compare measures, such as physiological measures and self-report measures, to look for discrepancies that could help clarify how this deceptive personality style can escape detection when assessed and chosen. in the field of coupling concludes Brazil.