Some say, this could be a case of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ referring to the act of imitating ones behaviour. This suggests that children who are physically abused or watch their siblings being abused are more likely to produce that action upon other children and/or adults because they know no different. However, research puts forward that this is far more than a learned behaviour triggered by imitating others, but rather an enhancement of different brain regions linked to those with psychopathic traits, caused by traumatic experiences in an individual’s early stages of life.
The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (JRSM), found a relationship between child abuse victims and the later development of psychopathy. While the research remains slightly understood, the interaction between environmental factors (abuse) and genetic factors remain to be interrelated. Through conducted research on the brain in children and adults using brain imaging, it’s been reported that the emotional and behavioural regions of the brain may represent heightened stress adaptations from early childhood experiences and the region specifically used for emotion processing, the cerebellum, was decreased in size in children and adult victims of abuse. Depending on the severity of the abuse obtained by the individual and societal norms, children who develop the ‘lacking emotion’ psychopathic trait could potentially lead to having an increased risk of psychopathy as an adult.
Rather than looking at children who have been abused The Journal of Psychotraumatology conducted a study in 2013 with male offenders who were abused as children. This ongoing study stated ‘that convicted male offenders with high levels of psychopathic traits were more likely to have experienced abuse and neglect during childhood, and they were even more likely to have experienced relational trauma at an early age’ (J Psychotraumatol, 2013). It was also stated that their ‘research has shown a higher prevalence of traumatic events in more severe violent offenders’ (J Psychotraumatol, 2013). Although the obtained results don’t have a direct cause-effect relationship between early child abuse trauma and psychopathy, there surely is a relationship between a traumatic disturbance throughout early years of childhood and the development of psychopathic traits.
This indicates that the increase in child abuse is likely to have an increased effect in the development of psychopathic traits. Therefore, considering that abuse among any individual shouldn’t be committed, it is crucial to specifically target awareness for children in these situations to decrease the likelihood of young adults potentially firing negative psychopathic traits, that are fuelled by traumatic past events.