Differences between psychopathy and sociopathy

Most experts in the fields of psychology, psychiatry and criminology conceives that the Antisocial personality disorder it is a heterogeneous category, although the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, American Psychiatric Association, 1994) considers it as a whole with a single identity.

In his book, David Lykken (1994) argues that the subjects that make up this group “are characterized by a persistent predisposition to antisocial behavior” (p. 45).

Antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy and sociopathy

In order to establish the differences between psychopathy I sociopathyLet’s look at both cases. One could say, although not enjoying official recognition, that these are two of the three broad categories into which this disorder branches off:


Psychopathy is expressed by innate antisocial tendencies due to biological, quantitative or qualitative differences in the brain function of those who suffer from it, which makes them difficult to socialize in adulthood.

  • To deepen the analysis of psychopathy, we invite you to read the article “Psychopathy: What Happens in the Mind of the Psychopath?”


These are individuals of normal temperament, but who have not acquired the attributes of socialization as a result of careless and incompetent parenthood by the main agents of socialization: the parents.

Raising children is crucial in sociopathy

The dynamics of careless educational style on the part of the parents, it results, in the future, in feral children unable to socialize properly and who commit crimes. If, in addition, the parents of these young were also brought up under irresponsible and indifferent supervision, being immature in this regard, it is very difficult for them to know how to straighten their seedlings, if in any case they care. David Lykken suggests that the recent cultural changes that have taken place in the United States have contributed to the increase in the incidence of this inept upbringing of children.

As the same author puts it, “The anti-social figures responsible for most crimes in the United States are not psychopaths. They are sociopaths ”(p. 10). Therefore, sociopathic personalities are more numerous and represent a major social problem due to rising rates of crime and violence. They are very present in Western society, and even more in cities than in rural populations.

The typical profile of the sociopath

Sociopathy is the broadest subgenus of antisocial personality disorder. There are individuals (usually young men although the presence of women is increasing) who have not socialized well during childhood and adolescence. These deficiencies in their moral and emotional development are the necessary basis for a case of sociopathy to occur.

  • “Sociopaths (…) possess impulsive characteristics or patterns of habit which can be attributed to deviant learning that perhaps interacts with equally distorted genetic tendencies” (p. 47).

This should not mislead us, because the temperament of a sociopath is often normal despite few paternal traces; while others may be nervous or constantly looking for stimuli. The majority of the prison population meets the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder which identifies more than half of the men we consider to be “ordinary offenders.”

To summarize, the sociopath is the failed product of a careless and unruly education. It should be noted, however, that having received a poor education is not the only factor that explains sociopathy. It is not uncommon to meet people who, despite the many difficulties they went through during their childhood, have found their place in the world and be people with whom we can normally identify.

Bibliographical references:

  • Lykken, D. (1994). Anti-social personalities. Barcelona: Herder.
  • Pozueco, JM (2010). Integrated psychopaths: psychological profile and personality. Madrid: Legal Psychology EOS.
  • Werlinder, H. (1978). Psychopathy: history of concepts. Analysis of the origin and development of a family of concepts in psychopathology. Uppsla, Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiskell International.

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