Antisocial behaviors often emerge before adulthood. While these traits have been explored in children, a new study is one of the first to examine the occurrence and impact of antisocial traits among young adults.
The teen years represent a time of intense development, both in physical and mental characteristics. As teens progress through adolescence into young adulthood there is an increased concentration of diagnoses for mental disorders compared to the general population.
Experts believe that this increased diagnosis rate could be occurring because of the rapid brain development that takes place during the teen years. Teens are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and many other mental disorders when compared with some other segments of the population.
Identifying Antisocial Behavior Issues
Antisocial traits can include a variety of behaviors, such as hostility, cheating and aggression. These behaviors are recognized as antisocial traits because they are associated with harming individuals. Additional signs of antisocial tendencies are an absence of empathy toward others, a lack of remorse and an absence of quality relationships with others.
Antisocial behavior patterns have been noted for their relationship to other behavior patterns that can signal a serious threat to an individual’s quality of life. Those who struggle with antisocial tendencies can also have an increased likelihood of pathological gambling, substance misuse and symptoms of other mental health disorders like anxiety.
A study published in the journal PLoS ONE and conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia explored the relationship between social cognition and antisocial behaviors in young adults. Led by Anita van Zwieten of the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sweden, the study included 91 participants being treated for psychological disorders.
Causes of Psychopathic Traits
The participants were all between the ages of 15 and 25, which represents a developmental period in which mental disorders can often emerge. The participants were given performance tests which measured attention levels, IQ, social cognition and memory functions.
The results demonstrated that those participants that measured lowest on the tests of social cognition also had the highest occurrence of antisocial characteristics. Even when the results were controlled for factors such as gender, memory scores, attention levels and IQ, the relationship persisted.
A significant connection was identified between alcohol abuse and low scores on social cognition tests, with alcohol being used as a way to cope with psychopathic tendencies.
Benefits Of Programs Designed For Psychopathic Traits
According to Zwieten, the findings illustrate the potential benefits for treating young adult patients with programs that are specifically designed for psychopathic traits. The treatment could include addressing emotional regulation and reaction in combination with tools to improve attention levels and problem solving capabilities.
These types of treatment programs could be particularly helpful for teens and young adults who exhibit high levels of antisocial traits while also receiving low scores on social cognition measures, says Zwieten.
Helping teens address antisocial tendencies can allow them to learn new behaviors and ensure that their transition into adulthood is marked by healthy behavior patterns, rather than choices that lead to unemployment and a lack of social networks.
Learn More About The Effects Of Antisocial Disorder