The Etiology and Treatment of Antisocial Behavior: A Biopsychosocial Approach

Shichun Ling, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

While contemporary perspectives on the etiology and treatment of antisocial behavior often emphasize sociological explanations, there is a re-emergence of research examining biological influences of antisocial behavior. Nevertheless, the incorporation of biological factors in criminological research remains limited. This dissertation consists of four papers that examine how biological factors can provide insights into the etiology and treatment of antisocial behavior. Paper 1 examined frontal lobe as a neural correlate of gray-collar offending, a form of white-collar offending, in adult males. In contrast to reduced frontal lobe volume typically associated with conventional offending, increased frontal lobe volume was found to be associated with gray-collar offending, suggesting that some individuals may have an advantage in perpetrating crimes in occupational and avocational settings and providing support for an etiological process model of gray-collar offending that differs from that of conventional offending. Paper 2 assessed the relationship between amygdala volume and callous-unemotional traits (CU) in a community youth sample. Findings indicated that females with high CU traits exhibited rightward amygdala volume asymmetry while females with low CU traits had no asymmetry; in contrast, males with high CU traits fail to show an amygdala volume asymmetry while males with low CU traits showed rightward asymmetry. These findings suggest divergent sex-related neurodevelopmental profiles for youth with high and low CU traits. Paper 3 evaluated emotional intelligence as a mediator of the relationship between autonomic functioning and psychopathy in adult males. Results suggested that blunted autonomic functioning is associated with impaired emotional intelligence, which in turn is associated with increased psychopathy. Paper 4 investigated the causal role of the prefrontal cortex in aggressive and antisocial behavior in a sample of healthy adults. Although yielding null results, the study suggests the importance of considering functional asymmetries, neural connectivity, and sample characteristics on neuromodulation effects. Altogether, these studies have the potential to advance criminological theory as well as treatment and intervention by identifying biopsychosocial influences of antisocial behavior. Importantly, these studies provide support that the inclusion of biological factors into theoretical and empirical criminological research can yield valuable insights and implications for the etiology and treatment of antisocial behavior.

Subject Area

Criminology|Neurosciences|Psychology

Recommended Citation

Ling, Shichun, "The Etiology and Treatment of Antisocial Behavior: A Biopsychosocial Approach" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27956061.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI27956061

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