A review on the relationship between testosterone and the interpersonal/affective facet of psychopathy
SourcePsychiatry Research, 197, 3, (2012), pp. 181-198
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OW PsKI [owi]
SW OZ BSI KLP
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment
Testosterone (T) has received increasing interest in the recent years as a probable biological determinant in the etiology of male-biased clinical conditions such as psychopathy (i.e. psychopathy is more prevalent in men and leads to an earlier onset and more severe expression of antisocial and aggressive behavior in men compared to women). In this review, the authors evaluated the potential relationship between T and different constructs closely related to the core characteristics of psychopathy (affective empathy, fear-reactivity, and instrumental aggression). After a thorough examination of the literature, it is concluded that high T exposure in utero and high circulating T levels throughout important life phases (most notably adolescence) or in response to social challenges (e.g. social stress, competition) could be an important etiological risk factor in the emergence of psychopathic behavior. Nevertheless, studies consistently indicate that high T is not related to a significantly reduced fear-reactivity and is only indirectly associated with the increased levels of instrumental aggression observed in psychopathic individuals. Therefore, psychopathy is likely to arise from an interaction between high T levels and other biological and socio-psychological risk factors, such as a constitutionally based dampened fear-reactivity, insecure/disordered attachment processes in childhood, and social discrimination/rejection in adolescence and/or adulthood.
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