Mealey Comm belsky

From: Whitehead Sonia (
Date: Fri May 22 1998 - 17:05:13 BST


Belsky introduces his evolutionary theory of socialisation
(Belsky, Steinberg and Draper, 1991) and states that it has
much in common with Melaey's view of secondary sociopathy.
Both approaches take the viewpoint that influences in early
child development can lead to the promotion of sociopathy.

> Building upon the same sociobiological foundations as
> Mealey, these theorists argued that humans have evolved
> to be responsive to their rearing circumstances in the
> service of reproductive goals.

This suggests that "secondary sociopathy" results from
difficult environmental circumstances where a way to be
successful is to behave in a detached, opportunistic style
where the best can be made out of a bad situation. This
view suggests that secondary sociopathy is a successful
reproductive strategy or at least likely to be more
successful than if the environment is allowed to dominate
behaviour. When children only have insecure attachments
with their children, they are more likely to develop an
opportunistic style as they have learned through negative
reinforcement not to trust or respect those around them.
However, these sociopaths will only be successful if there
are enough "suckers" to exploit.

> this developmental trajectory, Belsky et al. argued was
> part and parcel of a reproductive strategy designed to
> favor growth and mating over parenting and thus was
> hypothesized to be associated with earlier timing of
> puberty, earlier onset of sexual activity, unstable pair
> bonds and limited parental investment

This view supports that of Mealey that "secondary
sociopaths" are likely to go through puberty earler and are
also likely to have higher levels of Testosterone than
those not exhibiting sociopathic behaviour.

Belsky questions whether a sociopathic-inducing environment
would foster (secondary) sociopathic behaviour among all
genotypes. According to Mealey, this is probablly so.
However, this relationship seems too simple as some people
brought up in a challenging environment may respond by

> deferring sexual behaviour and establishing pair bonds in
> childhood.

Belsky raises the question of whether secondary sociopathy
is a continuoous or categorical construct:-

> varying exposure to harsh, insensitive and inconsistent
> rearing systematically fosters varying degrees of
> sociopathic behaviour.

Mealey seems to describe secondary sociopathy as a more
genral behaviour which is affected by environmental and
developmental cnstraints. Obviously, the influence of
these constraints varies depending on the genotype of the
individual and the feedback that they recieve when
exhibiting signs of antisocial behaviour. It is unclear
where the line is between individuals who sometimes exhibit
sociopathic behaviour at discrete times when the devious
behaviour is beneficial and those who use this behaviour
more frequently and could be termed as being secondary
sociopaths. I am in agreement with Belsky in that Mealey's
definition of secondary sociopathy needs to be more

> might there be a point in development after which
> deflection from a sociopathic developmental trajectory
> would be less rather than more likely?

Belsky raises the above point but the above question is
dependent on how secondary sociopathy is defined. Do
secondary sociopaths and primary sociopaths need to be
similar in brain chemistry?

(I have to go now, I will finish this answer tomorrow -
sorry about the break).

Whitehead Sonia

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