Antisocial Behavior: Causes & Symptoms

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  • 0:04 Antisocial Behavior
  • 1:02 Development of Symptoms
  • 1:57 Causes & Factors
  • 3:19 Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  • 4:07 Antisocial Personality…
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Antisocial behavior can begin as early as preschool and manifests as angry and defiant behavior. The causes of antisocial behavior can be biological or environmental. Learn about the symptoms, causes, and several antisocial behavioral and personality disorders in this lesson.

Antisocial Behavior

Brock is a 15-year-old sophomore in high school who is constantly getting suspended for fighting. He has been in trouble with the law for engaging in petty theft, punching a hole in a wall in the principal's office, and vandalizing a church. According to Brock's parents, he expresses no guilt or remorse for these actions and doesn't seem to care about anyone other than himself.

Brock is displaying antisocial behavior, which can be defined as angry, aggressive, hostile, and malevolent acts for which the perpetrator usually has a general lack of remorse for what he or she has done. These hostile acts can be overt (or obvious) or they can be covert (or secretive). Brock displays both overt and covert antisocial behaviors, where the emphasis is on overt behaviors. His overt behaviors include fighting, punching a hole in the wall, and vandalizing the church. His covert behavior include petty theft; he had hopes of getting away with that one.

Development of Symptoms

Symptoms of antisocial behavior can begin in preschool-aged children. In fact, half of the kids that exhibit numerous symptoms of antisocial behavior in elementary school still have those behaviors when they reach adolescence or even adulthood.

Symptoms of antisocial behavior include:

  • Apathy toward fulfilling household or school responsibilities
  • Blatant disrespect and disregard for others
  • Egotistical attitudes
  • Hostility and irritability
  • Inability to cooperate or share with other children during playtime
  • Insulting and showing a lack of concern for others
  • Lack of a moral code or standards
  • Repeated lying and manipulation of others
  • Risk-taking behaviors that can harm the self or others
  • And finally, the inability to appreciate the consequences of those behaviors

Causes & Factors

The causes of antisocial behavior are complex; every case is different and dependent on many factors. Biological causes of antisocial behavior can include brain damage in utero, lack of oxygen to the brain in utero or at birth, or nervous system irregularities. Another biological theory is that individuals with antisocial behaviors require more neurological stimulation than others to become excited or happy. This can explain why antisocial individuals seem to engage in extreme risk-taking behaviors.

Environmental factors could also play a major role in the creation of an antisocial child. Environmental causes of antisocial behavior include but are not limited to:

  • Apathetic parents or caregivers who failed to meet the child's physical and emotional needs
  • Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Exposure to domestic abuse and violence in the home
  • Exposure to an unsafe and violent community
  • Exposure to violent media such as news, movies, television shows, and video games
  • Parents who use drugs
  • And, an unstable home life

If antisocial behavior is significant enough to cause serious problems at home, in school, and in other environments, it could meet the criteria for a behavioral disorder that would benefit from mental health treatment.

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