Psychiatric Annals

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CME Article 

Narcissism and Criminality

Michael H. Stone, MD

Abstract

I use the word “criminality” to signify an inveterate propensity to engage in antisocial acts of a type and magnitude that would, if the acts are subsequently detected and pursued, lead to arrest and criminal prosecution. I stress “if detected and pursued” because there are many persons, especially in positions of wealth or power, who engage in repeated antisocial acts that remain overlooked or undetected (by virtue of their cleverness or power), or if detected, remain unpursued. Such acts need not involve violence, since crimes against property, including stock manipulation and fraud, would also come under this heading. The notion of “inveterate” or “chronic” is also important, since one regularly hears of spectacular crimes of violence that are committed as once-in-a-lifetime acts by persons who never before and never again indulge in criminal behaviors. An example of the latter is that of Cindy Campbell, who persuaded her boyfriend to kill her parents. She had been molested incestuously by her father, and she sought revenge by killing him as he slept in bed. Her mother was killed along with the father simply because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time (ie, sleeping next to her husband). Campbell, in her personality profile, was not even narcissistic but was borderline and histrionic.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael H. Stone, MD, is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry: Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Director of Outcome Studies, MidHudson Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

Address correspondence to: Michael H. Stone, 225 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-6027; or e-mail: mstonemd@aol.com.

Dr. Stone has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

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  • Identify the connection between narcissistic personality traits and the tendency of criminal behavior.
  • Explain the manner in which certain psychiatric disorders magnify the tendency of narcissistic traits and antisocial behaviors.
  • Discuss the variety of prenatal and post-natal (environmental) factors that contribute to the evolution of violent criminality in certain narcissistic persons.
  • Abstract

    I use the word “criminality” to signify an inveterate propensity to engage in antisocial acts of a type and magnitude that would, if the acts are subsequently detected and pursued, lead to arrest and criminal prosecution. I stress “if detected and pursued” because there are many persons, especially in positions of wealth or power, who engage in repeated antisocial acts that remain overlooked or undetected (by virtue of their cleverness or power), or if detected, remain unpursued. Such acts need not involve violence, since crimes against property, including stock manipulation and fraud, would also come under this heading. The notion of “inveterate” or “chronic” is also important, since one regularly hears of spectacular crimes of violence that are committed as once-in-a-lifetime acts by persons who never before and never again indulge in criminal behaviors. An example of the latter is that of Cindy Campbell, who persuaded her boyfriend to kill her parents. She had been molested incestuously by her father, and she sought revenge by killing him as he slept in bed. Her mother was killed along with the father simply because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time (ie, sleeping next to her husband). Campbell, in her personality profile, was not even narcissistic but was borderline and histrionic.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Michael H. Stone, MD, is Professor of Clinical Psychiatry: Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Director of Outcome Studies, MidHudson Forensic Psychiatric Hospital.

    Address correspondence to: Michael H. Stone, 225 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024-6027; or e-mail: mstonemd@aol.com.

    Dr. Stone has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

    EDUCATIONAL OBJECTIVES

    <>

  • Identify the connection between narcissistic personality traits and the tendency of criminal behavior.
  • Explain the manner in which certain psychiatric disorders magnify the tendency of narcissistic traits and antisocial behaviors.
  • Discuss the variety of prenatal and post-natal (environmental) factors that contribute to the evolution of violent criminality in certain narcissistic persons.
  • 10.3928/00485713-20090401-08

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