The Biological Perspective

The biological perspective recognizes that purely physical factors are often strongly associated with various personality traits. The value of biology in unraveling the origins of personality, however, is complicated by the nature of the personality disorders themselves, which exist as constellations of co-occurring traits, not single dimensions.

Moreover, many aspects of biology may be studied, including genetics and heredity, temperament, neurotransmitter profiles, brain morphology and irregularities, evoked potentials, constitution, and birth complications. How these various proximal, or biologically near, influences might interact and combine to influence personality development is largely unknown. Most factors are studied in isolation, if at all.

Some research has been directed toward the role of genetics, a distal influence on immediate behavior that comes down to us across millions of years of evolutionary time. The heritability of certain personality disorders is clearer, though the exact pathways remain speculative. Pedigree studies have shown that antisocial and criminal behavior is much more frequent in the fathers of antisocial children, even when the child is adopted away at birth so that the psychological influence of coping with an antisocial parent is eliminated (Cadoret, Troughton, Bagford, & Woodworth, 1990). Antisocial behavior in a fraternal or identical twin also raises the possibility that the other twin will also be antisocial, whether raised together or separately. If histrionic personality disorder is considered a dramatic caricature of what is female, just as the antisocial personality may be considered a dramatic caricature of what is male, we might expect that both disorders represent the same underlying genetic construct.

Cloninger and Guze (1975) argued essentially this thesis, showing that hysteria is common in families where the father is sociopathic. Cloninger (1978, p. 199) concluded that "hysteria is a more prevalent and less deviant manifestation of the same process which causes sociopathy." However, their definition of hysteria included a substantial illness-related component, today classified as part of the somatization disorders. The notion that antisocial and histrionic personalities might represent different expressions of the same underlying genetic pattern has been reexamined by Hamburger et al. (1996), who assessed major antisocial, psychopathic, and histrionic personality traits in conjunction with traditional masculine and feminine gender roles. The relationship between psychopathy and antisocial and histrionic personality traits was moderated by biological sex, not by gender role, thus arguing that antisocial and histrionic personality disorders may be considered a single entity whose expression depends on gender.

Recently, Cale and Lilienfeld (2002) based their research on the aforementioned Hamburger et al. (1996) study as they sought to demonstrate that the gender-differentiating behaviors between the histrionic and antisocial personality disorders are merely gender variants of psychopathology. Specifically, females would demonstrate the psychopathic features associated with histrionic personality disorder, whereas males would demonstrate that of the antisocial personality disorder. Their findings, however, were both "weak" and "inconsistent" in supporting this hypothesis. Though there was evidence that psychopathic females exhibited histrionic features while their male counterparts demonstrated antisocial features, the results were not statistically consistent enough to substantiate their hypothesis. With the limitations of the study considered, conclusions drawn from it do support sex-based differences between the two personality disorders in addition to confirming the common trait, impulsivity, shared between the two personalities. Clearly on the right track, this trend for determining biological bases for personality disorders is warranted. Meanwhile, further explanations for similarities between histrionic and antisocial personalities are considered.

The association between antisocial and histrionic personality disorders may also be understood as an example of assortative mating. Across many species, traits attractive to the opposite sex tend to become amplified over many generations; individuals possessing a superabundance of attractive traits simply have more mating opportunities.

Focus on Etiology

Histrionic and Antisocial Personality Disorders: A Common Etiology?

Can Similar Histories Contribute to Different Results?

Hamburger et al. (1996) postulate that similar histories contribute to different results, noting that the research literature shows higher than expected rates of comorbidity between the histrionic and antisocial personalities and that histrionic males show a high rate of antisocial behavior (Lilienfeld, Van Valkenburg, Larntz, & Akiskal, 1986; Luisada, Peele, & Pittard, 1974). Moreover, both personalities show an interaction between gender and prevalence rate, with the histrionic personality being identified more frequently in females and the antisocial more frequently in males (APA, 1994; Ford & Widiger, 1989; Kass et al., 1983). Because the disorders share a number of characteristics, particularly lack of impulse control, stimulus-seeking behavior, and a deficient conscience, these authors assert that both personalities represent different expressions of the same underlying problem: psychopathy. If so, females with psychopathic genes would be disposed to develop a histrionic personality, and males with psychopathic genes would be disposed to develop an antisocial personality.

To test this speculation, Hamburger et al. (1996) formed three hypotheses. First, individuals with high levels of psychopathy should exhibit more features of the histrionic and antisocial personalities than individuals with low levels of psychopathy. Second, psychopathic males should show more antisocial features, and psychopathic females should show more histrionic features. Third, this relationship should be mediated by adherence to social gender roles. A group of 180 undergraduates became experimental subjects. As expected, the higher the psychopathy score, the more likely subjects would show histrionic and antisocial features. A statistical technique known as path analysis was then used to examine the relationship between psychopathy and gender. The second hypothesis was also supported.

Some individuals, however, accumulate so many of these characteristics that they are biologically disposed from birth to caricature their sex. From this perspective, the histrionic and antisocial personalities become evolutionary inevitables. The histrionic is attracted to the hypermasculine antisocial, whose apparent strength, self-confidence, and risk-taking provide masculine displays she naturally finds attractive. In turn, the antisocial is naturally attracted to the childlike hypersexuality and impulsive sensation seeking of the histrionic.

Break Free From Passive Aggression

Break Free From Passive Aggression

This guide is meant to be of use for anyone who is keen on developing a better understanding of PAB, to help/support concerned people to discover various methods for helping others, also, to serve passive aggressive people as a tool for self-help.

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