Manon van Beeck: ‘Tilburg University students score low on psychopathy’

A literature search, laboratory experimentation or working with SPSS? Tilburg University students write the most diverse dissertations. In the graduate dissertation section, Universe highlights one each month. This time: five questions to Manon van Beeck. She studied Victimology and Clinical Retsic Psychology and wrote a thesis on the relationship between substance abuse at a young age and the development of psychopathic traits.

Illustration: Jeroen de Leijer

What is your manuscript about?

“I investigated whether insecure attachment affects the relationship between childhood abuse and the development of psychopathic traits later in life. We know that experiencing child abuse can lead to the development of psychopathic traits. Characteristic of psychopaths is that they have no empathy for others and strive to make everything go as well as possible for themselves, without taking others into account.

The absence of a healthy relationship with the parent or caregiver, also known as insecure attachment, can also lead to psychopathy. Yet the sum of these three factors had not yet been correlated. My hypothesis was that child abuse does not lead directly to psychopathy, but takes a detour through insecure attachment because the extra factor makes victims of child abuse unable to build good relationships. ”

How did you prove it?

“I got a large group of first-year students to evaluate three lists of statements, where they were asked about the three aspects. First, I asked them if they had experienced child abuse. About insecure attachment included statements like “I have a hard time trusting others” and “I get frustrated when others are not available when I need them.” To test psychopathic complaints in students, statements such as: ‘The most important thing for me is to take care of myself, I am not interested in others’.

“Based on the scores on the three factors, I was able to determine the relationship of dependence between insecure attachment and psychopathy with a statistical analysis. The good news is that students from Tilburg University scored low on psychopathy. So I hope one school shooting will not take place on campus for the time being. Nevertheless, there appeared to be a significant correlation between subjects who had experienced both child abuse and insecure attachment, and their psychopathy scores.

“In any case, the relationship is so great that I recommend repeating the same research among ‘real’ psychopaths. My research was conducted in a non-representative group, and I believe that a recurrence among a clinical group could provide more insight into behavioral disorders in people with psychopathic traits. “

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Photo: Jack Tummers.

What are your most striking results?

“There are several ways in which it can be expressed that you were never taught to have a healthy relationship as a child. Some people think only of themselves and do not need relationships. Others want to enter into a relationship but think that the other person will disappoint them and therefore refrain from it. My research showed that these two forms are directly related to the development of psychopathic traits, I found a positive connection.

“I also found a negative connection that surprised me. People who are constantly seeking confirmation due to insecure attachment and who want to enter into social relationships score lower on psychopathy. In that case, the insecure attachment is precisely a protective factor that does not lead to the development of psychopathic traits. ”

What makes your specialty unique?

“As I mentioned, these three factors have not been linked before, although research has been done into the relationship between psychopathy on the one hand and child abuse or insecure attachment on the other. In that sense, the research was very innovative.

“It also made it difficult to write, because there was virtually no literature, so I had to look carefully at how I could substantiate my results. I’m pretty proud of that, even though I have to say I was very lucky that I just got assigned this topic. On the other hand: of course you have to do something about the opportunities that are offered. ”

Do you have any tips for other thesis writers?

“It will probably be different from person to person, but for me it worked well to start on time. And take a little distance every now and then. What you as a thesis writer have no influence on, but what helps, is a dedicated thesis supervisor. It’s nice to be able to spar and ask ‘stupid’ questions. The excellent result of my thesis can therefore partly be attributed to my supervisor. ”

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