From what you know of psychopaths, you’d think that they wouldn’t want to become parents and would instead just be happy focusing on themselves. But a new study has found that while men with psychopathic traits really do want to become dads, spending time raising those kids is an entirely different matter.
The study, which was published in Evolutionary Psychological Study, surveyed 255 young men about how they feel about relationships, parenthood, and their priorities in life — by asking them direct questions as well as showing them images of? their possible priorities in life, such as single women and infants. They also studied how many psychopathic traits each man displayed.
What they found was that men who displayed more psychopathic traits (egotism, dishonesty, manipulation, coldness, lack of responsibility) were predictable in lots of ways: they highly prioritized and invested in “mating” without caring much about improving themselves, understanding others, or building relationships.
But they found one surprising result: psychopaths often do indeed truly want to become parents. They just don’t want to spend any time or energy investing in those kids.
“We found that men higher in psychopathic traits were more likely to be fathers, even despite their lower time and energy spent with their children,” study author Kristopher Brazil explained to PsyPost. “Thus, psychopathic men might be parasitic fathers who have lots of children but export the care of those children onto the mothers and/or others.”
In more scientific terms, the authors explained that men with psychopathic traits love having babies, they just don’t care at all about changing diapers.
“Our results agree with previous research but extend them by showing that while they engage in lower somatic [self-caring] behavior, men higher in psychopathic traits do not appear to have aversive reactions towards infant stimuli and are more likely to be parents themselves,” the study explains. “We argue that these patterns are consistent with a parasitic parenting strategy that focuses on mating while depending on others to invest in their children.”
So, what is a parasitic father?
It’s someone who wants to benefit from their child — and not the other way around. These fathers do not invest much time, effort, or energy into their kids and instead offload them to others — much like parasitic parents in nature who leave their kids in other animal’s nests.
The study stresses that we don’t yet know why psychopathic men wish to be parents and then tend to shirk responsibility when it becomes a reality.
“Perhaps psychopathic men know that disliking children might not help them attract more mates, so they view stimuli associated with children at least neutrally,” Brazil told PsyPost. “Or perhaps they are self-deceived: thinking they like children and would like to have them, and thus do find them as appealing as other men, but when they become fathers, they just don’t have it in them to provide parental care.”
And here’s the kicker: men with psychopathic traits tend to have more kids than other men, not less.
“Men with psychopathic traits don’t seem to have an issue finding partners and having children. This is not just shown in our study, but many others as well, including studies examining offenders,” Brazil said in the same interview. “Yet despite attracting partners and having children, they are supportive of neither, but instead seem driven to move on to the next romantic thrill, only to repeat the pattern again.”
Well, that seems terrible.