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General Sociocultural Causal Factors for Personality Disorders

General Sociocultural Causal Factors for Personality Disorders

The sociocultural factors that contribute to personality disorders are not well understood. As with other forms of psychopathology, the incidence and particular features of personality disorders vary somewhat with time and place, although not as much as one might guess (Allik, 2005 ; Rigozzi et al., 2009 ). Indeed, there is less variance across cultures than within cultures. This may be related to findings that all cultures (both Western and non-Western, including Africa and Asia) share the same five basic personality traits discussed earlier, and their patterns of covariation also seem universal (see Allik, 2005 , for a review).

Some researchers believe that certain personality disorders have increased in American society in recent years (e.g., Paris, 2001 ). If this claim is true, we can expect to find the increase related to changes in our culture’s general priorities and activities. Is our emphasis on impulse gratification, instant solutions, and pain-free benefits leading more people to develop the self-centered lifestyles that we see in more extreme forms of the personality disorders? For example, there is some evidence that narcissistic personality disorder is more common in Western cultures, where personal ambition and success are encouraged and reinforced (e.g., Widiger & Bornstein, 2001 ). There is also some evidence that histrionic personality might be expected to be (and is) less common in Asian cultures, where sexual seductiveness and drawing attention to oneself are frowned on; by contrast, it may be higher in Hispanic cultures, where such tendencies are common and well tolerated (e.g., Bornstein, 1999 ). Within the United States, rates of BPD are higher in Hispanic Americans than in African Americans and Caucasians, but rates of schizotypal personality disorder are higher in African Americans than in Caucasians (Chavira et al., 2003 ).

It has also been suggested that known increases over the 60 years since World War II in emotional dysregulation (e.g., depression, self-injurious behavior, and suicide) and impulsive behaviors (substance abuse and criminal behavior) may be related to increases in the prevalence of borderline and ASPDs over the same time period. This could stem from increased breakdown of the family and other traditional social structures (Paris, 2001 , 2007 ) and may vary across cultures depending on whether similar breakdowns have occurred.

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