Mary: Conduct Disorder to Antisocial Disorder- Trajectory of a Psychopath

Mary is a scary character. Her actions are not only those of spoiled child but they indicate a psychological disorder that is far more serious and dangerous. Lillian Hellman hints at the psychological disorder with Rosalie’s comment to Mary: “And who will wait upon you in the insane asylum?” (Act 1, 27).

According to the fourth and current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR)- a Conduct Disorder can be diagnosed using the following criteria (taken from Wikipedia, but also found in the DSM-IV-TR):

A. A repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated, as manifested by the presence of three (or more) of the following criteria in the past 12 months, with at least one criterion present in the past 6 months:

Aggression to people and animals

(1) often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others

(2) often initiates physical fights

(3) has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun)

(4) has been physically cruel to people

(5) has been physically cruel to animals

(6) has stolen while confronting a victim (e.g., mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery)

(7) has forced someone into sexual activity

Destruction of property

(8) has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage

(9) has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than by fire setting)

Deceitfulness or theft

(10) has broken into someone else’s house, building, or car

(11) often lies to obtain goods or favors or to avoid obligations (i.e., “cons” others)

(12) has stolen items of nontrivial value without confronting a victim (e.g., shoplifting, but without breaking and entering; forgery)

Serious violations of rules

(13) often stays out at night despite parental prohibitions, beginning before age 13 years

(14) has run away from home overnight at least twice while living in parental or parental surrogate home (or once without returning for a lengthy period)

(15) is often truant from school, beginning before age 13 years

B. The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

C. If the individual is age 18 years or older, criteria are not met for Antisocial Personality Disorder.


It seems likely that Mary could be diagnosed with a conduct disorder.

1. She often bullies and intimidates others. She intimidates Rosalie into moving her stuff to her new room and she bullies Peggy into giving her all of the money Peggy had saved.

2. She has been physically cruel to her friends Peggy and Evelyn-

“MARY makes a sudden move to her, grabs her L. arm, and jerks it back, hard and expertly. PEGGY screams softly. EVELYN tries to take MARY’s arm away. Without releasing her hold on PEGGY, MARY slaps EVELYN’s face. EVELYN backs away, begins to cry.” (30)

–          The word “expertly” implies that this is not the first time Mary has engaged in such behavior.

3. Mary often lies to get out of obligations. She lies to Lily Mortar about the flowers and she lies to her grandmother about Karen and Martha in order to get out of her punishment for lying about the flowers. Karen asks her, “Why, for example, do you find it necessary to lie to us so much?” (14)

4. Mary ran away from school.

5. Mary is often truant from school. Karen says to her “If you feel you have to take a walk, or you just can’t come to class, or that you’d like to go to the village by yourself, come and tell me—I’ll try and understand” (14) This implies that these are things that Mary does.

6. The disturbance in behavior does cause impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

7. Mary is only fourteen- not old enough to be diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is a step farther than Conduct Disorder (also from wikipedia but taken from the DSM-IV-TR)

Diagnostic criteria:

A) There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three or more of the following:

  1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  2. deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  3. impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
  4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
  7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;

B) The individual is at least age 18 years.

C) There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.

D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.


While not old enough to be diagnosed with Antisocial Disorder (formerly known as Psychopathic or Sociopathic disorder), Mary’s disregard for the feelings of others, and her lack of regret for the damage she causes hint at a chilling future for Mary if her grandmother does not act soon.

“Psychopaths have only a shallow range of emotions and lack guilt, says [expert, Robert Hare. They often see themselves as victims, and lack remorse or the ability to empathize with others.”

This sounds exactly like Mary. Yikes.

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Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 2:30 am Comments (0)

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