Original Research

‘I bu Delaila ji aguba’: Revisiting the perception of sociopaths in an African community

Paulinus O. Agbo
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 79, No 1 | a7973 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i1.7973 | © 2023 Paulinus O. Agbo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 July 2022 | Published: 25 January 2023

About the author(s)

Paulinus O. Agbo, Department of Religion & Cultural Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; and Humanities Unit, School of General Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria; and Department of Religion Studies, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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Reports of increasing family violence abound in Nigeria. Although studies have implicated cultural constructs as the basis for this trend, this study specifically contemplated the nexus between the increased violence and Anti-Social Personality Disorder (ASPD). The purpose of this study was to connect these abusive and violent behaviours in their specific contexts as evidence of ASPD. The study was hinged on autoethnographic research which I systematically analysed as lived experiences with a sociopath. Data for the analyses was drawn from purposively sampled participants (n-70) of victims of family violent abuse. Thematic, interpretative analytical approach and the theories of sociopathy, particularly Hare, Psychopathy Checklist-revised (PCL-R) were used to analyse the data from my personal experiences, and the interviews. The results indicated that only five participants representing 7.14% of the purposively selected population, admitted knowing sociopaths as conscienceless murderers and serial killers. The majority of participants (90%) contemplated sociopaths in religious terms (as incarnated evil beings). Only 2.86% rightly expressed their understanding of sociopathy and related personality disorders in a much-informed manner. Although the results of this study contrast with conventional propositions on ASPD, they revealed how religious belief and superstition among Nigerians frame the conversation on sociopathy and other variants of ASPD. Findings suggested that the growing superstitious beliefs on the causes, nature and remedy to ASPD particularly those associated with sociopathy provide the space for people living with these behavioural conditions (particularly violent sociopaths) to continue abusing unsuspecting individuals in the society.

Contribution: The finding of this study specifically challenged the faith-based misconceptions associated with ASPD. Therefore, it is expected that the new insight on ASPD, particularly sociopathy ushers in proper understanding and ways of dealing with the morally insane.


sociopaths; indigenous community; Delilah; Igbo; personality disorder; abuse; violence.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being


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