Psychopathy update: Is your child becoming a psychopath?


According to statistics, one percent of the population are psychopaths. The horrific label, however, shouldn’t be directly associated to children who exhibit callousness, violence towards others, lying and misbehaviour.

“Especially when we’re talking about younger people, we don’t use the term psychopathy,” said psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, the president and CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation in NYC. Mental health experts rather use the term conduct disorder — which refers to those who are completely insensitive to others’ rights and don’t acknowledge social norms and rules.

“A child who has a diagnosis of conduct disorder may be showing… aggression towards other people,” Dr. Borenstein explained, adding clear signs such as bullying, harming, and threatening or intimidating others, as well as lying, stealing, cruelty to animals and destruction of properties should alarm the parents.

Psychologist Dr. David Blackburn from Baylor Scott and White Health in Texas pointed out that children with conduct disorder most likely develop their misbehaviour at home.

Dr. Blackburn explained that a child with this disorder “often actively refuses to comply with requests from authority figures such as parents and teachers, not doing chores around the house or homework assignments.” He added that blaming others for one’s misbehaviour is common when subjected for punishment.

To prevent these children from growing into a full-blown psychopath, Robert Hare, who created the clinical diagnosis, Hare Psychopathy Checklist Revised, advised parents to respond with early intervention and sign up for therapies that will “get these children to act more in line with what society expects.”

According to Hare, behavioural programs could at least “try to train them to feel emotions” and “get them to look out for themselves in a different way, to develop an enlightened self-interest.”

Psychopaths may not all be killers but they could be of harm to society through their absence of empathy as well as their manipulative, parasitic and sadistic nature.