Psychopathy in Children: Spotting And Dealing With Psychopathic Kids

Do you believe your child may be showing signs of psychopathy or narcissism?

Kids with psychopathic characteristics often lack a sense of remorse and empathy and can be very uncaring, ill-mannered, and show little emotion.

Even though most children can be cruel from time to time, it does not mean they are antisocial. In the case of psychopathic children, there is no straight “yes” or “no” answer. Psychopathy is seen as a continuum and we can see specific signs in all children to some degree.

Can a child be a psychopath? 

If you fear that your kid may have psychopathic characteristics, then the first thing you must know is that psychopathy is not classified as a mental illness. The word is commonly used to categorize a number of behaviors and traits that present a person as callous, heartless, and cruel. In psychiatric terms, this pattern is widely known as Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and bestselling author, explains that n 2013, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) included the

condition ‘Conduct Disorder with Callous and Unemotional Traits’ for children ages 12 and over in its diagnostic manual, DSM-5. It’s a serious condition that reflects interpersonal deficits.”

This way of acting is often linked to dangerous behaviors.

Author Barbara Bradley Hagerty writes:

“Researchers shy away from calling children psychopaths; the term carries too much stigma, and too much determinism.”

According to Professor Stephen Scott from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, the condition in children is “largely unrecognized”.

“We don’t like using the word psychopath in under 18s, but there is a high continuity to becoming a so-called antisocial personality disorder with psychopathic traits,” Scott adds.

However, psychopath children haunted by “callous and unemotional traits” are usually aggressive, cruel, lack emotion and empathy, remorse or guilt, and are not bothered by the threat of punishment.

 “Callous and unemotional children have no trouble hurting others to get what they want. If they do seem caring or empathetic, they’re probably trying to manipulate you,” Barbara writes.

What does science say about psychopath children?

Surprisingly, it turns out that having psychopathic and narcissistic traits in minuscule doses can actually be helpful. Many CEO’s and politicians are known to have narcissistic characteristics. But when they are part of an extreme combination, it can lead to the creation of a dangerously antisocial individual.

According to research, some 1% of children possess antisocial traits during childhood. This can enable parents to spot signs of psychopathy when they grow up. However, it can often be hard for people to identify psychopath children as these kids are sometimes very smart and charming for their age. They can mimic social cues to hide the warning signs and come across as “normal”.

And these statistics can even be higher than what current research shows.

“Since mental health providers don’t use the label psychopath, however, the exact numbers aren’t known.

“Most of the mental health diagnoses often overlap with signs of psychopathy. Psychopathic children are often misdiagnosed with the oppositional defiant disorder,” writes Amy.

She adds:

“Then, during their teen years, they may be diagnosed with conduct disorder, which involves a persistent pattern of violating the rights of others and disregarding basic social rules.”

As a consequence, most kids are not being treated the right way and often become dangerous in their adult lives. 

Barbara writes,

“More than 50 studies have found that kids with callous and unemotional traits are more likely than other kids to become criminals or display aggressive, psychopathic traits later in life.”

But scientists believe that psychopathic children are not necessarily doomed to become killers and crazies.

It has been observed that 4 out of 5 kids with callous and cold traits do not show any signs of psychopathy in later life. Hence, it is vitally important to spot these troubling signs early on in children’s development and offer them proper care so that they can grow up to become decent in their adult lives.

According to a 2017 study,

“A thorough knowledge of family interactions, easily available for paediatricians, is crucial for early identification as well for a therapeutic alliance with parents and children.”

What are your thoughts on these findings? Let us know by joining the conversation in the comments and please share this article if you’ve found it of value. 

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