Sociopathic Traits in Children

According to the website Sociopathic.net, approximately three in every 100 grown men in the general population are sociopathic. Women are not as frequently afflicted. Research has indicated that both genetic and physical factors as well as environment can create a sociopathic personality. Children can, and do, exhibit sociopathic traits.

A close-up of a child's drawing. (Image: tzahiV/iStock/Getty Images)

History

Sociopathic.net reports that medical science first recognized the concept of psychopathology in the early 1800s. The American Psychiatric Association coined the term sociopathology as a separate form of psychopathology in 1952. Psychopathology is now a broad umbrella covering several disorders, including sociopathology.

Definitions

According to Sociopathic.net, a sociopath is someone who intentionally defies or disregards laws and rules of acceptable behavior. The diagnosis of a child younger than 15 or 16 years old who exhibits these traits is conduct disorder. Once a child reaches his late teen years, the diagnosis changes to sociopathology, also commonly referred to as antisocial personality disorder.

Causes

A potentially sociopathic child is often born with abnormalities in the front lobe area of her brain that controls judgment and a balanced perception between her own needs and those of others. Head injury or disease can also cause these abnormalities. A child's home life can have an impact, as well. On his website Psychpage, Richard Niolan, Ph.D., says that a sociopathic child might view her parents as being indifferent or uncaring. If a parent isn't actively involved in her child's life and she suffers from a physical problem that might make her prone to sociopathic behavior, she might never learn accepted norms of society. She would believe that she can do whatever she wants as long as no one catches her at it. She perceives her role model parent as someone who puts her own needs first, also.

Variations

A sociopathic child can sometimes differentiate between sources of guilt, according to Niolan. He might perceive that something done to him is wrong, but only because it hurt him. He rarely feels that any of his own actions are wrong because he isn't capable of understanding that his behavior hurts others.

Manifestations

A sociopathic child will usually behave as though any action on her part is justifiable if it means that she got what she wanted. The website Your-Emotional-Wellness lists pathological lying as another manifestation of this disorder, along with the inability to feel guilt. A sociopathic child might have a hard time planning ahead because she can't conceive that any single action might be the result of another. Your-Emotional-Wellness also indicates that a sociopathological child is incapable of checking her emotions and might fly off the handle easily.

Remedies and Treatment

Sociopathic.net indicates that there is very little parents can do to eliminate this kind of behavior in their child, but there are things they can do to make it worse. Be consistent in your parenting and resist the urge to give up when it doesn't seem to make a difference. The University of Vermont College of Medicine suggests multisystemic therapy by a professional. This is usually home-based, and involves several hours of counseling per day over a course of months. It includes skill training, school intervention and case management.

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