Child Psychopaths — Are They Real?

The groundbreaking HBO documentary “Child of Rage” years ago showed how horrific abuse and neglect could turn a child into a psychopath. But what about the kids who aren’t abused? What about the ones who, for no discernible reason, do horrible things to other people?

Experts are divided about whether it’s right to label a child as a psychopath. On the one hand, their brains are still developing; since psychopathy is largely considered untreatable, such a label would carry a heavy, life-altering stigma. On the other hand, identifying “callous-unemotional” children early could allow for successful treatment — or at least a heads-up to society.

But reaching such a diagnosis can be tricky. Certain tendencies, like narcissism and impulsiveness, that are obvious signs of a psychopath are also part and parcel of childhood. And callous-unemotional kids are often extremely intelligent; they’re able to lie and manipulate without remorse, making it harder to understand what they’re doing and why.


In “Child of Rage,” 6-year-old Beth opens her blue eyes wide and calmly tells her psychiatrist how she’d like to hurt, and even kill, her adoptive parents — a Baptist preacher and his wife — and her biological brother. She’s calm and conversational as she describes how she has deliberately harmed and killed animals, how she drives pins into her brother and sexually molests him, how she repeatedly slammed his head into a cement floor and only stopped because someone caught her.

Beth suffered extreme physical and sexual abuse and neglect by her biological parents, which experts say could explain her detached, calculating demeanor and her lack of “a sense of conscience.” But some other “kid psychopaths” seem to have grown up surrounded by love and affection.

Some experts say that psychopathy, like other mental illnesses, may have a genetic component; others think that it is a neurological condition all its own, like autism is, though it’s not part of the autism spectrum. Though some psychologists believe one can start seeing psychopathic traits as early as age 5, there is not yet a definitive test for children that young.

In your opinion, is it nature or nurture that pushes a child to become a psychopath? Voice out!

Source: Yahoo News

Image: Parent 24