Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Jules71, Aug 28, 2012.

  1. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    NY Times article. Have you read it? What do you think?

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/m...a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html?pagewanted=all

    Snipped from the article:
    " Michael’s problems started, according to his mother, around age 3, shortly after his brother Allan was born. At the time, she said, Michael was mostly just acting “like a brat,” but his behavior soon escalated to throwing tantrums during which he would scream and shriek inconsolably. These weren’t ordinary toddler’s fits. “It wasn’t, ‘I’m tired’ or ‘I’m frustrated’ — the normal things kids do,” Anne remembered. “His behavior was really out there. And it would happen for hours and hours each day, no matter what we did.” For several years, Michael screamed every time his parents told him to put on his shoes or perform other ordinary tasks, like retrieving one of his toys from the living room. “Going somewhere, staying somewhere — anything would set him off,” Miguel said. These furies lasted well beyond toddlerhood. At 8, Michael would still fly into a rage when Anne or Miguel tried to get him ready for school, punching the wall and kicking holes in the door. Left unwatched, he would cut up his trousers with scissors or methodically pull his hair out. He would also vent his anger by slamming the toilet seat down again and again until it broke."
     
  2. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    I think there is a whole lot of information missing in order to determine why that little boy is so angry and frustrated. He could have been abused. He could be on the spectrum and is being punished for his frustrations which are now upping his behavioral responses. And he could have a whole host of other issues. I also think vistas of understanding can open up when we assume the child is trying their best. They may have developed maladaptive ways of coping, but when we understand their perspective we are much better equipped to help.
     
  3. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Well, there ARE tendencies. There is something called the McDonald Triad that can be predictive of antisocial personality disorder tendencies in children. The three big red flags (and they HAVE to all occur in the same child) are cruelty to animals, peeing and pooping inappropriately, and fascination with fire/fire setting.

    In children, antisocial behavior is often part of reactive attachment disorder or impending Conduct Disorder. There are studies out now that indicate that children of antisocials are more likely to be. Genetic? They don't know yet. But people who adopt children with antisocial parents are more likely to have a child with antisocial behavior, no matter how well they raise them. There are certain traits, such as impulsivity, risk taking and lack of fear of discipline or authority figures that make people more likely to disregard social norms and become criminals. Is it a sure thing? I don't think so. But there are red flags...

    The child Michael described above is acting out, but he isn't displaying any of the really severe antisocial symptoms such as t he McDonald Triad, lying, stealing, etc. Sounds more like he has some sort of undiagnosed childhood disorder.

    We adopted a child who had severe reactive attachment disorder and that is equal to adult antisocial personality disorder. He was 11 when we got him. His life had probably been horrific before us, so that's obviously a contributing factor. He killed animals, set little fires in our house, sexually abused our younger kids, and lied like he breathed, but he acted like an angel to adults to, sadly, it took us a while to figure out what was going on. He is married with two little girls now. I shudder to think of those poor babies. He is supposed to be signed up as a sexual predator, but he's not. And hub and I are t oo afraid of him to alert the authorities that he is out there and not signed up. Sorry, I got off track, but child psychopathes do exist.
     
  4. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I'm with-MWM. This kid has communication issues--either verbal or auditory or both--possibly sensory disorders, and could be on the spectrum. I would also need to know his behavior in early years, as a baby, whether he had a lot of ear infections or allergies, or gut issues, and also whether he was abused.
    Sooo much here is unknown.
    In the meantime, I'd say no to psychopath.
    Typically, psychopaths can't/don't feel emotions. They are observers. This kid is a LOUD, ANXIOUS, UNWILLING participant.
     
  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Oh, now that I think about it, I've read this article before. I remember thinking that the camp was ill-suited to these kids, and that the psychologist who suggested psychopathy was all wet. And that it annoyed me that the parents were therapist-hopping.
    Just my 2 cents worth.
     
  6. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    "In many children, though, the signs are subtler. Callous-unemotional children tend to be highly manipulative, Frick notes. They also lie frequently — not just to avoid punishment, as all children will, but for any reason, or none. “Most kids, if you catch them stealing a cookie from the jar before dinner, they’ll look guilty,” Frick says. “They want the cookie, but they also feel bad. Even kids with severe A.D.H.D.: they may have poor impulse control, but they still feel bad when they realize that their mom is mad at them.” Callous-unemotional children are unrepentant. “They don’t care if someone is mad at them,” Frick says. “They don’t care if they hurt someone’s feelings.” Like adult psychopaths, they can seem to lack humanity. “If they can get what they want without being cruel, that’s often easier,” Frick observes. “But at the end of the day, they’ll do whatever works best.”"

    In the example above, my difficult child would not feel bad about taking the cookie and me being upset with him. He would be mad about getting caught. It's like he does not naturally know how to care about people's feelings.
     
  7. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    This is Aspi-like behavior. It's the lack of perspective. In his mind he wanted a cookie and you are thwarting him from his goal. Maybe you let him have a cookie the day before at the same time. Maybe he had planned to go eat that cookie for the last hour. He is probably wondering why you don't care about his feelings, why you don't care that he is hungry for a cookie, why you don't care that he planned out getting that cookie for the last hour. Please know, that as a neurotypical person, I can see both perspectives and just like kids on the Spectrum lack the ability to see the neurotypical, multi-faceted perspective, it seems quite often that neurotypicals just cannot accept the limits persons on the spectrum have in perspective-taking. It is not that they are trying to be bad, annoy you, etc, it is because they are concerned about themselves first-that is just how they are wired. It does not make them psychopathic.
     
  8. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    Thank you. It's so hard to know what's what. It seems like they will fit in whichever box we try to put them in. I have a hard time with subjectiveness. I wish I could know for certain. I guess having an understanding about all of these possibilities helps.
     
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Jules, I went through this a few mo's ago, iow, the psychopath thing. Turned out that my aspie-maybe-bipolar son was doing drugs.
    What a relief! Strange, to be relieved, but hey, drugs are temporary. :)
    But he was even meaner and more self involved than before, plus he was lying, lying, lying.
    Not that I'm suggesting your son is doing drugs, just that so many of the behaviors are similar.
     
  10. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    JMO... but the "psychopath" label, to me, is the LAST on the list. You assume everything else under the sun first, because all of the other stuff has answers, explanations, etc. - psychopath doesn't. Yes, it's possible to have faced so much in the very early years that a child can be a psychopath at this age. MWM had one in her house. But when I read this article? I'd be very wary of the "psychopath" label - there's just too many other options that also fit, and we don't have enough background to know which or whether any of them fit.
     
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    \\
    Disagree here. Kids on the spectrum can and often are very impulsive. But I'm in a group of parents who have Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids. They tend to have very soft hearts and a lot of empathy deep inside and most are horrified when caught doing something wrong. My nineteen year old will cry like a baby and beg forgiveness. That is what, from talking to other parents, these kids seem to behave like. They do understand right from wrong and, although they tend to be stoic kids, that does not mean they don't feel deeply inside. I would find it a red flag if any child is indifferent to getting caught doing something wrong unless he was so damaged that he truly didn't know it was wrong. Now there ARE spectrum kids with co-morbids that may cause this,b ut Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) alone shouldn't cause a lack of conscious or the inability to tell right from wrong.
     
  12. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    The differentiation I make in egocentric behaivior in autism, is that there isn't intention to hurt or upset the another person, but if someone is hurt or upset and the child is being reprimanded for a self-centered action, I think they have a very difficult time being drawn away from their reasons and into perspective taking. I know a few Aspie kiddos whose reaction to being thwarted (either by being asked to stop an action (put that cookie back) or begin a new one) react with meltdowns. And as I'm sure any who has seen the throws of a meltdown, there isn't a whole lot of higher level cognition going on at that moment and definitely not perspective taking or empathy. I think this is where collaborative problem solving can have use with the persons on the spectrum that struggle with seeming to care, it lets people at least talk during a calm time and get all viewpoints heard. I wonder if Jules' child, would 'crack' a little during quiet moments of perspective taking and by crack, I do not mean, 'oh mommy, I am so sorry that my cookie-taking upset you', but more like, 'mom, I didn't know I needed to wait until after dinner. Next time I will wait until after dinner." In ALOT of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids that is equal to a hug, kiss and everlasting promise to please mom.
     
  13. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I think all Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids are different. And Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids tend to mature and evolve. My son hasn't had a meltdown since he was eight.

    I do not think Jules child is a psychopath. Having lived with one, not even close!
     
  14. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    This is a great conversation. I appreciate all the viewpoints.

    My difficult child appears callous and uncaring in the moment and on the surface but much later on he will reflect and feel bad but he internalizes it. It comes out as "I hate myself" or "I want to die" rather than "I'm sorry for what I did". Does that make sense? If he hurts his brother he will act like he doesn't care or may even laugh. I am hoping to God he feels bad but just doesn't show it. I really think he internalizes it. I just don't understand the calculated and premeditated ways he terrorizes people. I don't understand the function he is serving when he does this.
     
  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Is he really "terrorizing" anyone or just teasing or pushing his brother?

    My Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) son will often say "I hate myself" or similar stuff when he has done something wrong.
     
  16. whatamess

    whatamess New Member

    Define terrorizing. And is calculated=predictable, like everytime little brother asks annoying questions, big brother scares him? How about, instead of asking the potentially Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), rigid, easily annoyed, child to change- ask little brother to leave big brother alone while he is on the computer?
     
  17. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    This is what my son is like. Good description, whatamess.

    I think they have a very difficult time being drawn away from their reasons and into perspective taking. I know a few Aspie kiddos whose reaction to being thwarted (either by being asked to stop an action (put that cookie back) or begin a new one) react with meltdowns. And as I'm sure any who has seen the throws of a meltdown, there isn't a whole lot of higher level cognition going on at that moment and definitely not perspective taking or empathy.
     
  18. chique11

    chique11 New Member

    Wow. Great discussion. It sounds hopeful here. Im learning about my son and able to relate here. Thank u
     
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