Best friend thinks my son is a sociopath???



Ok, my son has always been a difficult child, but I just figured it was his personality. He has been through a lot in the past few years, and he is only 5, so I have been saying since he could walk, "It's just a phase. We'll get through this." Some of my friends jokingly said that my son is a terror, and I said, "Oh, he's not that bad. He's just a boy." One of my close friends sat me down and said, "Amy, I'm a boy. I did not act that way when I was 5 years old. I don't know many kids who will simply ignore their mother and walk all over her the way he does you. Ask your best friend what she thinks if you don't believe me! She won't say it to your face unless you ask her for her opinion." So, I asked her opinion and was told, "Well, I believe the comment he's referring to was one night when J was being particularly difficult. I said something like, 'If he doesn't change the path he's on, he'll end up a sociopath.' But he just has some of the signs that concern me, that's all." So, as you can imagine, I was up until midnight reading the forums and finding information on sociopathic behavior in children. And now I'm scared. Is my son a sociopath?

He is the sweetest child when he wants to be! He is always asking, "Mom, are you happy at me?" because he doesn't want anyone upset. He's extremely social and knows no strangers, especially when outside or at school, but then he'll walk out of the room, grab the dogs tail and just keep walking with it! I'm like, "OK! When you were three, I could see this as, hey what happens when I do this? but you're 5! We've had this dog for 2 years! Leave the poor dog alone!"

As an only child for the first two years of his life, J was never lacking attention. He and I lived with my parents because I left an abusive relationship with his father when I found out I was pregnant. For the first 18 months of his life he lived in a house with 5 other adults (my parents, myself, and my two sisters when they graduated from college) and was the center of everyone's world. When he was 2, I remarried and he became the youngest of 4 children that I was now responsible for taking care of. We got our first family dog, and he was in love with her! He has always played too roughly with her, though, ever since she was a puppy. She will often growl or yelp and I know that he has hit her or pulled her tail in the other room and I have to run in to find out what is going on and make sure that she doesn't end up biting him! We adopted another small dog, a miniture poodle, about a year later, and she does not tolerate his annoyance as well, so he tends to avoid her, but the dog that he sees as "his" is constantly poked, pulled, laid on, kicked, or smacked, just to see what kind of a reaction will come. I don't know if this qualifies as hurting animals, and my mother says he's just trying to see what will happen, like studying cause and effect, but it scares me!

I have also read that bed wetting is another sign of sociopathy in children. He is five years old and I have to have him sleep in pull ups because otherwise he sleeps so soundly that he will wet the bed. For about a month I was letting him sleep without them because he said they were uncomfortable, but then I discovered that he was wetting his bed at night and then covering it with is blankets so that I couldn't feel that the bed was wet. When I changed the sheets this weekend, there were at least 4 stains on the leakproof matress cover from where he had wet the bed and then tried to hide it by covering it. I worried that it was the dog peeing in his room somewhere, but once I found the source of the smell and washed it, it has gone away.

J and I are on our own again because my second husband and I divorceed this summer, and J lost two older brothers and an older sister in the divorce. I was basically a single mother with four kids and a house to care for while my husband played video games or slept, and I could not handle the stress of it all by myself. When I left, my husband took his kids to another state and has not allowed us to see them since the beginning of August. I know this has had a tremendous effect on him and his behavior, but I don't know what to do other than make sure he has all the attention and love he needs.

J ignores me if I say something he doesn't want to hear. He will manipulate a situation to get what he wants, as well. He used to call my mother and tell her that I was drinking or something else that my mother didn't approve of, trying to get her to come pick him up from our house. He hasn't done that since I got a new cell phone that locks when not in use, but it really bothered me. I did not drink around him, even when I did drink, but I have stopped drinking, even just one drink, because I don't want him growing up with the wrong ideas or examples. J has no hesitation lying or stealing, and has been trying to take toys home with him from daycare since he was probably 3. The other day at school he got in trouble for stealing another child's candy from the treasure box, because he had not had a good day and did not get to pick from the treasure box that day. I often cannot tell if he is lying or not, and I don't know how to deal with it! I don't want to discipline him if he is telling the truth, but I have no way of knowing!!!

He has not hit me or his teachers or friends at school, but when he gets angry, he throws fits, turns over chairs, throws whatever is in his hands, and if we're at home, he'll throw whatever he has in his hands at me. I have threatened to take his stuffed animals off his bed on nights when he is being particularly difficult because I know that he will probably end up throwing them all off the bed into the floor and then use that as an excuse to get up again. Either that or he will throw them at me as I stand in the doorway.

Is my son displaying normal 5 year old behaviors, even for a 5 year old who has been through as much as he has lately? Or do I need to be concerned about this? Is my best friend right? Is my son a sociopath? How do I find a good doctor in my area? I mean, surely there is someone in the DFW area who he can see on a regular basis to help me figure out what's going on! We're in Arlington, so we're right in the middle of anything. I just don't know where to start or how to find a specialist. I feel so silly going to his pediatrician about this. I mean, I've never said anything about his behavior to her, and he's so smart! She's always complimenting him for being ahead for his age, and I'm terrified that this is all my imagination, fueled by my best friends tendency to overstate things.

Any advice would be welcome! Thanks!


Active Member
Hi Krimzon17, welcome to our forum.

Diagnosing a 5 year old as a sociopath isn't something that's likely but it does sound like there's some red flags for something going on when you describe his issues.

Are his teachers concerned about his behavior?
How's he doing with friends?
Is there any history of mental illness in the biological family? Parents, grandparents, close relatives?


Well-Known Member
I've raised five kids to the teenage years and, no, that is not normal five year old behavior. BUT...nobody here can tell you what the behavior is caused by either. He has been through so many changes in his young life. Maybe he has some attachment issues? I would personally have him see a neuropsychologist...they actually do better, more intensive testing than psychiatrists and a five year old is hard to diagnose. Did he ever see wild behavior, partying, etc? What about his biological father. I know you are not with him now, but 50% of your boy's genes are him, whoever he is. Did his bio. dad have psychiatric issues or substance abuse issues? How was your son's early development? Is he overly sensitive to sounds, light, crowds, food or material textures? Now my opinion on the puppy:
Rehome the poor dog. I rescue dogs and small dogs are really not recommended for young kids. They are nervous and high strung and can get hurt very badly. Kids can accidentally do things to dogs and really hurt them. If they do it on purpose, I would call it a red flag that something is going on. But I wouldn't freak out yet. He's only five. What I *would* do, is get him totally evaluated ASAP and go from there.
One last word of advice: Don't let lay people tell you what is wrong with your son. Get the diagnosis (which is the tester's best guess only) from a professional. If I were in your shoes, I would avoid dating for a long time because this kid doesn't need more men coming and going let alone siblings or playmates that may disappear when the man disappears.
Welcome to the board :) Glad you found us, but sorry you have to be here.


Active Member
That is not normal 5 year old behavior. You need to seek professional help for your son as soon as possible. I would start with both your pediatrician and the schools.

To give you hope, I was told that my oldest son (Eeyore in my signature) was a budding sociopath and would likely kill us in our sleep, when he was 6 years old. He is now 15 and a wonderful young man. But, he had intensive intervention through mental health services, medications and the school system. Those services and some warrior-parenting made all the difference.

This board is an amazing support as you sort it all out and move forward with your child. Welcome.


My daughter expresses her anger in rages like that, and you do need to take it very seriously and get him some professional help and diagnosis's ASAP. They only get bigger and stronger, and the longer his issues are ignored the rougher it's going to get. The trinity of sociopaths is fire setting/bed wetting/cruelty (to animals, people, etc). No, not all three have to be present. True sociopaths can't empathize and don't feel remorse, but they do get better at faking it over time. If he is already so good at lying that even you can't be certain, I would find that worrisome as well. A lot of this could be attention-getting behavior, but even if it is it could quickly progress to much worse. Enlist all the help you can, from family, teachers, doctors, and get him the help he needs.

You've got to hang in there and stay strong, this didn't all happen overnight and won't be corrected overnight, either. It's a process. You've found a great place here that does understand what you're going through, and you will need a support system for yourself, as well. Family, friends, etc., often don't always "get it" or don't want to. We get it. We're here for you, to support you and help you so you can help him and yourself.


Hi - I don't usually reach the early childhood forum because my son is 19 and I no longer have little kids. but the title of this thread caught my eye. It sounds like your friend was telling you your sons behavior is out of the norm and at least she tried to do it in a loving way. When my son was 3 I had a "friend" write me the most horrible letter, where she outlines all my sons fault, the problems I had as a mother and that my son was going to be a sociopath. It was awful and horrible and I just cried and cried. It ended our friendship. I believe she wrote the letter when she was drunk and thought she was being supportive and did not understand my reaction. How I wish I had had this forum then.
Your son sounds very much like my son. To be honest I would not read too much into the roughness with the animals. You might not want to have the animals but I would look at the whole picture. My son too was rough with animals when young but he also loved them greatly and as he got older he was very very good with our old dog.
What I would be really concerned about is the lying and stealing. Again that is something my son did and still does at the age of 19. That got worse and never got better. I think that is a symptom of a deeper issue and you do need to get help with whatever is going on, because although you want to believe he will grow out of it he probably won't without some serious help. Clearly my son still has major issues or I wouldn't be here..... although at this point his biggest problem is drug use.
Even given all that I still don't think my son is a sociopath. He has some serious problems and is currently in rehab. I think it is just plain ridiculous to label a 6 year old a sociopath. I just don't think it is a diagnosis that can be made at that age. And yes he has had some major losses in his life and those need to be addressed. So yes I do think you need to get some help but remember your sons behavior is not necessarily a reflection of your parenting and it absolutely does not mean he is a sociopath.

Hound dog

Nana's are Beautiful
Not normal 5 yr old behavior. But no, it does not mean your son will become a sociopath either. Nor does it mean you can't turn the behavior around. I'd go seek the help of a professional and have him evaluated. He's been through a lot for his 5 yrs. That doesn't excuse his behavior, it simply can explain some of the rage ect. The behavior itself is still unacceptable. Odds are it has continued because it's been allowed to continue........not criticizing your parenting, just saying you probably don't have the skills yet to handle such behaviors, doesn't make you a bad parent. Those skills can be learned and a professional can help you learn them as well as help your son. Children don't come with an owners guide.

I hope you stick around here as there is tons of advice and support to be had. And having a difficult child.........well, we parents learn new skills and techniques to handle situations as they come up all the time. If our kids were like the run of the mill........we wouldn't be here. lol



New Member
Newb here, caught my eye, so I thought I'd give an input.

It's hard to say that a child is a sociopath. The chances are one in a million. Most people cannot recognize a sociopath. Sociopaths can even fool lie detector tests.

What do you think? Is there anything you can rationalize about his behavior, "He's mad because of this" "He did that because ____ ____". He may just need to be talked to about that sort of stuff- in an existential manner. Explain to him that There are better ways to get things off the chest rather than expressing rage. And as always, if really concerned, contact a therapist.


New Member
Vote with others - not within the range of typical behavior for a 5 year old. Don't worry about the sociopath thing. It's the new boogie monster.

So you need to get some input from professionals about the situation. A neuropsychologist is a good place to start if you can afford it or you can get your pediatrician to refer you and have it covered by your health insurance. But I'm not sure your peds is going to think that's the place to start since his development in other respects seems to be normal/advanced.

Regardless, it is best to start with his pediatrician because you want her to know what's going on and what steps you are taking to get your son help.

Before you go see her or talk to the peds I would check with the school and ask the teacher for her observations about your son's behavior when he's there. If he's in childcare for part of the day, I would ask there too. It will be helpful to the peds if you have info from other sources like school if his teacher/childcare has concerns too.

If you tell her about the rages, throwing things (this is actually a pretty big deal if he's throwing anything at you but especially if he's throwing things that could hurt you or are getting broken), the lying and stealing I think you will find that she is concerned too. Tell her you want to get a comprehensive assessment from a neuropsychologist so you can try to understand what's going on with your son and what interventions might be helpful.

If she wants to refer you to a child psychiatrist, that's OK in my opinion. You can tell that person about wanting a neuropsychologist evaluation and, if it's a good child psychiatrist, he/she is likely to agree that one is needed. If so, then you can ask the psychiatrist how to get a referral and who he would suggest you see.

If she wants to refer you to a child therapist, that's also likely to be helpful. Whether these behaviors are a reaction to the divorce or something else, having a therapist to work with is a good idea and is likely to help you both.

But I would continue to ask for the neuropsychologist referral and not let the peds think you are willing to settle with only a therapy referral.

If there are concerns about his behavior at school then you should ask the teacher about having a meeting to talk about how to address these problems. If he is disrupting the classroom or otherwise behaving in ways that interfere with the learning of others or himself then you may want to ask about having the school assess him for Special Education. But getting a neuropsychologist assessment would be better.

In the meantime, if no one else has suggested it, you should get a copy of Ross Greene's The Explosive Child and read it. As in tomorrow. It will give you some tools for dealing with the explosions and a way of thinking and observing that may be very helpful.

Keep us posted,



Well-Known Member
Beware of friendly diagnoses! :) I looked up "sociopath" in my Oxford English Dictionary - curiously, it is not there. Clearly there are no sociopaths in England :) It must be of recent coinage and my dictionary out of date... in any case, such a statement is meaningless in terms of a five year old, I feel - very Victorian kind of idea of children being "born bad". However, the lying and stealing are of concern. Especially the warning that has been given here that these things can get worse over time... My son has this behaviour, to some extent. He is always asking to take a toy from the home of a child we have visited - adults often want to indulge him in this but I am very clear about saying he must leave it, it is not his, and it will be there for him next time we come. He once stole a bar of chocolate from a shop - immediately came and told me he had done it and we went straight back to the shop to give it back, me making it clear to him (of course) that you have to pay for things before you take them; sometimes small children simply don't understand this before it is taught. He sometimes lies about things he has done, claiming that it was someone else - I am so unhappy about this and make such a big deal of the importance of him telling the truth that he does now seem to stop and reflect and then, reluctantly, tell me the truth... For myself I do feel it is something that has to be taken very seriously and the right thing to do made very clear. Heavy punishment would not help in this regard.
For the rest, my 20 cents worth (as we say, rather than your 2 cents, I believe!) is that the rages are quite possibly exacerbated by his unstable background so far and that the pushing and poking of the dog is to do with a need to explore things in this extreme tactile way, which my son also constantly does. My son really does love animals, especially dogs, and I think he would never kick one, but if he were not reprimanded, he would be constantly touching and poking them all over... he has learnt just to stroke them around the head. I am beginning to wonder whether my son suffers from this Sensory Integration Disorder - you might want to investigate that too.
Wetting the bed at five a sign of sociopathy? Stuff and nonsense! Just talk to any nurse or child psychologist...
I wish you well in exploring what is going on for your son.


Newb here, caught my eye, so I thought I'd give an input.

It's hard to say that a child is a sociopath. The chances are one in a million. Most people cannot recognize a sociopath. Sociopaths can even fool lie detector tests.

What do you think? Is there anything you can rationalize about his behavior, "He's mad because of this" "He did that because ____ ____". He may just need to be talked to about that sort of stuff- in an existential manner. Explain to him that There are better ways to get things off the chest rather than expressing rage. And as always, if really concerned, contact a therapist.

Actually, the study says that ALL human beings have some type of sociopathic tendencies. Most are better at controlling those tendencies and being ethic\moral people. There are plenty of sociopathic children and adults that cannot control the tendencies. I personally think it's everything to do with weak or strong impulse control skills. Either on a biological level or conscious\subconscious level or even both.

One can spot a pathological liar and a sociopath if they know what to look for and it's not hard to learn how to look for it. Even when they have "passed" a lie detector test or two. It's micro expressions you look for, facial expressions that happen in a universal stance (7 universal micro expressions no matter culture, religion, color or creed or anything, they are biologically part of being a human) in 1 \25th of a second. With it are things called manipulators and illustrators (body language, movements, tone of voice, credence of sentence and much more).

I think ALL parents or parents to be should take a few courses in micro-expression and body language. Not just for the bad behaviors but for the good ones too. Being able to recognize all of them gives a leg up on both catching something before it goes nuclear melt down tantrum or catching a good deed\behavior or happiness\joy etc to praise and congratulate. It's a rather interesting science.

Look up Paul Ekman (the father of micro expression sciences) - there's a lot to be had with this science.


New Member
They stay away from diagnosing children as psychopaths and sociopaths because of the stigma and instead say they have anti-social tendencies, etc. From what you have described, and only in my non-medical opinion, he is not likely either of those things. He does show signs of those things but we all do at different points in our lives, especially children. He does sound like he may have grow up in non-stable environments (no shame to you poster as I was a little unstable with my first child) as he is comfortable calling your mom to tattle on you. This likely comes from a power struggle between you and your mom after your 1st divorce. I have been there done that. There are probably some unhealthy aspects in your daily family life that stem from your childhood as well and he is reacting to those. Regardless, his behavior is not normal. Whatever normal is. It is concerning. I would seek therapy. I did so for my kids and I because I wanted to break the cycle and I couldn't do it alone as a single mom. None of us are getting out of parenthood without messing our kids up at least a smidge so it is ok. Just get him and you the help you need to communicate, set boundaries, etc. and it will all be ok.