Is My Child A Sociopath?
Issues In Diagnosis

By the time a parent asks themselves 'Is my child a sociopath?' they have probably suffered and struggled for some time trying to make sense of what is happening in the family. There will typically have been lots of tears, lots of arguments, lots of trying different things and even lots of different diagnoses.

The first thing to be clear on is that, currently, a diagnosis of sociopathy or psychopathy (antisocial personality disorder) is not made until a person is 18 years of age. The reasoning is that some children who display antisocial behavior as children actually 'grow out of it' as they mature and their personality develops. A diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder for these children at a young age could be very detrimental to their development for obvious reasons.

Therefore, before age 18, the diagnosis of conduct disorder is used. This disorder is characterized by :

  • Aggressive behavior, either threatening or actual harm to people or animals. There may be fights, bullying, cruelty to animals, the use of weapons and rape.
  • Destruction of property, either by vandalism or arson.
  • Deceitfulness and theft, with repeated lying and stealing from home, businesses or other property.
  • Violation of rules, where the child has little regard for normal societal rules, so there may be truancy, running away, underage sex, staying out late at night against parents wishes, breaking of various laws such as forgery, and so on.

Up to 40% of children with this diagnosis go on to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.

Others are diagnosed with conduct disorder because they are taking drugs and oftentimes when they come off the drugs, the conduct disorder behaviors disappear. Some other children exhibit conduct disorder because they are, or have been, abused themselves. Yet others have emotional problems of one sort or another that lead to antisocial behavior.


Is my child a sociopath? Callous, Unemotional Traits

There is a subgroup of children with conduct disorder who have a high level of what are known as 'callous and unemotional traits'. These children have very limited empathy, a lack of guilt and very shallow affect and for this reason they stand out from the rest. They tend to have less concern for others and their thinking patterns more closely resemble those of adult sociopaths. It seems that children with high levels of these traits from a young age (as opposed to these traits developing in adolescence) have a higher incidence of being labelled sociopathic/psychopathic later in life.


Is my child a sociopath? Other diagnoses

But what about those children who have these problems and are not diagnosed with conduct disorder? If therapists are not familiar with the nuances of sociopathy and conduct disorder, the child may be diagnosed with a condition that the therapist is familiar with. Occasionally in the early years where the parents are realizing that there is something wrong with the child but the full picture has not yet developed, the signs and symptoms that are present may be diagnosed as something else.

Other diagnoses that are given are ADHD, autism, Asperger's syndrome, bipolar disorder, addictive personality, drug addiction, pathological liar, attention seeking and even 'manipulative'. Sometimes combinations of these diagnoses are applied.

There are several difficulties here. First of all, if the child is misdiagnosed and starts down the road of treatment for the wrong thing, the treatment usually has little or no effect. This can be very upsetting for the parents as well as quite time consuming because they may spend months trying something that does not work.

Secondly, once a diagnosis has been made, it's often very difficult to change it. Later on, if another symptom appears that is not covered by the diagnosis, it's common that another diagnosis is added. For example, a child who has been labelled as ADHD is found by his parents to be lying, so he is also labelled a pathological liar.

However, in medicine where there are many diagnoses, or where a diagnosis does not quite match the picture, it is wise to examine the case again and search for a diagnosis that does cover everything.

The thing is that conduct disorder or antisocial personality disorder will typically cover all the symptoms is the cases where the child is a sociopath in the making, but if the therapist does not have a working knowledge or understanding of these disorders, the child may not be correctly diagnosed for years.


Is my child a sociopath? Blaming the victims

The worst case scenario is where the therapist (and often the other people around) don't actually believe the parents but do believe the child. This is a major consideration when there is conduct disorder or sociopathy involved. Remember that the child is using very manipulative techniques on all those involved and the child may be very good at it because it's what they practice!

The parents know what is going on because they are living behind closed doors with the monster, but this monster seems all sweetness and light to outsiders. Again this is a problem of ignorance among the therapeutic community, not understanding that sociopaths are evil as children, too, or not wanting to believe that a child can do the things that the parents claim.

This situation is devastating for the parents. Absolutely devastating. They may be in fear of their lives at night in their own homes and nobody believes them.

Obviously in this case, the therapeutic community have completely misdiagnosed the situation and place the blame on the parents. The parents are thus deemed responsible for the situation and they may have to attend therapy, satisfy court orders, check in with police on a regular basis and so on. This situation may sound ridiculous but cases like this are not as rare as they should be.

Sometimes not just the therapeutic community get it wrong but neighbors, school teachers and other family members may blame the parents for the child's behavior, too. Again, this can become a living nightmare for the parents.

In situations like this it's a good idea for the parents to learn all they can about sociopathy and mind control. Firstly, it helps them to more fully understand what is going on and to make sense of what is occurring in the family. Secondly, it allows them to explain to others clearly the nature of what is going on in a manner where they do not come across as emotional so they do not appear to be the ones who are 'bad, mad or sad'.

Understanding mind control also allows the parents to realize that they are not to blame for what is going on and this helps considerably with the guilt and shame that parents often experience with sociopathic children.

In fact, where parents do find themselves isolated from any support network, the answer to the question 'is my child a sociopath?' is often a resounding yes!

Even after the child has grown up and left home, the parent(s) may continue to suffer because of the fear and guilt used to control and manipulate them by the child. Working with an expert to recover from the damage done is very worthwhile.


The child...

So we have been considering the question 'is my child a sociopath?' from the point of view of differential diagnosis and some issues with therapists actually recognizing and interpreting the information available to make a diagnosis. Let's have a look at the child themselves and what it's like to live with a child who is a sociopath/psychopath...

In this way, you, as a parent, can verify your own experience and confirm what you already suspect, or update your understanding, when you ask yourself, 'is my child a sociopath?'

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