The detection and possible determination of potential psychopathy in children is a controversial subject that has only recently come to rise in the modern day. Biological abnormalities, parental influences, genetic inheritance and past events that could contribute to anti-social behaviour, are a few of the many ideas and theories that surround detecting psychopathy in children.
Scientific studies have shown significant differences in brains of psychopaths. Through multiple brain scans (MRI and FMRI), it has been suggested that psychopathy originates in abnormalities in the amygdala in the brains limbic system. Considering the amygdala is in control of fear and aggression, it is no surprise that psychopaths are extremely violent and show no remorse or sorrow for their actions. This abnormality can be obtained through genetic inheritance from parents, mutation in genes and internal damage. This biological study could be the root of psychopathy.
As found by Neo-Freudian Alfred Adler, parental influence has a clear impact on that of the child and in particular their personality. It is possible, as Adler suggested, that children that are particularly neglected or abused are more likely to participate in anti-social, violent behaviours. This is executed in a documentary called “Child of Rage: A Story Of Abuse” about a girl named Beth Thomas, who was sexually abused by her biological father as a child and consequently suffered from reactive attachment disorder. Growing up in a foster home, Beth portrayed extremely psychopathic behaviours, such as killing birds, attempting to kill her brother, and short but large bursts of rage. It is possible that this early event contributed to Beth’s psychopathic behaviours as a young child. However, despite her psychopathic traits, Beth received intensive treatment and now works as a paediatric nurse whilst also giving talks on her childhood trauma.
Sibling rivalry is also a major contributor, and possible reason for psychopathy. This is particularly seen in that of first born children who feels a lack of attention after the second child is born (this can be related to that of Adler’s birth order theory). It is natural to be concerned about a change in the first borns behaviour when having a second child. There will of course be a decrease in attention, which may cause the child to act out in typically psychopathic manners to receive this attention. This could result in psychopathic behaviours, however can be easily taken into hand in advance, educating and informing the child on the new coming brother or sister. It is important to assure that child that nothing will change, and that equal amounts of attention will be distributed, as well as special parent-child time allocated.
It is no doubt that psychopathic tendencies can even arise in childhood, and many parents are often in despair about how to handle their “problem child”. It is important to address the issue immediately and professionally, often through the use of therapy and allowing the child to speak out about how they feel.
There are many factors that contribute to the development of psychopathy, particularly from that of a young age. It is incredibly important to recognise, and to consider that despite factors present, it does not set in stone that the child will become a psychopath. Psychopathy is often triggered. No one is born a psychopath. You may be born with psychopathic traits or brain abnormalities that can lead to psychopathy, but may only occur if triggered by such an event as abuse, or some sort of significant traumatic event.