Sociopathic Tendencies in Children

Sociopathic Tendencies in Children

A sociopath refers to an individual who disregards laws and rules of acceptable behavior. If such traits are observed in children younger than 16 years old, they are diagnosed with conduct disorder. If these traits persist till the late teen years, the diagnosis changes to sociopathology. This AptParenting article attempts to explain this type of behavior, and its related aspects.
AptParenting Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Some scientists believe that sociopathology arises due to sustaining damage to the prefrontal cortex, which regulates emotions, morality, etc.

A sociopath is a person suffering from antisocial personality disorder, who does not think about anything or anyone other than himself. He/she does not place much value to the norms of society, and is not emotionally attached to anyone in the world. Sociopaths attract people with their charm and quick wit; however, once in a relationship, they can easily manipulate the other person. Due to this, people who are in relationships with sociopaths often suffer from heartbreaks due to their indifferent attitude. As they do not have any sense of guilt, sociopaths may also indulge in criminal and immoral activities.
Though usually adults are diagnosed with this disorder, this mental illness may actually start in childhood itself. Children with such tendencies will exhibit several behavioral problems, which if not controlled and treated at the right time may lead to sociopathic behavior in the future. Hence, it is necessary for parents and caregivers to know about these tendencies, in order to be able to identify them accurately. Given below are the causes and signs of sociopathic behavior in children that parents must watch out for in their little ones.
Causes
Several research studies have been conducted by experts to find the exact cause of such tendencies in children. Though they have not been able to find exact evidence, antisocial behavior in children can be attributed to mainly three factors: genetics, environment, and trauma.
Genetics
Children with at least one sociopathic parent can inherit this behavior from them. Research has shown that the behavior of the parent influences the child, leading him to become a sociopath himself. However, for sociopathy to be inherited, it is not necessary for the child to live with the afflicted parent. Even adopted children, who have sociopathic biological parents, can exhibit the characteristics of this psychological illness.
Environment
Studies conducted on sociopaths have revealed that environmental factors can also lead them to develop antisocial behavior. Children who are deprived of parental love during the initial years of life also exhibit chances of developing this behavior. Even having peers with violent behavior can lead to the development of sociopathic behavior.
Trauma
Trauma induced by certain events in the life of children can also trigger such antisocial behavior in them. It has been reported that exposure to certain traumatic incidents like, an accident, death of a parent, physical injury, brain damage, etc., can act as triggers that induce sociopathic behavior.
Tendencies in Children
One of the tendency shown by children is violent behavior. They are physically aggressive and do not have any qualms about hurting other children and animals. They may constantly indulge in activities like stealing, lying, or cheating, but will not be ready to accept their mistake when confronted with proof. The worst part is that these children do not show any kind of guilt even after doing things that are morally and socially wrong. Since children who have sociopathy are devoid of any feelings and emotions, they are unable to empathize with victims whom they hurt, and hence, feel no remorse whatsoever for their behavior. Other behavioral features exhibited by them are as follows:
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Impulsive nature
  • Irresponsibility
  • Poor behavioral self control
  • Inability to maintain relations with peers
  • Speech and language problems
  • Inappropriately demanding
  • Destructive nature
  • Argumentative and bossy
  • Manipulative
Treatment
These tendencies in children are really difficult to control, as even punishments may not have any effect on them. Parents need to have an ample amount of patience while dealing with such kids. Consulting a psychologist is the best treatment for sociopathic tendencies in children. The first thing that parents have to do is to try to create a bond of trust with the children. Though this may take time, eventually, children will learn not only to trust their parents, but also their environment, peers, and themselves. With the help of a psychiatrist, parents can help in creating a loving as well as a disciplined environment for the children, where they can learn to differentiate between what is right and what is wrong. Counseling sessions with an expert will also aid in developing positive changes in the child's behavior.
Children having sociopathic tendencies are often ignored and isolated by their peers, and sometimes, even by their parents because they are difficult to handle. However, parents must realize that isolating them may actually worsen their condition, thus increasing their chances of becoming sociopaths as adults. Therefore, if your child is showing any of these tendencies, do not think twice before going to a child counselor who will put his best efforts to help your child.
Disclaimer: This AptParenting article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for the advice of a mental health expert.