Should Some Children be Diagnosed a Psychopath?

Today it seems that we are so careful to be politically correct about some things that need to be addressed from a psychological and clinical point of view.  The thought of a small child or a teenager being diagnosed as a psychopath leaves of us cold and most don’t want to even approach the idea.  I absolutely shudder at the thought too. 

But what’s worse?  The unpopular, politically incorrect label or allowing a child to wreak havoc and mayhem on everyone around them when it could have been addressed and possibly cured early? 

Isn’t it putting off the inevitable?    

The American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV has no category that captures the diagnosis of psychopathic personality in children and adolescents.  It describes these characteristics as “Disruptive Behavioral Disorders” in three overlapping subcategories of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.  Conduct disorder comes close to being described as psychopathic with traits of egocentricity, lack of empathy, lack of guilt, and lack of remorse. 

When we think of a psychopathic child a few movies come to mind, such as the Bad Seed and The Omen.  However, the reality is very real whether we want to believe it or not. 

How many headlines have we read where a child has killed or raped another child? 


A teenage boy in Colorado waits patiently while two young friends hack and hammer his mother to death. 

Kansas City police are baffled by jealous 12-year-old who kills younger sister and mother over birthday party plans. 

Or, girl, 4, kills baby brothers by throwing them to the floor after one of the 3-week-old infants accidentally scratches her during play.  

There’s no easy answer how to approach this type of psychopathy in children and what it will mean when they reach adulthood, but I feel that if they are diagnosed with psychopathic tendencies early it won’t put off the foreseeable that awaits them later in life. 

Robert D. Hare, PhD states, “Psychopathic attitudes and behavior very likely are the result of the combination of biological factors and environmental forces”.

This is a hot topic for debate and the sides are passionately stated.  But, as we see more and more violent actions from children younger and younger, it proves that something needs to be reevaluated in mental health areas.

In my Emily Stone Series, the heroine deals with psychopathic individuals who haven’t received any mental evaluation or treatment as children.  The events are fictional, but isn’t life stranger and at times more violent than fiction? 

What do you think?  I would love to hear your comments.

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