yes, therapy helps!
Child psychopathy: symptoms, causes and advice to parents

Child psychopathy: symptoms, causes and advice to parents

May 26, 2024

Child psychopathy is one of the phenomena that generates the most interest of the world of psychology. The presence of children who do not empathize with others and who can perform cruel acts or manipulation without experiencing any remorse makes the alarms of parents, mothers and educators jump.

In this article we will see what is known about child psychopathy and the way in which this condition is expressed through the actions of these children.

  • Related article: "Psychopathic children: 5 sad cases of underage murderers"

Child psychopathy: definition

Although there is no fully consensual definition, psychopathy is considered to be a type of disorder characterized by a lack of empathy and feelings of guilt , as well as the tendency toward disinhibition.

In the clinical setting it is called antisocial personality disorder, a name that already indicates the type of problems that this condition produces: conflicts in personal relationships or attacks against others, whether through physical violence or not.

Child psychopathy, in particular, is about the condition associated with psychopathic traits that it occurs during the childhood stage . That is, it is not a differentiated mental disorder, although as is natural this condition is expressed in a different way in children and adults.

In addition, it has been observed that psychopathy often appears during the first years of life, and that its presence in this stage of life serves to predict the chances of that person exhibiting antisocial features when they reach adulthood.

  • Related article: "Psychopathy: what happens in the mind of the psychopath?"

Symptoms of childhood psychopathy

First of all it is necessary to take into account that there is no instrument for measuring and diagnosing psychopathy that allows to know with certainty what happens in the mind of a boy or girl and if he expresses that disorder or not.

In any case, what is done is to conduct interviews with parents, mothers or guardians, as well as the children, and from the crossing of a series of data a conclusion is reached. Also, this always It has to be done by psychiatrists or clinical psychologists , depending on the legislation of each country.

In any case, as a guide, we can recognize several typical symptoms of child psychopathy and, if they are clear and sustained over time, can reveal information about the chances of a child having this disorder.

1. Constant challenge of the rules

We are not talking about breaking standards associated with good education, but those that they have to do with the most basic forms of coexistence . For example, throw food on the ground in a systematic way, assault other children or even adults, etc.

2. Explosions of violence

In general, the infant stage is characterized by disinhibition. However, this is absolute in children with psychopathic features. That is why it is possible that sometimesviolently tease people or animals , which brings us to the next point.

3. Animal abuse

Many of these little ones take advantage of moments when there are no adults nearby to hurt or even kill animals , for the simple pleasure of "playing" with them, as if they were removable toys. However, it is also possible that they do so simply for the pleasure of making them suffer.

  • Related article: "Animal abuse in children: children's things?"

4. Absence of remorse

In child psychopathy punishments and scolding cause little effect , because although it is understood that others recognize certain activities as bad and undesirable, that does not matter. In any case, the relevant thing is to create strategies to avoid that kind of situations going forward.


The exact cause of psychopathy is unknown, although it is believed that there is an important genetic component . However, it is most likely that in most cases the disorder has more than one cause, and that the genotype is just something that predisposes. For example, it has been seen that certain lesions in the frontal lobe of the brain can generate these symptoms, and something similar happens with the continued experience of very stressful or traumatic experiences.

Advice for parents

It must be clear that in any case psychopathy, whether in children, adolescents or adults, is not a diagnostic category with well-defined limits, but in it there are different degrees. That is why many psychologists prefer to talk about features of psychopathy , and not "psychopathic people".

That's why, even if a mental health team points out that a child has significant psychopathic traits, that does not mean he's going to be like a movie psycho, or a killer. By statistics, even people who fall within this diffuse classification tend more towards normality than towards more extreme characteristics.

Furthermore, since little is known about psychopathy, it is possible that it is a false positive and that the child's behavior is evolving towards normalcy in a natural way, without interventions. After all some children can express their discomfort and emotional problems behaving in a very similar way to psychopaths, for a while.

That said, we must also know that unfortunately today there is no treatment that offers guarantees of its effectiveness in the intervention on child psychopathy, which does not mean that there never will be. That means that we should distrust those who offer "cures" and other miraculous therapies; Although it is not impossible for psychotherapy to improve, it is unlikely that it will happen, or that it will occur because of it.

ADHD and Anti-Social Personality Disorder: Minimizing the Risks (May 2024).

Similar Articles