Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sociopaths

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine in social work and she was telling me about a seminar that she attended on how to identify sociopathic behavior in children and young adults. Such training is important because children who constantly lie and have no regard for fellow human beings often follow a dark path by growing into serial killers or reality television stars.

The three early warning signs are as follows:
  • 1.      The child tortures or abuses small animals from an early age.
  • 2.      The child exhibits an unhealthy fascination with fire, often manifested as escalating acts of  arson.
  • 3.      The child continues to struggle with bed-wetting well into early adolescence.   
These three warning signs, combined with chronic anti-social behavior, are powerful indicators of trouble down the road. While I certainly have no formal training in psychology, I always thought that some of these symptoms were somewhat circular. After all, maybe little Timmy doesn’t want to be anti-social, it is just difficult to make friends when you smell like urine and strangle housecats for fun.

I was not the most social kid (my rat-tail/thick glasses look assisted greatly) and although I have not killed anyone, I felt that closer contemplation of the indicators couldn’t hurt. So with as much unbiased clarity as I could muster, I reviewed the symptoms.

I myself had a childhood fascination with fire but I always felt it was closer to normal boyhood curiosity than say, Donald Sutherland in Backdraft. What little boy doesn’t like playing with lighters? I suppose it really becomes an issue when you combine lighters, accelerants, and an unhealthy vendetta. I feel that I can impartially label myself as an extremely mild firebug. Not great, but not terrible either.

That being said, I never understood the allure of torturing animals so I suppose I am out of the woods there. I recently read about a story in Philadelphia where someone duct-taped a small dog and tossed him next to a Catholic Church. Some people suggested that it could have been a hate crime, but with over 1.5 million Catholics in the area the suspects probably could not find a place to throw the dog where it wouldn’t land next to a church. I am willing to bet anyone who would be that mean to a dog is going to die alone anyway.

I can’t remember any bed-wetting struggles, but I have struggled with sleep-loogies as detailed in an earlier post. I always thought that this was the strangest indicator of all. Arson and I torture I can see, but poor bladder control? When this happens as an adult they just call it urinary incontinence and write you a prescription for VESIcare. No one overreacts and starts sleeping with a pistol. All I am saying is that I am not sure we should give up on junior just because he had too much Mountain Dew before night-night time.

I have also come up with a fourth childhood indicator: they murder someone. This tends to take the guesswork out of adolescent diagnosis by eliminating the possibility that the child is just shy and has an unnatural hatred for border collies. Being OCD, I also worry that I will start to imagine these characteristics in my own children one day. I have seen enough seasons of Dexter to realize that properly raising a sociopath involves patience, determination, and a backlog of unprosecuted criminals to keep them busy.

Perhaps I have overcomplicated the entire process so, for the sake of brevity, I have condensed the warning signs into this simple paragraph:

If your 13 year old son tortures animals, wets the bed, and plays with fire, he probably needs to see a psychologist. If your 13 year old son sets animals on fire and then uses his own urine to extinguish them, arm yourself immediately. 

1 comment:

  1. LOL to take this out on a politically incorrect aspect how can we justify profiling our children based on their problems and what they like or dislikes (not defending the animal torture) when we still have to strip search Nuns while Osoma bin Lauden is allowed to board a plane with his underwear loaded with nitroglycerin sporting his copy of terrorist daily digest? Sorry for the run on rant.

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