Category Archives: Sociopathy

So-Called ‘Psychopathic Traits’ In Adolescents Often Symptoms Of Intense Emotional Distress

In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnessedition 5 (DSMV), psychopathy is listed under antisocial personality disorders and it is currently hypothesized that the disorder is rooted significantly in genetic determinants and involves chemical abnormalities in the brain. In other words, the condition is thought to be substantially determined by biological factors.
 What Is A Psychopath?
Typically, a psychopath
ignores the rights of others
highly egoistical / narcissistic
bold
disinhibited / impulsive / problems delaying gratification
 
– lacks empathy
 
– is callous, cold and unfeeling
 
– disregards the law (although many psychopaths never break the law)
 
– is prone to violence (though, again, many psychopaths are not)
 
– have little or no conscience / do not feel remorse or guilt
 
– do not fear punishment
 
The Study :
 
The study referred to in the first paragraph involved 150 participants (both male and female) residing in juvenile detention centers.
All of the participants were aged from 11-years-old to 17-years-old.
All the participants had been classified as :
callous
– unemotional
– extremely, behaviourally antisocial
– incipiently psychopathic
 adolescent psychopaths
What Did The Study Find?
Using more sensitive and sophisticated means of testing (especially with regard to examining personality traits) than is usually used to investigate psychopathy and psychopathic characteristics it was found that although, superficially, the young people appeared callous, unemotional and pre-psychopathic their actual diagnosis (according to the more accurate and appropriare tests used), in the main, was that they were :

severely depressed

– severely anxious

– in a state of high emotionality

(In other words, they were not psychopathic but suffering from intense emotional distress).

 

Implications Of Study :

Due to these findings, the researchers pointed out that young people displaying behavioural problems such as those in this study should not be unthinkingly labelled as incipient psychopaths, punished and stigmatized but, instead, be given appropriate support and treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and help controlling their intense and volatile emotions.

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Controlling And Sociopathic Parents

Controlling and sociopathic parents will tend to see their child as an object/possession to be controlled and exploited according to the needs of that parent.

Sociopaths share certain characteristics which include self-centredness, lack of empathy, an excessive need for power and control, deviousness and deceptiveness, a predatory and exploitative nature, lack of conscience/feelings of remorse for wrongdoing, a tendency to deflect blame onto others/inability to accept personal responsibility and shallow emotions.

In order to manipulate and control others, male sociopaths are more likely to use verbal threats and violence whilst female sociopaths are more likely to use flirtation, appearance and sex.

Just because a person is a sociopath this does not necessarily mean they have been to prison or even ever broken the law. In fact, they may present a very positive (but false) image to the outside world such as being involved in charity work and of being a devoted and selfless parent – although things are very different behind closed doors.

Indeed, once behind closed doors the sociopathic parent may show little or no interest in the child and treat him/her in a neglectful manner. Indeed, as alluded to above, the child may be treated as a personal possession whose sole role in life is to meet that parent’s emotional needs.

Controlling and sociopathic parents (especially in the case of the mother as it is she who generally has the role of primary carer) will tend to not see the child as an individual with his/her own set of needs but as an object to be molded and manipulated by means of power and control (including verbal manipulation. the inducement of guilt. emotional terrorism and harsh, even sadistic, punishment – particularly if the child, quite naturally and normally under the circumstances, begins to sense s/he is being used/exploited by the parent and starts to rebel. Controlling and sociopathic parents cannot tolerate any challenge to their power, control and authority).

Because controlling and sociopathic parents do not tend to feel remorse for their behaviour, this liberates (due to their lack of conscience) to punish their children extremely harshly and this may mean they become physically or emotionally abusive even when only mildly provoked.

controlling and sociopathic parents

EFFECTS ON CHILD :

A child brought up by a sociopathic parent is prevented from developing in a psychologically and emotionally normal manner.

Those brought up by a controlling and sociopathic parents often report that they knew something was very wrong with how their parent related to them but they were unable to properly understand or articulate what this was. It is little wonder, then, that those brought up by a sociopath tend to grow up feeling deeply confused and full of self-doubt. Other effects may include :

  • becoming very withdrawn
  • becoming very aggressive
  • bullying others
  • emotional dysregulation
  • emotional numbness/deadness
  • poor concentration/attention which may negatively impact upon school performance

Whilst realizing one has been brought up by a sociopathic patent is clearly profoundly shocking and distressing it can, too, release one from guilt and lead one, finally, to the realization that, rather than feel guilty, one needs to start protecting oneself.

NB It is only possible to ascertain if a person is a sociopath by professional diagnosis.

For more information on EFFECTS OF OVER-CONTROLLING PARENTS – click here.

Resource :

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

The Relationship With The Sociopathic Mother

sociopathic mother

 

According to the psychotherapist Christine Louise de Canonville, sociopaths tend to follow a particular pattern in their relationship with others, manipulatively guiding the relationship through three specific phases in a Machiavellian manner. These three stages are as follows:

PHASE 1 : The Idealization Phase

PHASE 2 : The Devaluation Phase

PHASE 3 : The Discarding Phase

Let’s briefly look at each of these phases in turn:

1) Idealization:

In this phase the sociopath presents herself in a positive manner, in order to gain favour and admiration. She may use techniques such as extreme flattery.

If she can make the person she is targeting love and admire her, or, better still, as in the case of a child, become psychologically and emotionally dependent upon her, this makes that person highly vulnerable and gives the sociopath great power to hurt and control him/her.

2) Devaluation:

Once the sociopath has successfully completed phase one, phase two may begin : the devaluation phase. In this stage, the sociopath undermines the person’s self-esteem and confidence. She may deride and mock him/her, treat him/her with contempt and disdain, call him/her hurtful and insulting names, humiliate him/her, and become utterly cold, hostile and aggressive towards the person.

3) Having psychologically destroyed her victim, and the victim is of no further use to her, she loses interest and discards him/her like a plastic disposable razor.

sociopathic_mother

Case Study From Personal Experience:

Whilst my mother has never been diagnosed as a sociopath (to the best of my knowledge), my relationship with her as a child followed the above pattern so closely that it is somewhat disconcerting, to put it mildly; I illustrate this, briefly, below:

1) Idealizing : soon after my parents divorced, my mother started to use me as a kind of personal counsellor. She manipulatively reinforced this behaviour by telling me how caring, compassionate, sensitive and loving I was. She even proudly declared that I was her own, private, ‘Little Psychiatrist.’

2) Devaluing : however, my mother was highly unstable, unpredictable and and prone to fly into terrifying rages as a result of the most trivial ‘provocations’ (as she perceived them to be).

As I entered puberty, to defend myself against her random, devastating psychological assaults (trying to pacify her, even if I was in floods of tears as I did so, made her worse –  indeed, I used to get the strong impression she derived some perverse thrill from my ‘snivelling’, as she would term it).

In a vain attempt to avoid being psychologically crushed, I started to argue with her and stand up for myself. This she could not tolerate. She began to refer to me as ‘scabby’ (I had started to self-harm by picking at my skin), ‘poof’ (I was extremely sensitive) or simply, ‘that little bastard.’

On my thirteenth birthday, in the morning as I got ready for school, she completely ignored me, as did my sixteen year brother (who would always joyously join in and encourage my mother’s verbal assaults, or intentionally instigate them).

Not a syllable was uttered to me (even an insulting one, but somehow being treated as invisible/non-existant, was, if its possible, even worse).

She would also often tell me she wished I’d never been born or that she would throw me out of the house.

3) Discarding : indeed, she did throw me out of the house when I was about thirteen and a half. I was forced to go and live my father and his new wife. I almost immediately intuited I was not wanted there either.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

Parents who Kill – The Five Categories

 

children_who_kill

Criminologists and psychologists highlight five main categories into which parents who kill their children may fall. These are as follows:

THE FIVE CATEGORIES OF PARENTS WHO KILL THEIR CHILDREN :

1) The parent is suffering from an ACUTE PSYCHOTIC CONDITION (‘psychosis’ is a state in which a person substantially loses touch with reality; this condition may take many forms).

2) The parent perceives the act as  ‘altruistic’ If the parent falls into this category, it essentially means that the parent believes, for whatever reason, that the child is ‘better off dead’ and therefore views killing the child as an act of ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion.’

Mothers are more likely to fall into this particular category than fathers.

3) REVENGE AGAINST THE OTHER PARENT. One motivation for this kind of terrible revenge include the discovery that the other parent has been sexually unfaithful or.

Another motivation may be that the other parent has won custody of the child in a bitter legal battle during a divorce.

Men are more likely to fall into this category than women. (Sometimes they may kill their children and then themselves. In such a scenario a male is about twenty times more likely to perpetrate the crime than a female).

4) The child is UNWANTED

5) NEGLECT or RECKLESSNESS

Neglect may include medical neglect.

An example of recklessness may be drink-driving with the child in the car or beating a child in such a way that death is the accidental result (in UK this is legally termed manslaughter).

Sometimes, a parent who kills their child will fall into more than one of the above categories. An obvious example is that a parent may perceive his/her actions as ‘altruistic’ due to acute psychotic illness.

parents_who_kill

 

Further information on mothers who kill:

Frequently, mothers who kill are MENTALLY ILL. They may, for example, be suffering from severe post natal depression with psychotic features combined with the effects of immense stress caused by the never ending demands of the baby.

Such killings tend to be IMPULSIVE and younger mothers are more likely to perpetrate such an act than are more mature mothers.

 

Further information on fathers who kill:

A more usual motivation for a father to kill, however, is if some major catastrophe hits him ; losing his job and income, for example, leaving him no longer able to support his family financially. Because men often pride themselves on providing for their family and doing so gives them a sense of identity, self-respect and self-esteem, if this role is taken away from them, it has been known to lead them, in exceptionally rare cases, to murder their entire family and then commit suicide, believing this to be in everyone’s ‘best interest’.

 

Young Children :

Young children are at greater risk of being killed by their parents than older children. This is because they are more defenceless, cause parents greater stress (eg constant demands of a crying baby), and there has been less time for a strong parent-child bond to develop.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Children Who Kill : Typologies

why_do_i_over_react

In very extreme circumstances, and very rarely, children kill. Almost invariably, such a child has been deprived of love and nurturing, or has bee abused or rejected, or has suffered a combination of all or any of these. S/he is full of rage due to this treatment and this is displaced onto society in general and particular individuals within that society.

Criminologists have identified several categories (or ‘typologies’) of child killer. In this article, I will focus on five of these typologies. They are:

  • FAMILY KILLERS
  • SCHOOL KILLERS
  • GANG-BASED KILLERS
  • HATE KILLERS
  • SEX KILLERS

Let’s examine each of these five typologies in turn :

1) FAMILY KILLERS : Child killers in this group are likely to have suffered extremely severe ill-treatment from their parent/s and, as a result, have built up a profound sense of anger towards them which has perhaps been festering for years. A particular ‘triggering event’ can then cause them to ‘snap’, particularly if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Sometimes, too, such children will have been living in constant terror of their parent/s so that the murderous act is a form of self-defence/self-protection.

The psychologist and researcher Heide has found that there is a very powerful association between the act of patricide (murder of the father) and of the child who commits patricide having been severely abused by that father (especially when the abuse has been emotional or physical).

imagesIPQ391RH

Kids Who Kill Parents CLICK HERE

2) SCHOOL KILLERS : Often, children who shoot their teachers/contemporaries in attacks on their school have suffered years of bullying at that school. The effects of this treatment have also usually been exacerbated by them also having suffered severe abuse at home.

It is likely, too, that such children have displaced their hatred of their parent/s onto authority figures in general (hence the attack on their teachers).

Other factors that contribute to the development of the child ‘school killer’ include isolation and lack of social support/lack of friendships, having a dominant father which makes him feel powerless and a weak sense of identity – their decision to become a ‘school killer’, then, in their own minds, finally gives them the power and identity that they perceive themselves to have previously lacked.

3) GANG-BASED KILLERS : Children who join gangs often come from violent homes. Joining a gang provides them with a sense of identity, status, belonging and safety (ie safety in numbers)

Because of these psychological gains, they are often desperate to be accepted by the gang and, as such, are liable to have their misplaced loyalty to it ruthlessly exploited by its leader/s, even to the extent of being manipulated into murdering rival gang members.

Other factors which make a young person more likely to join a gang include lack of interests/hobbies, a sense of powerlessness (joining the gang gives him/her a sense of power) and poverty (being in a gang can be financially rewarding in the short-term, eg from drug dealing, muggings etc)

4) HATE KILLERS : These are children who kill others on the grounds of their differences (eg race, religion, sexuality etc). They are likely to have been influenced by their parents’ prejudices and/or the prejudices held by other members of their community/sub-culture).

Again, such children have usually experienced severe ill-treatment at home and have developed a deep sense of powerlessness which they attempt to rectify through an extreme, violent act.

5) SEX KILLERS : Again, such child killers have usually experienced extreme abuse at home and have developed a deep sense of inadequacy, worthlessness and rock-bottom self-esteem. Their crime is linked to their sense of powerlessness and a need to ‘assert their masculinity’.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Possible Childhood Characteristics of Future Serial Killers

Research has demonstrated that many serial killers have much in common when it comes to their childhood experiences. Below, I provide a list of the common characteristics they may sometimes share. It goes without saying, however, that people with many or even all of these characteristics will not invariably grow-up to be serial killers! Furthermore, some serial killers will have shown few or none of the traits presented below during their childhoods.

As can be easily inferred, those who showed many of the characteristics presented below are also more likely to have developed anti-social personality disorder as adults when compared to individuals who demonstrated none of the characteristics.

1) EMOTIONAL ABUSE –

The vast majority of those who go on to become serial killers have suffered childhood abuse; most commonly, the type of abuse that they have suffered is EMOTIONAL ABUSE or NEGLECT (about half have suffered  one, the other, or both according to the available research).

Any discipline that they received as children tended to be unpredictable, arbitrary and unreasonable, usually involving the child being humiliated and degraded.

Emotional neglect impairs the child’s ability to develop empathy (lack of empathy is one of the main hallmarks of psychopathy).

2) FANTASIES –

Because the child lacks control in his own life and may be the victim of severe abuse, he will often have a propensity to escape into a world of fantasy – the fantasies will frequently revolve around the themes of CONTROL and VIOLENCE.

3) CRUELTY TO ANIMALS –

Again, many individuals who have become serial killers ‘graduated’ from tormenting and torturing animals.

4) HEAD INJURIES –

A disproportionate number of serial killers suffered one or more head injuries as children. It is thought, in particular, that damage to the LIMBIC BRAIN, HYPOTHALAMUS, TEMPORAL LOBES and PREFRONTAL CORTEX are linked to the development of violent behaviour. The first three areas are involved with aggression, emotion and motivation whereas the fourth (the pre-frontal cortex) is involved with planning and judgment.

5) VOYEURISM AND FETISHISM –

This kind of behaviour may have developed fairly young ; the individual may, for example, have  started off  his ‘career’ as a ‘peeping tom’.

6) BEDWETTING –

If this goes on over the age of about 5 years, the child may feel humiliated because of it, especially if teased about it by, for example, older siblings or cruel parents.

7) DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS –

Often, the adult serial killer began to have problems with relationships early on in life. Unable to form or maintain relationships, he is much more likely than normal to have become a ‘loner’ in adult life.

8) ALCOHOL/SUBSTANCE ABUSE –

Nearly three-quarters of serial killers grew up in homes in which other family members had problems with alcohol and/or narcotics

OTHER CHARACTERISTICS OF SERIAL KILLERS’ CHILDHOODS :

– exposure to alcohol in the womb

– low self-esteem

– poor social functioning

– academic failure

– witnessing violence within the family

– a failure to complete high school

– arson

– victim of bullying

– early display of anti-social tendencies

– a fascination with weapons

– dismissive of/does not acknowledge the rights of others

– early displays of unusually high levels of violence and aggression

 

BURGESS’S MOTIVATIONAL MODEL

 

The criminologist Burgess carried out a study of sexually motivated serial killers in 1986. In this study, he was able to develop a theory relating to the kinds of childhood such individuals typically experience. I summarize his main findings below:

Burgess suggested that four main categories of childhood experiences contributed to the individuals in the study becoming serial killers. These were:

1 – they grew up in an ineffective social environment

2 – they experienced negative formative events during their childhoods

3 – they developed destructive behaviours

– breakdown of interpersonal relationships

– they developed certain critical personality traits during their childhoods

Let’s look at these in a little more detail:

1- INEFFECTIVE SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT :

Burgess’ study (1986) found that those who went on to become serial killers showed a pattern of failing to bond in a healthy way to their primary caregivers, as well as a failure to bond with others in general.

Also, as children, the future serial killers’ negative behaviours very frequently remained completely unaddressed by their primary caregivers.

2 – TRAUMATIC FORMATIVE EVENTS :

It was also found in the study that, as children, the future serial killers experienced far more trauma than the ‘average’ child. These trauma s included :

– severe illness

– divorce of parents

– abandonment/rejection by parent/s

– death of parent/primary caregiver

– abuse by parent/primary caregiver (physical, sexual, emotional,or a combination of these)

It was also found that the negative effects of the above traumas were compounded by the fact that the children in the study tended to have NO SOCIAL SUPPORT SYSTEM (e.g. friends and wider family) and NO OTHER PROTECTIVE FACTORS IN THEIR LIVES (e.g. a skill or ability which raised their self-esteem).

In part as a result of the above, Burgess found that the children tended to become :

– depressed

– despairing

– suffered overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

3 – DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOURS :

In the group studied by Burgess, these destructive behaviours included :

– setting fires

– cruelty to animals

– destroying property

– burglary

– assault

– sadism

4 – BREAKDOWN OF INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS :

As the children got older, their problematic relationships with their primary caregivers tended to deteriorate further.

Many of the children, too, experienced continued EMOTIONAL NEGLECT.

Furthermore, the children were found to LACK POSITIVE ROLE MODELS and had nobody in their lives who might encourage them to act in a pro-social way.

5 – NEGATIVE PERSONALITY TRAITS :

The way in which the future serial killers were brought up tended to lend itself to the children developing negative personality traits and emotions; in Burgess’ study these were found to include :

– prone to anger, hostility and aggression

– prone to criminal and deviant behaviour

– sense of entitlement

– criminal/deviant behaviour

– rebelliousness

– a sense of having been rejected by society

– cynical and negative view of self, others and of the world in general (sometimes referred to as a NEGATIVE COGNITIVE TRIAD).

– social isolation

– lack of confidence, particularly in connection to forming relationships

– chronic/pathological lying

– tendency to retreat into a world of fantasy (see below)

THE ROLE OF A FANTASY LIFE :

Importantly, Burgess’ study found that the young people had a marked tendency to retreat into a FANTASY WORLD; this was thought to be in part due to their social isolation.

This retreat into fantasy tended to become deeper as the children grew up.

It is theorized that because these future serial killers lacked control and power in their own lives, they obtained it through the fantasies that they wove in their imaginations. In other words, they used their fantasy lives to compensate them for their inadequacies and shortcomings in the real world.

In interviews it was found that their fantasies tended to revolve around the following :

– dominance

– control

– power

– violence

– mutilation

– torture

– death

– rape

– revenge

Tragically, eventually fantasy alone could not keep these individuals’ anxiety levels at bay (it is thought such fantasies serve to reduce intolerable anxiety) and they acted them out in lethal fashion.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

When Ten Year Olds Turn Killers – The Case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson

cropped-childhood-trauma-fact-sheet15.png

The case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson is well known, so it is not necessary to go into details about it here. Suffice it to say, they were both, at the age of ten, found guilty of abducting and murdering the two year old James Bulger.

childhoods_of_jon_venables_and_robert_thompson

 

Above: Artist’s impression of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson in court with their legal representatives.

Surprisingly, there seems to have been little media interest in examining the early life experiences of either of the two boys who were prosecuted for the crime, so, in this article, I will look at the environments in which they grew up in order to establish if it is possible to find some clues as to what caused their deeply aberrant behaviour.

Clearly, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson had profoundly intense pent-up anger which they displaced, in a most shocking way, onto the toddler, James Bulger, whom they abducted. But from where did this anger originate? In order to answer this question, it seems common sense to look at their respective home backgrounds.

Robert Thompson had six siblings and it has been written that both he and they were neglected. Furthermore, Robert’s father left the family home when the young boy was just five years old; and this, it seemed, exacerbated his mother’s drinking problem. At one point, too, she attempted to commit suicide.

On top of this, Robert’s father was violent, and, before he left his family, had frequently behaved in a threatening and intimidating way towards Robert, and had also physically punished him on regular occasions.

It appears that due to this extremely stressful environment, all the children in the family became disturbed, taking out their anguish on one another – they would, for example, threaten one another with knives.

Indeed, the family was so disrupted, chaotic and unhappy that one child asked to be taken into care. When he later had to come back to the family home, such was his distress that he attempted suicide.

One point, in particular, I think, goes to show  the extreme extent to which Robert’s mother neglected him : she was rarely with him to provide emotional support on the many days that it was necessary for him to attend court.

Jon Venable’s family, too, was deeply unhappy and unstable – indeed, this state of affairs had led his parents to divorce. His mother, it seems, was something of a narcissist (click here to read my article on narcissism) and was, apparently, far more concerned about her love-life (she had a constant stream of boyfriends) than she was with looking after Jon. She also suffered from mental health problems (predominantly depression) and, like the mother of Robert, had attempted to commit suicide.

Jon was frightened of his mother as she could behave menacingly towards him – he would, for example, take refuge by hiding underneath chairs. More worrying still, he would cut himself with knives (click here to read my article on the relationship between childhood trauma and self-harming).

Together, Jon and Robert would be absent from school without permission. They would shop-lift and become involved in violent incidents. They had also displayed cruelty towards animals – shooting pigeons with air rifles and tying rabits to railway lines so that they were run over by the trains. Such cruelty towards animals is known to be one of the risk factors which predict the development of anti-social personality disorder (sometimes referred to as psychopathy) in adult life (click here to read my article on the link between childhood trauma and the development of anti-social personality disorder).

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT ON THE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT OF ROBERT THOMPSON AND JON VENABLES :

The healthy development of a region of the brain called the PREFRONTAL CORTEX depends, to a large degree, upon the child experiencing warm, loving, affectionate relationships as he grows up. Jon and Robert were deprived of this which, in turn, is likely to have damaged the development of these brain regions (essentially, without these positive relationships, the brain does not produce enough OPIATES which are needed for the proper development of the particular brain area).

The Prefrontal Cortex :

imagesprefrctx

 

The above diagram shows the position in the brain of the prefrontal cortex – it is this area which was possibly damaged in both Robert Thompson and Jon Venables

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for self-control, empathy and the regulation of strong emotions such as anger. If, then, Jon’s and Robert’s prefrontal cortices were not properly developed, this would provide at least part of the explanation as to why they behaved as they did.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).