There are indicators of psychopathy that can be monitored in children, even though children cannot be accurately diagnosed as a psychopath until the age of 18. Yet some child psychologists think psychopathy can be identified in children as young as 5. With troubled children, there are clues that indicate they are on a path to violence and destruction. For others, it's a bit more subtle and not as clear. In the famous example of Beth Thomas, the "Child of Rage," psychologists received criticism for presenting the 6-year-old as a "psychopath" due to her young age - despite her alarming behavior. If you've ever wondered how to tell if a child may be developing a personality disorder, this list includes behavioral traits psychologists consider when counseling those who display signs of psychopathy in childhood.
Not Laughing With Other Kids
A 2017 study conducted by UCL (University College London) shows that children who display traits of psychopathy do not find laughter as contagious as other children. While most children hear the sound of laughter, their brain responds sharply, and they will also have the urge to laugh.
Additionally, laughter is a form of bonding for children and a child who displays hints of psychopathy does not usually have the desire to bond unless it is beneficial to them in some way. Lacking the social cue for laughter is an indicator of psychopathy.
Harming Or Attempting To Harm Animals
For most, the thought of harming animals is disturbing and beyond forgivable. For others, it's something they do for fun and one of the highest warning signs of future criminal behavior. When looking into the backgrounds of offenders, there is proof that animal abuse can progress to extreme violence toward humans.
While young children may experiment with animals at a younger age when their empathy has not started to develop, others may have a full understanding of what they are doing and have intentions of harming the animal. Additionally, some children will exhibit the same behavior through inanimate objects, such as stabbing stuffed animals.
Urinating On Furniture
A child who urinates on furniture, despite knowing how to use the toilet, may be a sign of psychopathy. It is believed that the child will do this to show dominance. Just like animals who mark their territory, a child showing signs of psychopathy may also mark their territory.
Psychopaths tend to behave in many ways that give them a sense of control, and urinating on furniture is one of the ways.
Inflicting Harm On Smaller Children
A strong indication that a child may become a psychopath is if they inflict pain on others, often a younger child. Children who fit in this pattern seem to get pleasure from watching others suffer. While it may be a natural instinct to comfort others in pain, some like to cause the pain and enjoy watching others hurt.
Children showing signs of psychopathy will often experiment and test the limits with others. They want to see how far they can take things and what reaction they get.