Psychopathic Preschoolers

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psychopathyWith the 10-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting this week, spotting and treating the signs of psychopathy in very young children as early as possible -- as young as 2 years old! -- has become a hot topic.

According to a recent article from MSNBC, scientists think that psychopathy, when you are capable of committing horrific crimes without an ounce of guilt or remorse, is caused partly by genetics and partly by upbringing.

It's easy to think that serial killers come from abusive homes or had rotten childhoods, but that's not always the case. The good thing is that a diagnosis isn't destiny. Even a toddler who shows these tendencies can be taught to have a conscience or at least that it's in their best interests to act as if they do.

Some snippets from the MSNBC article:

-- Studies show that a significant portion of preschoolers with psychopathic traits -- such as not being concerned about others’ feelings and not feeling bad or guilty -- have the same traits when they are teens.

-- These traits are best found at age 4, but even 2-year-olds can give clues that they lack empathy. A typical toddler may hit another child, watch that child cry and then cry himself in response because he feels bad. But a toddler who lacks empathy will be unfazed by the other child’s reaction or efforts at parental discipline.

-- Another trouble sign is a toddler who’s extremely aggressive. Of course, many young children are aggressive at times, and that’s to be expected, but routinely being very aggressive is not. Red flags include frequent bullying and fighting, vandalizing, fire-setting and hurting animals.

-- One of the best ways to treat kids with psychopathic symptoms comes from an Australian study of boys ages 4 to 8 with conduct problems. Those with traits did not respond to the common discipline strategy of time-outs but they did show a response to a parenting strategy in which they were rewarded — praised — for good, “prosocial” behavior.

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