Insight Is 20/20

Exploring the pervasive, and unperceived, patterns that govern our lives

The Sociopathic Adolescent: Myths, Research, Parenting Tips

Adolescents make sociopathy even more mysterious than it already is, but parents can still help to turn things around - or at least never give up - before the child reaches adulthood. Read More

What if the sociopathic child...

....has been diagnosed with aspergers, has been suspended from school for stalking a girl who spurned his advances. Product of a neglectful home with two alcoholics, removed from home, placed with relatives who take him to counselling 3x a week. Relatives and school tries very hard to help the kid, who is very bright. Problem is the fact that the first ten years were hell, parents would neglect to feed him, never got him involved in activities, and he was responsible for a baby sister when they were passed out drunk (parentified). They are working on his intense anger (more than justified in his case)which is mostly directed towards females. He never shows remorse, intellectually understands what he does is wrong.

He is twelve, what are his chances? Will he be able to overcome the negativity he witnessed? His parents visit weekly make vague promises to him and his sister but they are homeless, living in a local hotel.


Fantastic post Seth!

Fantastic post Seth!

Excellent article! You have

Excellent article! You have shed light on a situation I have encountered in work and in my personal life. I am going to use some of your suggestions when dealing with some youth that exhibit these tendencies. I have faith that it will work out well for them. Thank you so much for your work and your advice.

Not so sure about some of this

I've been reading about sociopathy since 1978 when Ted Bundy went on a murder spree at Florida State University and Time ran a huge story on psychopaths.

This article is a bit problematic for me, though. First, the use of the word "myth." Psychologists and other professions should steer away from it. Read the works of Joseph Campbell and you'll see why. A myth isn't a lie, though popular culture in its ignorance has used it in such a way. Minor point.

Second, it was my understanding that sociopathy is due to a brain abnormality, not conditioning, learning or any other factor other than a physical one.

Third, I'm not fond of mixing opinion with fact in articles such as these. I refer to the sentence " If you’re simply working for money already at such a young age, on the other hand, who’s there to tell this child that positive things lie ahead?" This somehow suggests that school is the only correct way to find a path through life and that work is going to lead to problems. Nonsense and unfounded. I cite the situations of Einstein and others who have led brilliant lives by realizing school wasn't for them.

Personal opinions are distracting when they are mixed with facts.

Response to Vic

It is believed that up to 50 percent of the cause for sociopathy is genetic loading, re: monozygotic twin studies and adoption studies. Read The Sociopath Next Door - helpful explanation of the etiology of the disorder. But ultimate truth: we don't really know for sure what the heck causes sociopathy. The mystery of etiology is largely what fuels the fascination about this disorder. There's an interesting study about how sociopaths respond to emotional words when presented the visual stimulus. Fascinating.

Response to Seth

Yes, I read The Sociopath Next Door several years ago, as well as Hare's work. Here is a curious article by a neuroscientist who discovered that he is a sociopath:

The brain of a sociopath exhibits decreased activity in the frontal lobe linked to empathy and what is commonly known to be morality — right and wrong and feelings for others. I contend that we do indeed know what is happening in the brains of sociopaths; it is not a mystery at all. While I appreciate your article, it's a bit problematic in regard to the sociopathic mind. Way too often I find that even "experts" do not fully understand the physical, neurological and brain disorders associated with sociopathy. Instead they approach it as a fixable, psychological (i.e., emotional) disorder that can be remedied or lessened with counseling.

and another thing

I made a typo at outset of my first reply. I wrote it in haste. Should say "professionals," not professions.

And another thing that bothers me about this article. The advice is crazy in light of the reality of sociopathy. The article states, "parents of sociopathic adolescents must try to steel themselves against the constant transgressions and find a way toward auto-pilot positive parenting, sending the message that the child is loved and valued despite the problematic behaviors."

Seriously? If you understand sociopathy, then you'd know that a sociopath does not know what love is. Therefore, what good does it do to send a message that the child is loved? This is the core of the problem.

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Seth Meyers, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health.


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