How to Catch a Budding Psychopath
Looks at how psychopathic traits could be detected in childhood. Development of the Childhood Psychopath Scale (CPS); Its uses.
By Marian M. Jones published November 1, 1997 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
With three movies about serial killer Andrew Cunanan already in the works,one will likely depict the early years of the man who murdered designer Gianni Versace. Were there hints in Cunanan's childhood that he would commit such crimes? Could his psychopathic traits have been detected earlier? Although there's no psychiatric category for child psychopaths, University of Kentucky psychologists are working on a way to identify them. They've developed the Childhood Psychopathy Scale (CPS), a questionnaire that measures tendencies common to psychopaths, such as impulsivity, drug abuse, and lack of anxiety.
The team is focusing on personality characteristics because these traits are more consistent than behavior. Although they haven't yet caught any proto-Cunanans, initial tests of 508 fourth-grade boys showed that high CPS scores do predict a pattern of future delinquency. Since adult psychopaths are almost impossible to rehabilitate, Kentuchy's Donald Lynam, Ph.D., believes that identifying them as children could provide a window of opportunity in which to intervene.
PHOTO (BLACK & WHITE): Cunanan, like many psychopaths, assumed a variety of identities and aliases.