Talented yet troublesome child. What it could mean?
Dev, is a 14 year old boy, studying in VIII standard in a well reputed school in the city. He is the second child of the family and ever since he was born, his parents encouraged him to have a culturally rich background. With that in mind, he was enrolled into classes like shloka reciting, learning musical instruments and in martial arts.
“Dev is a winner” his mother says. He never gives up on anything if it comes to a competition. However, it also depends on his motivation. If he finds the victory motivating enough, he would struggle hard to win it.
From his early childhood, he has been naughty and mischievous. In school, he has been troublesome and brings up fights home! However, since he was an average student in academics and engages in extracurricular activities, teachers never made it an issue assuming he will become alright someday.
As days passed by, the complaints from teachers started increasing although he was still scoring 60% – 70% in his examinations. “With his mischievous attitude and naughtiness, I am called upon by the school principal almost every week as a warning”, his mother exclaims. She also adds that Dev appears guilty for a short span and promises not to involve in any mischievous activities but has never been able to keep his promises.
“Dev shows very less empathy to others, has no remorse, steals, lies to escape from the situation, to attain instant gratification and has no sincerity in speech. However, the only thing we like about Dev is that, unlike other children who easily lose confidence and self-esteem, Dev never loses it. He never gets stressed or tensed about examinations (which also scares us). He is always confident about himself, to an extent that we feel it is overconfidence”, his father adds confused and worried. Dev has no friends although his charm attracts people to be gathered around him all the time, he has no true friends.
Today, the school has issued suspension to the child after multiple warnings since he violently hit one of his classmates, Akash. Dev claims that he has not done anything wrong, since he was instigated by Rohit to hit Akash for some money, although he superficially regrets being caught by the Principal and for putting himself in this situation.
According to DSM-V, the mentioned characteristics clinically acclaim that Dev, has Conduct Disorder, which potentially could grow into psychopathy in the future.
How to identify if you are dealing with a similar child?
If your child exhibits any 3 of the following characteristics for a period of 6 months, you could be dealing with Conduct disorder:
- Often bullies, threatens, or intimidates others.
- Often initiates physical fights.
- Has used a weapon that can cause serious physical harm to others (e.g., a bat, brick, broken bottle, knife, gun).
- Has stolen while confronting a victim (e.g., mugging, purse snatching, extortion, armed robbery).
- Has forced someone into sexual activity
- Has deliberately engaged in fire setting with the intention of causing serious damage.
- Has deliberately destroyed others’ property (other than by fire setting).
- Has broken into someone else’s house, building, or car.
- Often lies to obtain goods or favors or to avoid obligations (i.e., “cons” others).
- Has stolen items of nontrivial value without confronting a victim (e.g., shoplifting, but without breaking and entering; forgery).
- Has broken the rules of parents/family
- Is often truant from school, beginning before age 13 years
- Has induced physical harm to people/animals
So, how dangerous could this be?
Although these characteristics may be unpleasant, not all psychopaths are dangerous or criminals, and not all dangerous criminals are psychopaths, states Dr. T. Santhanam, a leading psychologist and an active researcher of juvenile cases. The real unsolved problem when it comes to psychopathy is how to treat the personality disorder.
With recent studies focusing on the malleable nature and plasticity of the brain, it has to be considered that psychopathy can be treated and managed but since the cause of the disorder is predominantly genetic, it is nearly impossible to be cured. So although psychopathy is largely genetic, where it’s mostly down to if you have the right combination of genes needed to become a psychopath or not, life experiences during puberty and early infant years could make or break a potential psychopath.
Therefore, understanding when and how psychopathy develops from child to adult is an important part of the research engine that will hopefully identify what parents, caregivers and governments can do to prevent an at risk child from growing up to be a dangerous psychopath. It is also important to start psychotherapy as early as possible, since the threat this child poses to the society is huge (Yes, they could even become serial killers and sleeper cells as they are easily manipulative).
Tips for parents and caregivers:
Establish rock solid boundaries – stand your ground
Remain calm – don’t get carried away or stuck into the drama the child is playing
Stay focused – be wary of diversion tactics
Discipline and strictness is the key!