May 16, 2012

Tiny broken minds

Really well written piece in the NYT this week. Can you call a 9-year-old a psychopath?

Wow. Make all the baby Ted Bundy jokes you like, but this is pretty chilling, amazing stuff. I'll never forget watching The Bad Seed as a kid. Spectacularly evil little girl, long before Damien et al came on the scene. Roz and I would watch it late at night, and it's still a go-to punchline in this house.

But reading about some of the kids in this article is just stunning. Read further and see the genetic link - even scarier.

Dunno what they're going to be able to do, but as a doctor quoted in the piece says, they have to start tracking this so they can have the longer case studies they need to figure out if they can make the branch grow a different way.

Can you imagine if they can't? Knowing that kind of information, and being powerless to stop it?



Anonymous buzzwhack said...

Reading that article awoke a memory of a really bad summer in 1976. I can say with certainty that a 9 year old can be a psychopath, because I met an 8 year old one. I'm going upstairs to sit on the patio in the cool, clammy dampness to warm up from the truly spooky memories your article dredged up. I will say though, excellent read.

May 16, 2012 11:17 AM  
Blogger marcelleqb said...

I read this awhile back - about a Dr. who discovers that his family carries the sociopath gene - he's even related to Lizzie Borden.

And I've read elsewhere that many doctors guess that these people who are born with the gene have learned to adapt so that they find reward in money instead of violence. One doctor went so far as to hazard a guess that you would find a lot sociopaths on Wall Street (this was before the crash) or business.

May 16, 2012 11:48 AM  
Blogger Lorraine said...

Another good link, Marcelle, thank you.

I think we've all seen hints of this at some point in our lives, like Buzz mentioned. I know I have, to varying degrees. It's creepy.

May 16, 2012 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very frightening....I recall a similar movie with a boy, McCauley Culkin? Not sure but no matter, how does a parent sleep at night with one eye open?

May 16, 2012 11:59 AM  
Blogger marcelleqb said...

Just reread the article - I got distracted and missed the paragraphed that mentioned "Snakes in Suits" - that's where I read about wall st. being a haven for sociopaths.

And I was thinking that if we are going to have psychologists who diagnose children as sociopaths, I would ask that we require those same psychiatrists to be tested for the same condition. I've met a few psychiatrist who come across as narcissistic (that word has too many c and s) and manipulative.

May 16, 2012 12:25 PM  
Blogger Chris Brown (not the felon) said...

This is a compellingly chilling article. I have a nephew whose behavior is always impeccable but I would not trust his motives as far as I could heave a mass of roiling boa constrictors.

Our foster daughter came from a very abusive background and we looked over our shoulders regularly for a while after we took her in. Fortunately she has been nothing but the poster child for normalcy. Well... compared to the rest of us, anyway. We are truly blessed.

But it makes me afraid, knowing that these people make up 1% of the population and that most of them WOULD throw a toddler into a pool and pull up a chair... just to see what happens. When they grow up their appetites get more violent and random.

Now I won't be able to sleep tonight. Thanks.

May 16, 2012 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Zena said...

I remember watching an episode of The Nature of Things many years ago which examined the phenomenon of psycho/sociopathy. The emerging evidence even then was that the roots of the disorder began in the amygdala (which plays a primary function in memory and emotional responses). I think it also included studies of people with brain injuries, who had lost their ability to empathise.

The repercussions for the justice system and our ways of dealing with criminal behaviour are huge, particularly if it can be scientifically proven that criminality isn't always a result of 'choice' per se, but a function of brain abnormality (how do you punish, let alone treat, someone who lack the capacity to comprehend why what they've done is wrong).

Apart from that, we need to identify why it that society tends to follow and venerate people who clearly fall into the psycho/sociopathic personality category. People like Hitler and and Milosevic (and many of our 'non-violent' business leaders). It's not just a matter of being afraid - there's something compelling in those kinds of people which 'normal' people don't seem to be able to resist. Until it's too late, that is...

I've met a few 'non-criminal' and non - physically, at any rate - violent people with definite psychopathic traits in my life. We probably all have. They can wreak havoc, without anyone really knowing what hit them. Luckily, most of them don't possess the kind of sharp intellect that makes the Hitlers of this world so dangerous.

I like the hopeful tone of the article, in that these disorders may be treatable. But I think it's a lot more complicated than just a bit of behaviour modification.

Anyone else read any of the responders' comments? Some of them were interesting, to say the least...

The anti-robot cypher seems unimpressed with the whole issue: "emergyl trashe"

May 16, 2012 9:59 PM  
Anonymous Zena said...

Holy carp - I didn't realise my response was so long. Sorry.

I do get carried away sometimes...

May 16, 2012 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Zena said...

Aw hell - crappy proof-reading too. Ever have one of those days?

More apologies...

May 16, 2012 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zena- step away from the keyboard.

May 17, 2012 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Zena said...

Ha - that's like telling a moth to stay away from the porch light...

May 17, 2012 2:04 PM  
Blogger DJW said...

They have touched on this on T.V. several times, and in sci-fi.

On 'Law & Order' several years ago, a pre-teen was identified as having a mutated chromosome pre-disposing him to be a murderer, therefore not criminally responsible.

On almost every episode of 'Criminal Minds' they delve into the Un-Sub's childhood, to look for clues to their current behavior.

And, of course, 'Minority Report'. Maybe we should take D.N.A. from the womb and then track behaviors throughout life.

There may be some truth to it, but as long as we teach our children (or rather, let video games and movies and blood sports teach our children) that violence is rewarded with more power, and there are no consequences, we will continue to produce increasingly violent people.

I doubt very much that "Pirates" is gonna knock "The Avengers" or "Hunger Games" out of the top 10 anytime soon.

I also doubt very much that there was a midnight line up for the release of the "Care Bears Care Quest" video game.

People, like pets and plants are a product of their environment.


May 18, 2012 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Zena said...

I do agree with you that as a society we give violence far too much of our focus and energy.

But psychopathy is not a learned condition (just like schizophrenia or autism aren't learned). These people truly are 'different,' and their difference is innate. The conditions of their environment and upbringing may or may not exacerbate their tendencies, but they start off with a different set of precepts (if you've ever met a person like this, you'll know what I mean).

It's worth noting that only a slim minority of people on the extreme scale of psychopathy are sadistically violent. The majority seem to slip in between the cracks and wreak their havoc less spectacularly.

Interesting that, with the advent of genetic research, we're leaning back towards our ancestral notions of 'nature' (bad seed) as opposed to the 'strictly nurture' principle of the 60s and 70s.

Truth: somewhere in the middle, as always...

Okay - stepping away from the keyboard again...

May 18, 2012 3:35 PM  
Blogger DJW said...

I still maintain nurture over nature most of the time.


May 18, 2012 11:17 PM  

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