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The Child Psychopath, Research Paper Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1687

Research Paper

Violence in the household can determine what type of person children who live there grow up to become.  Raising children is stressful from an emotional and a financial standpoint and young couples often react with unnecessary violence in such situations. (Lansford, et al. 2007)  There are integral issues that must be learned from the home as children grow up and develop emotionally.  Those children who learn to view violence as a means of settling arguments or correcting behaviors are more likely to become violent themselves as adults.

Abuse and neglect is a widespread and horrific crime.  There were an estimated 906,000 abused or neglected children in 2006 and it has been reported that one in five children are killed daily due to neglect or abuse.  Over eighty percent of these fatalities are under the age of four. (USDHH, 2009)

The National Institute of Justice analyzed a compilation of studies in 2004 that showed where abused children were eleven times more likely to become violent as adults and commit violent crimes. (NIJ, 2004)

According to a study performed by the University College of London and led by Essi Viding, one in one-hundred children may be psychopathic.  Her study consisted of a control group of children that included her own.  Her conclusions included that environmental differences were the main cause of psychopathic behaviors. “This does not mean these children are born anti-social or are destined to become anti-social. But in the same way that some of us are more susceptible to heart disease, these children are people who are more vulnerable to environmental influences that trigger the anti-social outcome.” (The Inquisitor, 2012)

The connection between violence in the home and aggressive behavior in children is indisputable. (Wootton, et al. 1997; Hengeller, et al. 2002) There have been studies taken from a national database that identified abuse in babies under a year old showing one in fifty babies in this country have been neglected or abused.  Most of these instances involved neglect rather than abuse and speculation by the authors concluded that most of the cases involving neglect were precipitated by alcohol or drug abuse. (USDHH, 2009)

One of the horrific consequences of child abuse involves shaking babies when they cry or otherwise antagonize caregivers.  Infants are particularly vulnerable to head injuries as a result of abuse.  Head injury, when it is a result of child abuse, may be caused by direct blows to the child’s head, throwing or dropping the child, or violently shaking the child.  Trauma of the head is the largest single cause of death in child abuse cases occurring in the United States.  Children as old as five years have died from this abuse.  (Palusci, 2004)

It has been estimated that around 30% of children who were violently abused or neglected will grow up to become violent abusers.  This type of behavior can be passed on through generations and creates a family culture of abuse that is hard to eliminate.  (USDHH, 2009)  It has also been determined that children who experience violent abuse that occurs in the first five years of life were much more likely to be arrested as juveniles for various offenses including violent ones. (Lansford, et al. 2007)

A research psychiatrist treating a nine-year-old boy at Florida International University determined that the boy may be a psychopath.  The researcher, Dan Waschbush, has been investigating what he calls “callous-unemotional’ behavior in children who typically lack any remorse or empathy for the consequences of their actions.  These types of behaviors are considered to be precursors for more aggressive and potentially violent psychopathic behavior as adults. (Kahn, 2012)

Abused children often are subjected to excessive discipline from adult caregivers when they exhibit undesirable behaviors in the home.  In order to curb the development of more problematic behavior when these children reach adulthood, it is necessary to change the emotional learning environment of the children.  Children mimic what they see in their lives and those who witness abuse as a problem solver are much more likely to use violence as a tool for settling disagreements or curbing undesired behavior.  Interventions offer some hope and they may be prompted by adults involved in the child’s upbringing, either at school, at home or in society.  In any such intervention, the goal is to curb violent behavior before it can get the child into serious trouble with the law or with family and friends. (Wootton, et al. 1997; Kazdin & Whitley, 2006)

It is improper to give up on a child and label them as “psychopaths” at a young age. Instead of labeling children as psychopaths, caregivers and treatment providers should be alerted to children who exhibit “callous-unemotional” traits in everyday life.  Some examples of these types of traits are a lack of guilt, manipulation, lying, callousness, failure to accept responsibility for their actions and glibness. (Kahn, 2012)

Schools are in a good position to identify and report signs of child abuse in the home.

Teachers must be continually vigilant in looking for signs of abuse and home or school based interventions may save lives.  Adults who are responsible for providing childcare must remember that abuse to a child has short and long-term consequences.  Victims often exhibit aggressive behavior, learning disorders, and anti-social tendencies.  Some may develop depression or brain damage if a child is hit or shaken.  As victims grow older they may begin using drugs or become alcoholics, exhibit criminal behaviors or become immature teen parents. (MSU, 2009)

A 2004 study from the University of Chicago researched abuse among children living in foster care.  The results showed that more than 70% of the children reporting said that their primary caregivers had issues and problems that curtailed their ability to provide adequate child care.  Most of these problems involved alcohol and drug abuse, a primary precursor to physical abuse in the home.  The study also showed that nearly 60% of the children were victims of neglect and over 35% claimed they were physically abused and more than 27% were sexually abused.  The same study identified over half of the foster children in the study sample had been arrested, convicted or spent a night in jail and had been involved in violent acts.  Over 40% of the boys as well as the girls in the research group had reported committing violent acts.  Half of the boys and nearly a third of the girls reported some history of being victimized. (Courtney, et al. 2004)

The criminal justice system is ill serviced to handle the wave of mentally ill people who commit violent crimes.  Incarceration and medication are the modes of treatment, and state and federal penal institutions are severely lacking in resources to properly administer medication in most cases.  They do not have enough qualified psychiatrists on hand.  They do not have enough available psychotropic medication for all violent offenders even if properly diagnosed.  Prison is hardly an environment for constructive personal rehabilitation. (Ramslam, 2012)

Signs of neglect that have been noticed during school interventions include children who are persistently hungry, shown abrupt loss of weight and steal or hide food.  Poor hygiene, recurring medical problems that appear to be untreated and an ongoing lack of supervision at the home are also problems noted.  Excessive absences and inappropriate dress are problems that may indicate abuse through neglect as well. (Kazdan & Whitley, 2006)

Sexual abuse is often indicated by age-inappropriate carnal knowledge exhibited through sexually explicit drawings and behavior.  Other symptoms noted have been unexplained fear of people or places, physical problems in the genital area such as itching, bruises, bleeding, pain or venereal disease.  (Kazdan & Whitley, 2006)

No child should have to suffer neglect or abuse and run the risk of growing up to become a psychopath.  Social interventions can help correct poor parenting at home and offer counseling to those who seek to end the cycle of violence and crime that follows abuse and neglect in children.  It is in society’s best interests to support such efforts in the community and in our schools.  The world will be a better place with fewer children growing up to become psychopaths.

References

Courtney, Mark E.; Dworsky, Amy; Lee, JoAnn S.; Raap, Melissa; Cusick, Gretchen Ruth; Keller, Thomas; Havlicek, Judy; Perez, Alfred; Terao, Sherri and Bost, Noel, (2004) “Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth,” Chapin Hall Discussion Paper, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Hengeller, Scott, Ph.D, Clingempeel, W. Glenn, Ph.D.Brondino, Michael J, Ph.D, Pickrel, Susan M.D. (2002)“Four-Year Follow-up of Multisystemic Therapy with Substance-Abusing and Substance-Dependent Juvenile Offenders,” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: July, Vol. 41, Issue 7, Pp. 868-874.

Inquisitor, The (2012) “Controversial Study Claims 1 In 100 Children In The UK Are Psychopaths,” accessed online on October 12, 2012 at: http://www.inquisitr.com/317572/controversial-study-claims-1-in-100-children-in-the-uk-are-psychopaths/#dCXCHiSzVUtVRBJc.99

Kazdin, Alan E. and Whitley, Moira K. (2006) “Pretreatment Social Relations, Therapeutic Alliance and Improvements in Parenting Practices in Parent Management Training,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 74, Number 2, Pp. 346-355.

Kahn, Jennifer, (2012) “Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?” The New York Times, May 11, accessed online on October 13, 2012 at: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/can-you-call-a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html?r=2&src=me&ref=general&pagewanted=all&

Lansford, Jennifer E.; Miller-Johnson, Sherry; Berlin, Lisa J.; Dodge, Kenneth A.; Bates, John E. and Pettit, Gregory S. (2007) “Early Physical Abuse and Later Violent Delinquency: A Prospective Longitudinal Study,” Child Maltreatment, Volume 12, Number 3, August, Pp. 233-245.

Michigan State University, (2009) “Personnel Guide for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect, Chance at Childhood Program, accessed online on October 13, 2012 at: http://chanceatchildhood.msu.edu/pdf/MandatedReporter.pdf

National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (2004) “Another Look at the Effects of Child Abuse,” NIJ Journal, Issue No. 251, July, Pp. 23-24.

Palusci, Vincent, MD. (2004) “Shaken Baby/Shaken Impact Syndrome,” Kidshealth, August, accessed online on October 13, 2012 at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/shaken.html

Ramslam, Katherine (2012) “The Childhood Psychopath: Bad Seed or Bad Parents?” Crime Library, True TV, accessed online on October 10, 2012 at: http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/criminal_mind/psychology/psychopath/5.html

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration (USDHH) (2009) “Children and Families Administration, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau, “Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities 2009: Statistics and Interventions,” accessed online on October 10, 2012 at:  http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/fatality.pdf

Wootton, Jane M., Frick, Paul J., Shelton, Karen K., and Silverthorn, Persephanic, (1997) “Ineffective Parenting and Childhood Conduct Problems: The Moderating Role of Callous-Unemotional Traits,” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol. 65, No. 2, Pp. 301-308.

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