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A 9-Year-Old Psychopath?

All kids scream and throw tantrums every now and then, but Michael is different. When he was 5 years old, the boy developed a disturbing ability to switch between full-blown rage to calm rationality in a blink of an eye.

After years of trying to diagnose Michael's condition, her parents were referred to Dan Waschbusch of Florida International University, who came up with "callous-unemotional" syndrome. Basically, Michael was diagnosed as a psychopath ... at age 9.

For this intriguing article over at the New York Times, Jennifer Kahn visited the family:

When I first met Michael, he seemed shy but remarkably well behaved. While his brother Allan ran through the house with a plastic bag held overhead like a parachute, Michael entered the room aloofly, then curled up on the living room sofa, hiding his face in the cushions. “Can you come say hello?” Anne asked him. He glanced at me, then sprang cheerfully to his feet. “Sure!” he said, running to hug her. Reprimanded for bouncing a ball in the kitchen, he rolled his eyes like any 9-year-old, then docilely went outside. A few minutes later, he was back in the house, capering antically in front of Jake, who was bobbing up and down on his sit-and-ride scooter. When the scooter tipped over, Michael gasped theatrically and ran to his brother’s side. “Jake, are you O.K.?” he asked, wide-eyed with concern. Earnestly ruffling his youngest brother’s hair, he flashed me a winning smile.

If the display of brotherly affection felt forced, it was difficult to see it as fundamentally disturbed. Gradually, though, Michael’s behavior began to morph. While queuing up a Pokémon video on the family’s computer upstairs, Michael turned to me and remarked crisply, “As you can see, I don’t really like Allan.” When I asked if that was really true, he said: “Yes. It’s true,” then added tonelessly, “I hate him.”

Glancing down a second later, he noticed my digital tape recorder on the table. “Did you record that?” he asked. I said that I had. He stared at me briefly before turning back to the video. When a sudden noise from the other room caused me to glance away, Michael seized the opportunity to grab the recorder and press the erase button. (Waschbusch later noted that such a calculated reprisal was unusual in a 9-year-old, who would normally go for the recorder immediately or simply whine and sulk.)

So, can you call a 9-year-old a psychopath? Read more of this intriguing article over at the New York Times: Link (Photo: Elinor Carruci for the New York Times) - via Boing Boing

That's what happens when you don't know how to say the word NO to a child. You can't always say YES and then expect them to conform when they suddenly start getting NOs. Maybe he just wasn't loved enough. He probably has BPD. I blame the parents.

I recommend a career in corporate upper management or politics he’d fit right in.
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I was just like this as a kid and I turned out fine. It's called being in control over ones own emotions. What you have there is a future scientist. Like the character, "Spock" in the popular Star Trek series, he may seem emotionless or even creepy, but he's just an actor. He feels emotions like everybody else. He just chooses not to act on them immediately. Capable of higher reasoning, this personality type may channel these delayed emotions into mathematical, musical, acting, and political acumen as well.
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They need to keep trying to help him, but if nothing works let us all hope that he has the cognitive ability to understand that if he ever hurts anyone he will be locked up in a very uncomfortable and boring jail environment.
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It seems sad to give up on a kid that young, so I hope that they're very careful about labelling a kid as a psychopath. These days I'm sure that sort of diagnosis would come back to bite you in the bum somewhere down the track.
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Someone asked why a child can't be considered a psychopath. As an individual who has almost finished her doctorate in clinical psychology, let me tell you part of the reason why. Psychopathy, or Antisocial Personality Disorder, as it is now diagnosed, is a personality disorder. In order to obtain this diagnosis, you need proof that this is an underlying personality trait and not something that has just occurred as result of recent stress. Most psychologists/therapists/psychiatrists would not diagnosis a personality disorder in a child. In fact, this particular diagnosis requires that the individual be 18 years old. So, yes, there has to be evidence that the individual displayed these traits as a child, but not every child with these traits ends up displaying them in adulthood. This is due to brain development, social development, etc. That being said, I have had some of my supervisors tell me (and I have had the same feeling) that they can tell that a child will grow up to be a psychopath.
Overall, I guess it's just nice to give them the opportunity to show that this is an everlasting character trait. I am not sure how I feel about this new diagnosis. The fact is that there already exists diagnoses that are considered precursors to psychopathy (but these do not necessarily mean that every child with this diagnosis will end up being a psychopath), but that is based more on antisocial behaviors than emotional response. I am just afraid that this diagnosis could be too premature for many kids.
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Why can't a 9 year old be a psychopath.

Some people have a strange attitude to kids. They seem to believe that they are all sweet and lovely and that any problems they may have are caused by adults. Sorry, but an awful lot of mental illness doesn't work like that.

Indeed a paper I read a few years ago on a specific psychopath stated that interviews with the subjects parents and others who had known him as a child suggested that he had always been a psychopath, but the condition had only been noticed when it got completely out of hand.

And of course we have to remember that if all psychopaths were easy to diagnose they wouldn't cause such problems for others. It's the fact that psychopaths seem "normal" that always surprises. Thanks to TV and film portrayals we expect psychopaths to be bezerks and that isn't often the case in real life.
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Recording a conversation in Florida without permission is a felony.
Children have a sense of privacy and trust, and should be protected by laws. I don't think these adults are looking out for this kid, and I don't think this kid is that weird.
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I disagree. I think you can watch them, but I think it's unwise to diagnose such a serious and life-long personality disorder until the child is finished developing socio-emotionally. But you should definitely keep an eye on. That kid sounds creepy.

We Need to Talk About Kevin, anyone?
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I definitely think you can call a 9-year-old a psychopath. I've worked with one from the time he was 5 up to 11. It's extremely unnerving, and I hope he gets help that works before adulthood or I know I'll see his name in the news eventually.
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