Ever heard of CIPA (congenital insensitivity to pain)? As far as I can tell, sociopathy/psychopathy is the emotional version of this disorder, with huge social impacts. It sounds like a cool thing to have...no pain, ever? Awesome! Until you stop and really think about it. You learn from pain...huh, that hurt, you won't do that again. You don't overextend the limits of your body, pain makes you correct your course. Ow, you take your hand off the hot stove, you don't fry your hand right off. You feel when there is something terribly wrong, ugh, you're nauseous and have a fever, and you do something about it. These people tend to have shortened life spans of a result of CIPA, and can die from something as simple as overheating, because they never know to get out of the heat.
Now imagine a lack of emotional pain/feeling and how difficult that would make it for you to navigate human relationships. If you have never experienced certain emotions, how can you have empathy/know how someone else is feeling? I would have to think the world would look like an irrational, confusing place. I believe we have emotional pain to correct ourselves, have empathy, and understand each other, which is rather important with billions of us really needing to get along and not have the world turn into Thunderdome.
Sociopathic children do not have normal boundaries, whether because they aren't picking up on social cues or refuse to pick them up because they don't care. ~ If they are enjoying you, they should just move in with you, because why should that end while they are enjoying themselves? They don't experience shame by being mocked by peers, so behaviors like wetting themselves goes uncorrected. They instead discover that it is a nifty way to really piss people that they don't like off.
A neurotypical child will generally feel and display genuine affection. A sociopathic child will find you acceptable and display certain behaviors that keep you happy, which is of general benefit to them and more pleasant for them to be around. Even with your head buried firmly in the sand, it becomes difficult not to feel manipulated, that there is a calculus to their interactions with you. An honest family that is asked if the child loves them will say "I don't know."
- As for the initial question, there was a real potential for violence, particularly in my son. He had violent fantasies, and as he grew physically he began to act more on his impulses. He tried to choke one family member during an argument, beat a smaller child on the bus, and held his sister against a wall and showed her how he wanted to carve her arms up with a kitchen knife. I was never on the receiving end, but that had more to do with me than him. I am relatively tall, reasonably strong, have a strong personality and had never been particularly susceptible even to emotional and mental manipulation (so to children I would have always seem somewhat larger than life). He and I both knew he was never going to be able to get fear or rage from me, and I would have no problem getting his ass hauled off by the cops, so in no way would he get what he wanted out of violence toward me. From day to day living, I had enough instinct to know that if I displayed weakness in any capacity it would be exploited, so I couldn't, which was tiring, tense and unnatural to me. A limping gazelle wouldn't have survived in my house.
- They lie. No, not in a "no, Mommy, I didn't break that vase" kind of way that is normal. In a chameleon kind of way. Daughter wails to one person how awful and despicable physical violence is, two hours after bragging to someone else about going to school and kicking someone's ass, wanted to hurt them. "Impressing" people with a nonexistent history of disgusting sexual acts, pregnancies that never happened, children that don't exist. He loves cheeseburgers, tomorrow he hates them with another person. You begin to wonder if there is a real solid person in there, or is there just a bunch of constantly shifting tides.
- They do not "learn from their mistakes." They will do the same destructive or disruptive things year after year, because for some reason they get their rocks off doing them.
- There is no amount of parental creativity or Dr Phil "finding their currency" that is going to move the needle in behavior.
- They will do what they want when they want, because they one-track-mind want it, and everything else is usually irrelevant. Negative or positive reinforcement will rarely influence anything, especially not over time.
- Attempts to teach a sociopathic child concern for others is a losing proposition. You will do it anyway, because you want to at least have those ideas out there and available, and to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you tried. But any attempt to explain to the child why it is wrong to steal free lunches provided for poor children at the YMCA or steal donated supplies from the guidance counselor's office will be met with a blank look. Who cares if someone else will starve? They wanted it, and they were proud of themselves for getting away with it.
- I usually felt like a shoulder angel (walking, talking external conscience). They knew right from wrong, but only behaved with manners/not stealing/not hitting, etc. if I was there. I was left feeling that I had to be hyper-vigilant and present all the time, or something bad would happen. This was utterly exhausting.
- Parental blame: people will look at your children, who they know are "not right," then at you, and decide you did it to them. Most people generally believe that children are cute, blank little slates and are a product of their environment. I used to believe that too, until it was sociopath-ed out of me. Their behavior is generally the opposite of everything I have desperately tried to instill in them. I ended up feeling judged and humiliated and isolated by society, and the kids couldn't care less.
- It can destroy relationships between you and other family members/friends. Attempts to tell others what was going on (hey, at times I would have liked some support or empathy) was interpreted as a mother badmouthing her kids, that I blew things out of proportion, that I was too controlling, I ended up sounding like the crazy one. I was told that I didn't love my children. Doesn't lead to warm fuzzies all the way around.
Eventually it will all catch up with you. They will become old enough or sophisticated enough that you can't keep them out of trouble anymore. And you are left wondering why you tried for so hard for so long, when this is who they are, and always were.
Excerpt from Answer on @Quora by Anonymous to What is like to have psychopath children?
Photo courtesy of The Telegraph