Sociopaths and children—always be on guard
Having a baby with a sociopath can lead to years of problems. The sociopath may abandon the baby and leave you to raise the child alone—this is actually the best scenario. The sociopath may use the child as a pawn in an ongoing battle to torment you. And the child may turn out to be a sociopath as well—this is by far the worst scenario.
Every family situation is different. But if yours includes a sociopath, here are some things to keep in mind.
Indifference to welfare
In his book, Without Conscience, Dr. Robert Hare writes, “Indifference to the welfare of children—their own as well as those of the man or woman they happen to be living with at the time—is a common theme in our files of psychopaths. (He prefers the term ‘psychopaths.’) Psychopaths see children as an inconvenience.”*
This indifference to children’s welfare may take many forms. Sociopaths may leave children—even infants—alone or in the care of unreliable babysitters. They may fail to provide children with food and proper clothing.
Sociopaths who appear to be taking care of their children may still be manipulating the kids for their own purposes. They may:
- Demand certain behavior or accomplishments—for their own image, not for the benefit of the child.
- Inflict emotional abuse, so that children have no concept of normalcy.
- Deliberately try to corrupt a child through inappropriate or dangerous activities, such as pornography.
When sociopaths are involved with children, always be on guard.
Co-parenting with a sociopath
Many sociopaths appear to be outwardly respectable, and are therefore able to convince family courts that they should continue to have parental rights. Courts seem especially reluctant to accept that a mother may be a sociopath and is damaging to the child. If you are co-parenting with a sociopath, expect to be hassled.
For your own mental health, maintain No Contact as best you can. Exchange the bare minimum of information about the child with your ex—preferably by e-mail or Our Family Wizard. If you must deliver or pick up a child for visitation, have someone with you or ring the doorbell and then wait in the car.
Never let the sociopath into your home for any reason. Do not give your ex any information about your life. Resist any baiting. The sociopath will try to undermine and hurt you through the children. Document everything that happens.
How one mother copes
One reader of Lovefraud.com was married to a narcissist, which is similar to a sociopath. She has been able to raise her children to be normal, even though they see their father frequently. Here are her tips:
“Associate as little as possible with the ex, preferably by e-mail and keep it all business. The children will recognize what you are doing by the time they are pre-teens. You need not say a thing.
Compliment your child daily, even over the phone when they are visiting with their father. Ask questions about their day and how they feel and what their opinions are on different subjects and issues. Let them be HEARD; the narcissist will never really hear their sweet voices. Hug them and display closeness by holding hands, smiling, laughing and joking with them.
Criticize when necessary, but only in private. Make sure they know it is the action you do not care for, but you still love them, no matter what, period, and SAY this to them. Praise them in public and not just for their accomplishments, but just for them being who and what they are. Soften your tone and voice, they need to hear kind words and thoughtful manners to wash away the strident harshness of their father’s cruel, acerbic and almost always critical voice.
Let them know, in the most non-offensive way, that you do not approve of their father’s actions, as they are disrespectful to others. Make sure they SEE YOU behaving in a loving, accepting and respectful way to all others. Let them see you being kind frequently, no matter how small the kindness. Show them how to do the right thing under all circumstances and to be kind, no matter what. Teach them that all they can truly control is themselves and live this one (especially) by example!
Tell them each day that you love them, and I mean every day. Admire their accomplishments, encourage them to be frank, open, honest and to speak their minds, even to their father. Assure them that you are 100% behind them at all times. Teach them not to be afraid of this man or anyone else, and that they are worthy of the love they receive from you and others.
Lastly, when the time is right, let them watch you and include them often in a loving relationship with a normal man. They will discern what is right and what is narcissistic behavior.”
Other mothers who are co-parenting with sociopaths have found that their children are very perceptive. Kids can see through the sociopath’s faÃ§ade to his “meanness.” Sometimes they see the evil before adults do.
The sociopathic child
The sad truth about sociopaths is that the temperamental traits that lead to this character disorder are mostly genetic. This means the child of a sociopath may inherit a predisposition for the disorder. It also means a sociopathic child can be born into a normal, loving family.
Dr. Liane Leedom, author of Just Like His Father?, believes that although a child with a sociopathic biological parent may have a genetic connection to the disorder, parenting and the environment have a role in determining if the antisocial personality fully develops. To prevent a child from becoming a sociopath, she says, intervention must begin while the child is young—certainly before puberty.
If you have had a child with a sociopath, Lovefraud strongly recommends that you read Just Like His Father? – A Guide to Overcoming Your Child’s Genetic Connection to Antisocial Behavior, Addiction & ADHD.
Many people do not want to label a child as a sociopath. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), as presented by BehaveNet®, states that an individual must be at least 18 years of age to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder.
But Dr. Robert Hare and his colleagues, Drs. Adelle Forth and David Kosson, have developed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Youth Version. This assessment tool, which must be administered by a trained clinician, measures antisocial traits in youths aged 12 to 18. Other experts say that the symptoms can be seen in much younger children.
Here is the heartbreaking reality: If you have a sociopathic child, unless intervention was started while the child was young, there may be very little you can do about it.