Just Like His Father? Is nearly four years old now and my own son is nearly eight. At the time the book was released, scientists were still engaged in the genetics versus environment debate regarding the development of antisocial behavior. That debate is now over and every authority accepts that antisocial behavior and antisocial personality traits develop due to a gene-environment interaction. I am working on revising the book because now some specific genes have been identified.
Thankfully, I have not had to cope with the toxic environment a sociopath/psychopath creates for their offspring. Just Like His Father? doesn’t really grapple with that issue other than to encourage people to consider that the child may be better off with only one parent. At time the book was written, my thinking was based on two false premises. The first falsehood, I was taught in residency, “antisocial individuals abandon their young” has turned out to be perhaps the biggest problem at-risk children face. Antisocial individuals do not necessarily abandon their young, but they do abuse them and use them as pawns to damage other people and they also use them in their cons.
Four years ago, I naively believed that the family courts would naturally dictate that sociopaths/ psychopaths should be kept from harming their children. This second premise has also turned out to be false and is the basis for the nightmare many people I now count as friends are living.
It follows that in addition to teaching the material in the book and workbook, to save at-risk children we also have to take on the system-hopefully by working together. The system is composed of mental health professionals who really do not understand antisocial personality disorder let alone the meaning of psychopathic personality traits to parenting. It is also composed of Judges who want to make the tough decisions easy by giving themselves judicial sound bites to go by. Here is the official mantra of the state of New York Family Court:
“Visitation by a noncustodial parent is presumed to be in the child’s best interest and should be denied only in exceptional situations, such as where substantial evidence reveals that visitation would be detrimental to the welfare of the child.”
The important words there are “substantial evidence.” Just what constitutes substantial evidence? I am working on researching the answer to that question and have access to an extensive online law library through the university where I teach.
I am preparing a generic document that people can use as a resource regarding the harmful effects of parenting by antisocial individuals and emotional and verbal abuse on children. Some recent research shows that the developmental damage done by emotional and verbal abuse is as severe as that due to physical and sexual abuse.
But we really have to change the legal mantra. Given what we know of genetic risk, we have to not only protect at-risk children from abuse, we have to provide them with an enriching, nurturing environment to prevent the intergenerational spread of disorder. The new mantra should be:
“In cases where one parent has antisocial personality disorder (psychopathy) the child deserves the best upbringing the least disordered parent can provide.”
“The least disordered parent has a right to live life free of the sociopath/psychopath they were conned by.”
Setting the least disordered parent free facilitates his/her mental health and contributes to the well-being of the child.
Here is what you can do to join this effort:
- If you went through a custody/visitation battle and your children are old enough for you to comment on how the battle and the sociopath affected them please write me. I am especially interested in talking with offspring over 18 about their perspectives.
- If you have an ongoing situation you are willing to share please write. Recently, people from Alabama and New York asked me for help so I compiled the case law for those states. The goal is to compile the case law for every state then make the info available on the web.
- If you want to volunteer to read the case law and help me organize it, I’ll put you to work right away.
- If you are an attorney or legal assistant who wants to help please let me know.
- If you have political connections, we need you.
I am looking to form a committee of workers committed to this cause.
Last but not least, I regret the title of my book because it suggests gender. The title merely reflects my own personal experience. This is NOT about gender or fatherhood versus motherhood. Normal men love and nurture their children and I do not dispute that children need that love and nurturing. This is about a psychiatric disorder for which there is no proven treatment, antisocial personality disorder/ psychopathy.
We are working to save the most vulnerable of all children from abuse, neglect and disorder. We are advocating for those children who carry genetic risk for antisocial personality disorder and who have a mother or father who is not capable of loving and nurturing them.
Contact Dr. Liane Leedom at [email protected]