By | November 24, 2006 38 Comments

Children of sociopaths are twice cursed

Many have declared that the lack of a conscience is the defect that defines sociopathy. Therefore, understanding how the conscience forms will lead us to better understand this disorder. Researchers currently discuss two basic pathways to conscience formation. The first and most common path to conscience is through guilt. Conscience through guilt develops from fear of punishment. Children who are genetically at risk for sociopathy are often fearless and so have little or no guilt, as discussed last week.

The second path to conscience

The second path to conscience is through empathy. A fearless child can have a conscience if he develops empathy. Conscience through empathy is called the “second pathway” or “alternative pathway” by researchers because empathy provides a conscience to fearless, relatively guiltless, people. Most humans have a two part conscience and experience both guilt and empathy.

Just what is empathy?

Empathy is our understanding of the feelings of others, AND a compulsion to treat others kindly based on this understanding. A compulsion is a strong urge— something a person feels he has to do. The compulsion to treat others kindly happens in part because an empathetic person actually feels another’s feelings as if they were his own. Thus the adage, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” describes a neural reflex.

If you have spent time with a sociopath, you can probably attest to the fact that although sociopaths have some understanding of other’s feelings, they lack the compulsion to treat others kindly. Brain imaging studies reveal that the parts of the brain responsible for empathy are smaller and poorly developed in sociopaths. Thus, sociopaths have failed to develop BOTH guilt and empathy. As a child, the sociopath did not travel down either path toward a conscience.

Fearless at-risk children can develop a conscience through empathy

To develop a conscience through empathy, at risk children need large amounts of nurturing attention. An especially close, loving relationship with at least one caregiver is required for empathy to develop. Because at-risk children are also impulsive and very difficult to be with, it is hard to provide them with the nurturing attention they need. Parents who succeed with at risk kids do so because they strike a balance between training impulse control and paying loving positive attention. An excessive focus on “discipline” prevents a parent from providing enough of the nurturing attention needed for empathy to develop.

At risk children are twice cursed twice!

Children of sociopaths are therefore twice cursed. They are at risk to fail to develop both guilt and empathy, one double curse. They are twice cursed again when the same genes that put them at risk, also give them unfit parents. Sociopaths are not capable of providing the nurturing attention at-risk children require. They also model aggressive behavior. In an at-risk child, unchecked aggressive impulses further squelch the development of empathy.

Are you the only healthy parent of an at-risk child?

If you are the only healthy parent of an-risk child, you have the challenge of dealing with your child’s genetics while minimizing the harmful environmental influences caused by the sociopathic parent. The legal system has failed to protect many at-risk kids from the harm done by parents who are sociopaths. This is especially tragic when there is a relatively healthy parent who is willing and able to provide the love and nurturance the at-risk child needs. The legal system should formally recognize that a child does not need both of his parents if one is a sociopath.

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So…..when your destroyed by one sociopathic parent and your left holding the ‘bag’ of one angry teenager……

These are for ‘designer’ kids with rich parents able to spend that sort of money to send Jr off….

Typically…..that is NOT the sort of Parent who comes to LF….we have been financially destroyed!!!!!



Ditto! Yeh, when you have a financially irresponisble sociopathic partner who spends money on who knows what, plenty of times behind your back, you’re left with very little. By the time you wake up to his/her shenanigans (realizing that you’ve been lied to and that money has indeed been stolen), you’re in the “poor house.” One partner is frugal, the other one is NOT, making living more difficult than it should be.


I have been married to a sociopath for 20 years. My son is 19 so yes, he was at high risk to copy his “fathers” cold, emotionless world. But I was the “healthy” parent and every day I made sure that my son would not follow my husbands evilness. Very interesting about the fact that the part of the brain responsible for empathy and compassion is usually underdeveloped and small. I always believed I could change my husband. That I could teach him empathy and compassion. Now I know that it was for nothing because he would never “improve”. I still remember how ice cold he was when my father or my dear friend passed away. I was told “get over it, people die every day”. No sympathy, no hug, no comforting. I filed for divorce on July 08 and I am done with his abuse. I can see it so clearly now, that my son and I never mattered to him. We were just “extensions” of him. After he was exposed in his affairs, in his lies and betrayals , he really had no other choice but to leave us. And I thank god every day for taking him out of my life.


Yes, leaving a spath is like quitting smoking. They do perverse your whole perception of the world. Fear of leaving and entering the same situation again. Every year of my marriage was like do I “jump of the burning boat into shark infested waters”. Amazing at conning and lies, deceipt. The lies would get so ridiculous, and it seemed a form of amusement. You live swimming in lies. What real what not. The strength in him I saw in the first place was nothing bothered him. Someone with a cool mind attracted me. Cause I can be a worry wart. So it was balance. Boy was I wrong. It wasnt a cool mind. It was lack of empathy, conscience. Cant blame any women for ending up with men like that. The lovebombing is over the top and amazing, no normal men would do. But its all fake and artificial and serves their purpose and not their emotions. Dont waste your time angry and hurt, they wont respond. They just analyse at your emotional dance and wonder how they can profit from this weakness…..


I wish my daughter would see that. He told her he was just not marriage material after his third divorce and she should not let him get married again. Now she is his target, minion or apath in his continued attempts to destroy me. I still hurt for all of us except him, but I will not let either of them destroy me.

The pain they cause on purpose and with malice is unfathomable to most as they hide in plain sight. God help us all.


You are so right “swimming in lies”. At the end his lies got so ridiculous that I actually had to laugh about it. How in the world did he expect me and my son to believe this trash ? I honestly think they create world of lies and betrayals where they are so comfortable that they believe their own lies. Every time I caught him he had that arrogant smirk on his face. His most favorite answer was “I do not recall” or “maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not”. I even printed out the nude pictures he had exchanged with the mistress/co worker. His answer was “I don’t know her”. He even lied to my son. My son who used to respect his father and now wants nothing to do with him. Evilness throughout. The day he left I had this voice in my head “I am done” and I filed for divorce. Where was my self respect, my integrity, my self worth ? I got it back with the no contact for over 6 months. I am glad my son is not a minor. My soon to be ex would even be more ugly in this divorce. And what makes me so proud is the fact that my son is the total opposite of his so called father. He is a caring , full of empathy and compassion and smart young men. To this day I look at it as my biggest accomplisrnt in life. He will never be like his father because he has a heart. Sociopath have ice blocks where their heart should be. Even though I stayed 20 years I managed to raise my son to become a “healthy” person. He was smart to see his fathers evilness . That is why he does not miss him at all. We have peace now.

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