By | November 3, 2006 1 Comments

My child’s genetic connection to a sociopath

The first time I ever heard the word sociopath was in 1980 as a 19-year-old sophomore in Psychobiology at the University of Southern California. I attended a lecture given by Dr. Sarnoff Mednick, who presented the findings of his research.

I was amazed at his work, which clearly demonstrates that genetics is an important predictor of criminal behavior. I attended many lectures in college, medical school and beyond, however that presentation always stayed with me. I remember it as if I heard it only yesterday.

Psychologists say that our memories are affected by our present circumstances, so it is no wonder I have a strong connection to that lecture heard so long ago. For better and for worse, I am living with the implications of the reality of Dr. Mednick’s research.

My husband—likely a sociopath

Nearly 4 years ago, I stood on the street outside my office and watched as the police took my husband away in handcuffs. I went home to our son, who was only five months old. I was in a daze, not knowing what to make of what had happened.

In the following weeks, I received many disturbing and enlightening telephone calls from people who said, “I didn’t want to tell you this but”¦” and “Did you know he also did”¦” As the shock of all this information cleared, I was left with only one logical conclusion: I had a child with a person who is likely a sociopath. I held my infant son and wondered, “What if he is like his father?”

Researching how the disorder develops

Out of necessity, I have committed myself to knowing everything that can be known about how antisocial personality and psychopathy develop. I search the medical literature at least weekly for any related articles or research. I will leave no stone unturned to do everything I can to prevent this horrible condition from developing in my son.

It has taken a great deal of effort to sort through the volumes of technical information. I feel the responsibility to share my understanding of the scientific literature with other parents who share this life-challenge. There are many of us and we want the best for our kids.

I wrote a book for the public: Just Like His Father? A Guide to Overcoming Your Child’s Genetic Connection to Antisocial Behavior, Addiction and ADHD, and I also author a website: Parenting the At Risk Child.

Do you have questions?

If you are also the parent or grandparent of an at-risk child, perhaps what I have learned can help you. Are there things your child does that concern you? Does your child have a difficult temperament? Do you feel you should get help but don’t know where to turn?

I am grateful to Donna Andersen for inviting me to contribute to this Blog on a weekly basis. I invite parents of children at-risk to write with stories, questions and comments. My email address is [email protected]

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Hopefully, with your knowledge – and no influence from his father – you will be able to create an environment which counteracts any genetic tendency.
I believe that both “nature and nurture” play a role. If an “at risk” person finds themselves in an environment which allows – or even encourages – psychopathic tendencies, there is more lilklihood of these becoming their modus operandi.
Psychopaths are not stupid – they will do what works best for them in whatever environment they find themselves. Creating an environment where anti-social behaviour does not “pay off” will hopefully teach the budding psychopath that other less harmful behaviours are more useful to him.
Let’s hope that your son has not inherited the “bad” genes of his father – and that he has a large dose of your genes. Good luck – and stay alert to nip bad behaviour in the bud.

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