New hope for the children of sociopaths

Those who have read Just Like His Father? know that sociopathy is a disorder with a strong genetic basis. Science has further established a genetic link between sociopathy, addiction and ADHD. The children of sociopaths, therefore, carry genetic risk for sociopathy, addiction and ADHD. If a genetically at-risk child receives special nurturing during the developmental years, prior to puberty, he/she has the greatest chance to grow up free of these disorders.

To attach real numbers to the problem of sociopathic parents and their children, consider that 25% of U.S. women are victims of domestic violence. Studies of male perpetrators of domestic violence reveal that 50% are sociopaths and another 25% have sociopathic traits but not the full disorder. These statistics reveal that although sociopaths may represent only 4% of the general population, they represent an even larger percentage of the adult male population engaged in reproduction. The situation for sociopathic females is similarly bleak, since conceiving children appears to be part of this disorder.

Given the nature of genetic risk for sociopathy and the need for special parenting, one would think that the Family Courts would take special care of these kids and work to protect them from their sociopathic parents. After all, a biologic child is a dream victim for a sociopath. The child can be subjected to psychological, physical and sexual exploitation and the abused child has no means of escaping the sociopath’s domination except through the courts.

Before you read the rest of this column please watch the trailer for Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories a PBS documentary. The problems described in the video are not rare. has received many letters from parents despirately trying to rescue their children from the hands of sociopaths. Too often the pleas of parents on behalf of children go unheeded by the courts. In line with the video, we too have observed that the courts are often punitive toward a parent who asserts that that the other parent is a potential danger to a child. We have been considering what we can do to help the voiceless children of sociopaths.

New hope for the children of sociopaths may be on the horizon. In 2001, The ACLU filed a complaint against the United States of America with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). This organization functions as an international court and pursues human rights violations in the Western Hemisphere. The ACLU filed the complaint because earlier that same year, the IACHR held the government of Brazil accountable under international law for tolerating domestic violence in the case of Maria da Penha Maia Fernandes.

The case filed by the ACLU in 2001, on behalf of Jessica Lenehan, is just now being heard by the IACHR. A ruling is expected before year’s end. Lenehan was a victim of domestic violence and mother of three beautiful daughters, Rebecca, 10; Katheryn, 8; and Leslie, 7. Even though Lenehan had a protective order against her former husband, Simon Gonzales, a family court granted visitation rights to Gonzales. Because of this ambiguous situation, the police ignored Lenehan’s pleas to rescue her daughters when her ex-husband took them. The girls were found shot to death later that day. After killing the girls, Gonzales drove to the local police station and was killed by the police when he opened fire on the building.

Last Friday, just before Mother’s Day, ten mothers, one victimized child (now an adult), and leading national/state organizations also filed a complaint against the United States of America with the IACHR. Their petition claims that U.S. courts, by frequently awarding child custody to abusers and child molesters, has failed to protect the life, liberties, security and other human rights of abused mothers and their children. We do not yet know when this case will be heard.

I have long believed that children with genetic risk for sociopathy through a biologic parent, and one parent free of major psychopathology, have the right to the most optimal upbringing the relatively healthy parent can give them. They have a natural human right to grow up free from exploitation by the sociopathic parent. We are a long way from a system that recognizes these human rights for children. These complaints filed in response to blatant abuse of children by sociopathic parents are an important step forward in protecting children.

We at are collecting stories of psychological abuse and exploitation of children by sociopathic parents. If your child is the victim of the Family Courts and a sociopathic parent, please write us with your story.

Please also visit, for more about Jessic Lenehan and for more on the complaint filed last week.

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27 Comments on "New hope for the children of sociopaths"

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This post would fit better under an old category about PTSD, but it was a while ago, and I am not sure if anyone would read it. Under that post, it was mentioned that nightmares can be a symptom of this disorder. I had written saying that I had started to wake up with my heart racing, unable to breathe, feeling in a panic state. I never considered that I was having a nightmare that I couldn’t remember. I have since starting taking an anti-depressant and haven’t had those dreams….until last night, but this time I remembered it. I was enjoying myself swimming in a pond. It was peaceful and the water was cool. In the distance I could see the figure of a person coming toward me. It was a man. I wasn’t even concerned about him. I was swimming underwater and the man came over and put his hand on my head. At first, I thought he was kidding around, but soon I realized that the man meant to drown me. I started to drown. I couldn’t breathe and knew I was going to die. I woke up feeling like I had before…heart pounding, gasping for air, feeling panic. I am not sure if this is the same dream I had before, but the feeling when waking up was the same. The sleeplessness following the dream is the same too. I’ve been wide awake since 4:00 am. I don’t really know what the dream means, but I do feel the intense hate of my ex….that he really would like me dead. I also feel that I’ve worked really hard to get beyond my relationship with this man, and that he is pulling me down. He is not letting me go.

I would be very interested in learning about books that a teenage child could read to help them see how these personalities have a negative impact on them and how to better deal with some of the issues and behaviors that they are subject to on a daily basis. For me, my soon to be ex-husband has not yet been diagnosed but I am certain he has narcissistic and sociopathic behaviors that are detrimental to our child. The Guardian ad Litem has threatened a psych eval, but never followed through. From the GAL, to the judge who is tired of our case before we’ve even been to trial, and adjourned our trial at least five times, mandating 4 full days of non-productive mediation. The system is failing my child. We were ordered back in May of 2012 to communicate via Our Family Wizard, to which was completely ignored by my ex, the GAL, and the courts until late September. Now it’s just a belittling forum for him, my issues are never addressed or resolved, only complete disregard for anything for destroying my name or my image in my daughter’s eyes. He has failed to pay for even one expense documented since May 2012, not medical, not a school fee and although he paid a field trip and some other $10 item, it came out of our joint accounts. He is in total control (per court order) of our monies and rental properties, depleting about 150,000.00 to date which I just keep documenting. Contempt motions are ignored or held for trial, which keeps getting postponed. I filed for divorce in April 2011 and as of today (October 2013) we only have an “update” for the attorney’s to update the judge in January 2014. My child is not told of phone calls, often times, I must go seven days and night without so much as speaking to her. Through counseling, we were able to convince her that she has a right to speak with me and she was contacting me once per week. To go from a stay at home mother who did everything with the child to only a few rushed, non-private conversations is detrimental to both of us. I am not believed when I tell of the manipulative, hateful, vengeful behaviors. A tidbit of truth is tossed into a mix of horrendous fabricated lies that belittle and make me out to be an unfit mother, while he places himself on a golden pedestal. NOBODY reads the Our Family Wizard posts which we were court ordered to communicate through. He has changed her primary doctor, doesn’t share dates or names on the calendar, no matter how many times I ask. I am accused of threatening my child. He will not allow use of home wifi, his phone and refuses to tell her of calls I make to his phone. I then purchased a phone for her, which he has forbidden her to use. I have resorted to calling her at school, leaving the message for her to call me before end of day so that I have at least a few minutes of uninterrupted time with my child. He is now attempting to control, manipulate, and end that contact as well. My child unfortunately loves her father, defends him and will change her story as ‘he sees it’. This is very concerning and disturbing for me to see the lies without blinking or flinching or showing any regard for truth or honesty. I know for me, I have doubted my own sanity while speaking to my ex because he comes off so charming and convincingly that I was second guessing what I KNEW to be truth and factual with what he was now telling me happened through his dysfunctional view. There are major boundary issues that have been completely ignored… they were brought to the GAL and her counselors attention but brushed off as “boundary issues”. These behaviors including watching my then 11 year old daughter dress/undress in the morning before school to the point of her asking for a lock on her bedroom door. Him co-sleeping with her but calling it “lounging”. Him attempting to open the bathroom door immediately after her shower stops, without so much as a knock, assuming he has some right to barge in on her, luckily I told her to lock the door. Chocolate syrup on a slip and slide for a 12 year old girls birthday party in which two of the mothers called me horrified, along with informing the GAL, who did nothing. I can’t even get my attorney to file a contempt on the custody issue of alienation and withholding communication/contact because at least 5 of the prior contempts have yet to be heard by the court/judge. We are not one step closer to getting this divorce, and my child is being pitted against me 50% of the time. We finally got a glimpse of hope when the judge finally ordered our family home for sale, to which I was blamed for by my ex. He is causing her anxiety by telling her she has to pack and move while he is refusing to abide by the court order of having the home on the market and refusing showings. The judge makes orders, we file motions to enforce them, and the judge never gives a consequence for his parasitic behaviors or his blatant refusal to comply with the judges court orders issued to date. This is extremely emotional and I watch my child exhibit some of the same behaviors I was finally able to escape from. I would appreciate any help on this subject in helping to preserve my child’s mental health. I try very hard not to bad mouth him, tell her I see things a little different (instead of calling him an outright liar). I’m at a loss because it’s been an epic failure on so many levels and only my child suffers the brunt of the consequences. I too have been through hell and back. I have a great support system of friends and family, but I too have suffered at this man’s hands. I suffer from anxiety, night terrors, and stress which is affecting my overall health. I read “get away”, “distance yourself”. I can try that for me – but when there is a child involved – this does not work. I’ve filed two restraining orders because the police believed he was a real threat to me after breaking into where I live (also owned by him however) and the courts denied them saying they were one-time incidents. These master manipulators know how to stay under the radar, manipulate the truth and have a way to convince others that it’s me or anyone else they can pin blame on, other than themselves. They are very dangerous, capable of despicable things. I could share so much more if you are interested.

xpresdtp – what a horrible, distressing story! I am so horrified by what you are experiencing – and that the judge continues to let him get away with this unconscionable behavior.

Unfortunately, other mother have told stories as atrocious as yours. I’ll see if I can put you in touch with some of them.

Sounds to me like you need a new lawyer!! holy cow! I have experienced some of the same things but not to this extent. My ex has a criminal record and is well-known to police and he would never be able to get custody..thank goodness. I have proof that he’s a gang member, life long drug user/dealer, hangs out with ‘bad’ people etc but he still managed to get unsupervised access by having a ‘friend’ (the supervisor the judge appointed at HIS request) lie on the stand. That friend is now up on criminal charges..doh! Right up to and including the trial, I defended myself. Then when he started trying to get more access and it was clear that he was trying to turn my son against me, I got a lawyer and things changed. He stopped being so darned cocky because he saw that I had people in my corner now. Your lawyer sounds USELESS…the more they drag it out, the more money they make! It’s disgusting!

xpresdtp, I hope you are still checking on this post, and my advice is not too late for you. My divorce and my ex sounds very similar to yours, except for the hint of possible looming sexual abuse. They are very good at pushing things just to the edge, but never or rarely over it. The court can not do much about “might happen” and innuendo as both parents have rights. So what can you do that might help?

First of all, if you can still keep paying a lawyer, you might find a better one through DV shelters. I went from one who dragged my case out through not understanding the situation and maybe to generate fees, to a lawyer who ignored anything not mission-critical and got my divorce done. She got it. She was recommended by multiple area DV shelters (even though I was not physically abused, they helped recommend her I was embarrassed to ask, but I am so glad I did.). She also was involved in DV/custody/divorce involving high-conflict with people with personality disorders. Her cost was much lower than the first lawyer. Check into High Conflict Institute and Bill Eddy for more on how to manage these cases. They might also be able to refer you to a lawyer in your area who they have trained.

Secondly, what the court has to pay attention to is the best interest of the child. In court, present not the personality disorder(s) you think your husband has, because chances are the court won’t understand or care. Present instead the specific behaviors your husband does that damage your child. Make a long list and select the most important ones to highlight. You may only have a few minutes to make your case (unless you get involved in a long trial), but you can file the rest for the judge to read. I only had about 5 minutes in hearing for my temporary orders to cover everything, until my 5 day trial. I hired a private judge called a “special master” in my state. That is how I got more time and attention and sped up the process. It is not cheap, but we had a trial within 6 months of getting our private judge, whereas our case had dragged on for 18 months before.

Back to the behavior: I documented things like does not believe in homework so does not help with homework or school projects, got banned from coming to campus or communicating with 3 schools, does not allow friends over to the house (had a separate lawyer for the kids’ best interests and they expressed that they wanted sleepovers and friends over), armed security guard called at kids’ sports finals altercation, frequently late for school dropoff and pickup, prevents kids from doing anything on their own saying they are doing it wrong, yells an them, chases them, physically looms over them in an intimidating manner which looks scary and threatening, shuts them in a room for a long “time out”, tries to make them say things opposite of what they feel, has scared numerous parents of kids’ friends to the point of worry about their physical safety, etc. I could go on and on. No one of these things is apparently enough to catch the court’s attention, but hopefully the sum total is. If there is a custody evaluation, they evaluator needs to hear (and have a written list of) these things. In the end, my then-husband’s behavior toward the judge was so illegal and worrisome that the judge ordered a psych eval. Even that did not get us where we needed to go because of the shortcomings of assessing PDs in a divorce setting (long story). But it did help, and it got the psych/custody evaluator to see enough problems that I did get the custody I requested.

Good luck!

As for resources to help your teen understand, this is a complicated question. In our divorce, I was prohibited from discussing any aspect of the divorce process with the children beyond what directly concerned them and their participation. And although Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) has been discredited as a psychological syndrome, it still does happen and from what I can tell, courts may award more custody to the other parent if one parent is too strong in trying to gain a lot of custody/keep the other parent away from the child more. So, there is a risk in being too clear, even in justified cases. So, I was afraid to tell my teen kids too much about their father, for fear that it would negatively affect custody. I worried that even providing resources (books, websites) might trigger him to cry PAS and I might lose more custody.

In our divorce, I did get an order for the kids to see psychologists. However, when I went to set up the meetings, the psychologists refused to see them, even with a court order. It turns out (at least in 2011) that the ethics of psychologists says that both parents have to agree in order for them to see an underage child. I tried a few psychologists and kept getting the same answer. So my children were denied their court ordered help. I did manage to get one teen into the high school counselor, but my ex found out about the meeting and stopped it. But that might be a way to go. Talk to the school counselor and see what they can do. They can at least look out for behavioral problems. I did that in the case of my other teen.

Now that one of my teens is out of the custody agreement, I have started to provide some resources. One I think is suitable and helpful for a wide variety of PDs is Out of the Fog. They have a list of 100 things that people with personality disorders do, clickable to read more about each. ( ) This is very enlightening and your teen may see some of what she is experiencing in this list. By learning about how PD-people do what they do, they can learn to defend against it too. Out of the Fog also has a forum for kids of parents with PDs (not all sociopaths, but many in that direction, most in Cluster B PDs), which is helpful. It is called “unchosen relationships”. I also got the books I found most helpful in the case of my ex for my teen to read. She said that she sees her father in a lot of what she is reading. So, the light is beginning to go on. And I am no longer the bad guy in her eyes for “breaking up the family”. I just want my kids to avoid making the same disastrous mistake that I did, and especially to avoid genetic risk of more sociopathy genes in the family gene pool. So, it is important to help your teen understand what to avoid before they start getting into serious relationships. Good luck!

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