Sociopathy and the fearless child

Many have expressed doubt that a condition as complex as sociopathy can be genetic. The doubters aside, studies of identical twins separated at birth and raised by non-relatives do clearly show the condition is genetic. The question now is, “Just what is inherited?”

Genes interact with environment

Although sociopathy is genetic, it is not inherited in the same way as many other traits, for example, eye color. The genes that cause sociopathy do so by making a child vulnerable to certain environmental influences. A child can have the genes but if he is not exposed to the triggering environment, he will not develop the condition.

Fearlessness an important precursor to both sociopathy and addiction

Go to the park or to the town pool and watch young children playing. You will notice that a small percentage are completely fearless. These children will climb the highest trees or try to enter deep water even when they cannot swim. Furthermore, when they fall, get stuck up in the tree or nearly drown, they are completely unaffected by the experience! These are the fearless children.

An Iowa researcher has identified fearless children by their responses in the laboratory during the first year of life. She has followed them for years and has demonstrated that fearlessness predicts poor conscience formation. The reverse is also true: Fearfulness predicts good conscience formation.

The link between fearlessness, sociopathy and addiction is explained in detail in my book Just Like His Father? and is too long to explain fully here. However, this link has very important implications that parents have to know about.

Fearlessness means little or no response to punishment

Remember that fearless child who nearly drowned because he just had to “swim” in the deep end of the pool? Well, as soon as the lifeguard pulled him from the water, he wanted to go right back in! If nearly drowning has no affect on him, then his mother yelling, “Johnny, don’t do that!” has even less of an effect. Furthermore, Johnny also learns nothing when his parents spank him or yell at him for wrongdoing. Actually though, Johnny does learn something—he learns how to be aggressive.

Many parents of sociopaths raised their children in the usual way

Many, if not most, sociopaths received the same kind of parenting that the rest of the kids in our society received. The take home lesson is that the usual parenting doesn’t work with at-risk kids, and may make them worse. Since fearless children get into a lot of trouble, they are punished often. This punishment does not teach them “right from wrong,” instead it makes them callous and more aggressive. Studies of adoptive parents reveal that even nice, well-intending adoptive parents fall into this trap as a reaction to the child! The at-risk child himself elicits from his environment the very thing that increases his risk for becoming a sociopath!

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12 Comments on "Sociopathy and the fearless child"

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Noelgallagirl – Welcome to Lovefraud, and I am so sorry for your experience. I think that your son’s lack of fearlessness of strangers shows two of the early warning signs of sociopathy – fearlessness, and no real need to be around mom and dad, which is another sign.

Many parents who realize that their children are disordered are forced to make the very painful decision to keep the child out of their lives. I hope you and your husband can make that decision. Unfortunately, your son likely recognizes that your husband feels guilty, and is milking that guilt for all he can get out of it. The son will also actively try to split you and your husband so that you do not agree on what to do – the old divide and conquer approach.

Unfortunately,at age 33 he will never change. The best thing you and your husband can do is protect yourselves.

Thank you Donna,

No truer words could you have said!

Our son does play us against each other, always has, however now that he is a ‘man’ he is so much more manipulative at it so that one does not even realize it is happening until later, after the fact. What fools we can be!

I know that our son will never change…he cannot. What is wrong with him is innate and also, now, perfected. He is a now a master at mimicking real emotion and telling people what they want to hear (although not really, I can tell, but he thinks that he is).

He has been pretending for the past 5 years, that he is a wonderful father, a perfect husband, the epitome of the ‘family man’, however, it has all fallen apart around him in those 5 short years. I think the stress of trying to support a wife and two kids made him start faltering. I saw the cracks since forever. though…lol. My husband now feels like out son needs our support, even though our son does not even seem sad…only extremely angry. He is lashing out vehemently against his soon to be ex wife which is quite horrible because she really is a lovely girl and has tried to accept him and how ‘different’ he is since they got together. I should have warned her way back when about him, but as a parent, you do want to see your child happy and somewhere down deep we always feel like, well, maybe he isn’t what we think he is?? Also, I did not want to ruin his life…and sort of selfishly, wanted someone else to preoccupy him…deal with him…it did not work.

Sorry to ramble. I can’t talk to my husband about this as he sometimes takes it personally or seems to take offense.

Thank you for listening.


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