Below is a letter [edited] I wrote to the NY Times in September of 1999... twelve and a half years ago! I was very chagrined at the time by the way the media and people in general would respond to the horror of shootings of children by children, such as in the infamous Columbine and Scottsboro killings in the 90's. The typical story line would be that these killer kids were otherwise normal, just "shy" or "quiet" until they inexplicably turned murderous.

"Nonsense!" was my position. Apparently, this position of mine was so radical that I got a call from one Barry Farber, a nationally syndicated conservative radio host and author, asking me to be on his national radio show. On the show, I basically said that psychopathy and its lethal subdivision, sociopathy, are not subtle disorders, nor difficult to diagnose if one really wanted to look. A psychopathic character structure in progress is already being formed by the age of 4, and is certainly discernible to any astute parent or clinician. [My version of the Psychopathic Character Structure chart can be found HERE.) The numbness to pain, the cold sadism, the disconnectedness from emotions, the lack of tears, etc. Barry was so impressed by my supposedly avant garde "theory" that he proclaimed on the air that I should head a President's commission on the subject!

Cut to today, Mother's Day, 2012, and guess what? I'm not living in Washington, D.C., but still shaking my head at parents and the so-called experts in my profession. But as is so often the case, years later, the experts are starting to catch on. Yep. There is a featured article in the NY Times Magazine section today entitled: "Can You Call A 9-Year-Old A Psychopath?!"

Here's a funny excerpt:

"Currently, there is no standard test for psychopathy in children, but a growing number of psychologists believe that psychopathy, like autism, is a distinct neurological condition — one that can be identified in children as young as 5. Crucial to this diagnosis are callous-unemotional traits, which most researchers now believe distinguish “fledgling psychopaths” from children with ordinaryconduct disorder, who are also impulsive and hard to control and exhibit hostile or violent behavior. According to some studies, roughly one-third of children with severe behavioral problems — like the aggressive disobedience that Michael displays — also test above normal on callous-unemotional traits. (Narcissism and impulsivity, which are part of the adult diagnostic criteria, are difficult to apply to children, who are narcissistic and impulsive by nature.)"


Here's my rather neutered letter from 1999: 

"The Shooting Spree Next Door"
Published: September 19, 1999
To the Editor:
As a psychotherapist who works with people afflicted with psychopathic disorders, I was disheartened by your implication that it is a kind of wishful thinking on the part of society to believe that shootings like the one in Fort Worth, Tex., can have a discernible psychological pathology, and therefore, a possible cure (editorial, Sept. 17). Rather, you say, ''there is only one overriding pathology, and it is guns.''
In fact, the psychopathy that can lead to such shootings is generally understood by mental health professionals to be a psychiatric disorder marked by a lack of empathy for other living beings and a numbness in general to feelings, combined with paranoid and grandiose delusional thinking that, unlike typical psychosis, can be hidden from the untrained eye behind a seemingly appropriate, acceptable facade.
Requiring mental and emotional evaluations as often as we require physical exams for school-age children would be a lot more practical and appropriate than focusing on eliminating guns through the legal system.

No comments:


blogger templates 3 columns | Make Money Online