Is It Possible to Nip a Budding Psychopath in the Bud?

“Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?”

-That’s the title of a disturbing and yet fascinating piece that ran in the New York Times magazine on May 11, which I’m including the link to, below.

The 9-year-old in question is the oldest son of a Florida couple, and the details of his behavior–enraged one moment, chillingly calm the next while threatening a younger brother–make for a pretty good case that he’s a fledgling psychopath.

That in itself raises many questions: Is the term “psychopath” an unfair and dangerous label to put on a child? Or is it more dangerous to downplay callous, unemotional behavior that research shows is likely genetic in origin?

The age of the boy in the story strikes me as a sad coincidence–Brent Brents has often told me by that his own estimation, his “brain was broken” by age 9. What if someone had recognized his potential for violence when he was a child? Would intervention have changed him and therefore prevented the pain of all his victims?

Researchers are hoping that by identifying psychopathic tendencies early enough in a child, he or she can be helped–which can hopefully prevent that child from becoming an adult who is incapable of empathy yet also capable of inflicting great harm on others.

Or as one person in the piece said:

“You have to hope that’s true. Otherwise, what are we stuck with? These monsters.”

Here’s the story:

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