Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Build Your Own Sociopath: Influencing Nature with Nurture

Having a child with a sociopath puts my son at risk.

Ever heard of the Build a Bear Workshop? You know, where you get to pick different animal parts and then sew it all together. The result is a cute, cuddly little creature that is unique to each builder. Well, here's a twist on that idea I would like to avoid having to face: sociopaths are built by their parents.
Like most mental disorders, sociopathy develops from one of two areas: nature and nurture. A child can be genetically predisposed to the disease or they can develop it through their environment. Kids born with a sociopathic parent get hit with a double whammy: they are are at risk for inheriting the genes and from exposure to cluster B behaviors.
These facts have caused me to lose a lot of sleep since finding out my ex was diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder. Like any good parent, I worry about my child. I want him to have a healthy future. I also want him to be a leader, but not at the cost of sacrificing his humanity. It is a topic I have discussed in depth with child psychologists. Here is what I have learned:
  1. While sociopathy is genetically inherited, it doesn't necessarily mean your child will develop the disorder. Ted Bundy's kids didn't become serial killers. 
  2. While research in this area is limited, scientists have identified two distinct sets of genetic markers that contribute to the condition. In the majority of cases, both of the following personality traits were noted in at least one parent:

  3. Aggressive Disregard- a refusal to recognize another person's basic human rights, usually expressed in a style that exhibits uninhibited aggression.
    Dis-inhibition- a loss of restraint that results in an individual not conforming to the rules and expectations of society.
  4. Nurture can overcome nature. Environment plays a huge role in making a sociopath. In addition to the sociopath actively seeking to corrupt a child, a history of abuse increases the likelihood of the disorder.
  5. Parenting style can also increase or decrease a child's risk of becoming a sociopath. The best prevention method is to look closely at the characteristics of ASPD and develop strategies to prevent these traits from taking hold.

    For example, sociopaths can't accept responsibility for their behaviors. Therefore, you need to have firm limits on what you rescue them from. If my son trashes his bedroom during a tantrum, he doesn't get to do anything other than sit in timeout until he cleans it up. Mommy is not going to do it for him. The result is that he stopped doing that because it has a negative consequence he can't get out of.

While either parent can be a sociopath, the condition is far more prevalent in men. One significant study focuses on the effects of boys with antisocial fathers. The results show that the longer the child is exposed to a sociopath father, the worse off he is. In other words, a boy is better off with no father at all than he is with one with ASPD. You can find the study here:

This proves how harmful these skin-walkers are to our kids. I wish more people out there understood this condition, especially family court. More importantly, I wish someone had told me this two years ago. I would have never been so determined to keep my son's father in his life. If you are trying to co-parent with a sociopath, what strategies have you developed to protect your kids from this risk?


  1. I'm going to show this to my lawyer. I left my ex-husband in 2008 and our court battle is STILL going on now in March of 2013. I've finally gotten my children removed from his weekend visitation, but he is fighting tooth and nail to get them back (while refusing to use the supervised visitation center because he doesn't like to be told what to do). He is also desperately fighting a psych eval. Both of my children have told me that they do NOT want to return to him on weekends. They don't even want to talk to him on the phone anymore because he makes them feel so guilty. Sorry to go on, but this is the fight of our lives and I feel like I finally found someone who understands. Thank you.

    1. Hi! The research is very good and I understand that it can be used in court (I didnt because I didnt know about it until it was all over with). Be forewarned... be as specific as possible in the eval- Im not sure my ex would have been diagnosed had he not been caught blatantly lieing. I have heard that they are reluctant to diagnose ASPD. Big (((hugs))) to you and your children for what you are dealing with! I know it all too well.