Psychopaths are a big hit these days: Dexter, Secrets and Lies, Hannibal, Games of Thrones, Criminal Minds, House. The list could go on. But the one thing that people cannot agree on is the psychopathy of children.
Psychiatrists and other learned professionals will argue that children cannot be psychopaths. Their brains are not fully formed, emotions are not fully developed and the DSM V does not recognize it. Instead, children are labelled as unemotional, callous, unresponsive. Which is interesting, because you can also label an Autistic person as such. And Autistic children are no where near the spectrum of psychopathic children.
Psychopathic children will hurt and bully others, manipulate and control anyone they can, much like the adult version, but of course on a different level. Autistic kids do not. They have no concept of lying, manipulating or bullying. What's interesting though, is the inability of people to think that kids can be deliberately hurtful, deceitful and out to kill others.
Anyone who has been a teacher, a parent or a relative of a psychopathic child will tell you otherwise. Think back to the school shootings, the killers of James Bulger and Reena Virk, and the gang rapists of the 13 year old in Alberta, or the football player rapists in the US.
I think people find the idea abhorrent that children and young teens can be psychopaths, much like thirty years ago females could not be sexual predators. Given time and enough evidence however, law and science have discovered that female predators exist and for the same reason male predators exist.
According to the Canadian Rights Council, 86% of victims of female sexual predators are not believed so crimes go unreported and un-prosecuted. (see link). Women account for 25% of all sexual abuse cases, but as a society we still find that hard to believe. Granted, cases like Karla Homalka, Crystal Henricks, and Terri-Lynne McClintic have paved the way to more and more people believing in the psychopathy of females.
Now, we need to convince doctors, parents and others that psychopaths can also be children. This is more important because maybe with enough treatment and counselling we can reverse this trend. Ignoring it will not make it go away.
Psychopathic children do exist. And they get better at it when they get older.
What got me started on this was two things: First, the show Secrets and Lies, which is only 10 episodes long and is provocative and entertaining, and a story I wrote about a psychopathic 10 year old. The editor at the time would not believe that a 10 year old would speak and think like the character in the novel. I was surprised, because after all, I write horror, not romance. But also at the naiveté of the editor to think this child would not speak the way my character did.
I did not change the voice of my character and the piece was published, but that conversation always stuck with me.
I know in this child-centric version we have of the world today, that little Bobby and Suzie can do no wrong. Failing kids is bad, everyone gets a trophy and working hard in school is too difficult. But trust me, we are not doing kids any favours. In fact, we may be harming the good ones, by protecting the bad. And please, kids will be kids is just a poor excuse.