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When your child is a psychopath

Posted by on May. 26, 2017 at 10:07 AM
  • 131 Replies

This is from The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/when-your-child-is-a-psychopath/524502/ At least read the parts I made red. The article is much longer and worth reading. I met an 8 year old who I think will eventually kill someone without remorse.   

This is a good day, Samantha tells me: 10 on a scale of 10. We’re sitting in a conference room at the San Marcos Treatment Center, just south of Austin, Texas, a space that has witnessed countless difficult conversations between troubled children, their worried parents, and clinical therapists. But today promises unalloyed joy. Samantha’s mother is visiting from Idaho, as she does every six weeks, which means lunch off campus and an excursion to Target. The girl needs supplies: new jeans, yoga pants, nail polish.

At 11, Samantha is just over 5 feet tall and has wavy black hair and a steady gaze. She flashes a smile when I ask about her favorite subject (history), and grimaces when I ask about her least favorite (math). She seems poised and cheerful, a normal preteen. But when we steer into uncomfortable territory—the events that led her to this juvenile-treatment facility nearly 2,000 miles from her family—Samantha hesitates and looks down at her hands. “I wanted the whole world to myself,” she says. “So I made a whole entire book about how to hurt people.”

Starting at age 6, Samantha began drawing pictures of murder weapons: a knife, a bow and arrow, chemicals for poisoning, a plastic bag for suffocating. She tells me that she pretended to kill her stuffed animals.

“You were practicing on your stuffed animals?,” I ask her.

She nods.

“How did you feel when you were doing that to your stuffed animals?”

“Happy.”

“Why did it make you feel happy?”

“Because I thought that someday I was going to end up doing it on somebody.”

“Did you ever try?”

Silence.

“I choked my little brother.”

Samantha’s parents, Jen and Danny, adopted Samantha when she was 2. They already had three biological children, but they felt called to add Samantha (not her real name) and her half sister, who is two years older, to their family. They later had two more kids.

From the start, Samantha seemed a willful child, in tyrannical need of attention. But what toddler isn’t? Her biological mother had been forced to give her up because she’d lost her job and home and couldn’t provide for her four children, but there was no evidence of abuse. According to documentation from the state of Texas, Samantha met all her cognitive, emotional, and physical milestones. She had no learning disabilities, no emotional scars, no signs of ADHD or autism.

But even at a very young age, Samantha had a mean streak. When she was about 20 months old, living with foster parents in Texas, she clashed with a boy in day care. The caretaker soothed them both; problem solved. Later that day Samantha, who was already potty trained, walked over to where the boy was playing, pulled down her pants, and peed on him. “She knew exactly what she was doing,” Jen says. “There was an ability to wait until an opportune moment to exact her revenge on someone.”

When Samantha got a little older, she would pinch, trip, or push her siblings and smile if they cried. She would break into her sister’s piggy bank and rip up all the bills. Once, when Samantha was 5, Jen scolded her for being mean to one of her siblings. Samantha walked upstairs to her parents’ bathroom and washed her mother’s contact lenses down the drain. “Her behavior wasn’t impulsive,” Jen says. “It was very thoughtful, premeditated.”

Jen, a former elementary-school teacher, and Danny, a physician, realized they were out of their depth. They consulted doctors, psychiatrists, and therapists. But Samantha only grew more dangerous. They had her admitted to a psychiatric hospital three times before sending her to a residential treatment program in Montana at age 6. Samantha would grow out of it, one psychologist assured her parents; the problem was merely delayed empathy. Samantha was impulsive, another said, something that medication would fix. Yet another suggested that she had reactive attachment disorder, which could be ameliorated with intensive therapy. More darkly—and typically, in these sorts of cases—another psychologist blamed Jen and Danny, implying that Samantha was reacting to harsh and unloving parenting.

One bitter December day in 2011, Jen was driving the children along a winding road near their home. Samantha had just turned 6. Suddenly Jen heard screaming from the back seat, and when she looked in the mirror, she saw Samantha with her hands around the throat of her 2-year-old sister, who was trapped in her car seat. Jen separated them, and once they were home, she pulled Samantha aside.

“What were you doing?,” Jen asked.

“I was trying to choke her,” Samantha said.

“You realize that would have killed her? She would not have been able to breathe. She would have died.”

“I know.”

“What about the rest of us?”

“I want to kill all of you.”

Samantha later showed Jen her sketches, and Jen watched in horror as her daughter demonstrated how to strangle or suffocate her stuffed animals. “I was so terrified,” Jen says. “I felt like I had lost control.”

Four months later, Samantha tried to strangle her baby brother, who was just two months old.

Please continue reading the article! Link at top of post.

by on May. 26, 2017 at 10:07 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Ms.KitKat
by on May. 26, 2017 at 10:20 AM
6 moms liked this

  This child had been removed from her bio parent(s) because her birth mother lost her job ; literally ripped away from presumably a loving parent except for financial issues and the child remained in foster care for the essentially the 1st 2 years of her life and the documentation indicates : " no emotional scars" ????

Rather than blaming the child first , I think we need to first take a look at the adults and professionals who created the situation. Now this is not to say this child is not dangerous nor to minimize this child's psychological issues. However this child is a symptom of the larger problem.

MrsHMS
by Gold Member on May. 26, 2017 at 10:21 AM
Thank you for sharing that. I think she was abused.
LGAll65215
by on May. 26, 2017 at 10:36 AM
1 mom liked this
I think you're right.

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

  This child had been removed from her bio parent(s) because her birth mother lost her job ; literally ripped away from presumably a loving parent except for financial issues and the child remained in foster care for the essentially the 1st 2 years of her life and the documentation indicates : " no emotional scars" ????

Rather than blaming the child first , I think we need to first take a look at the adults and professionals who created the situation. Now this is not to say this child is not dangerous nor to minimize this child's psychological issues. However this child is a symptom of the larger problem.

Verrine
by Bronze Member on May. 26, 2017 at 10:37 AM

No emotional scars is cavalier, true, but I think you're missing that bad events happen to many people and most don't react this way. Many kids who've been through the foster care system develop Reactive Attachment Disorder, but most kids do not try to kill their siblings. It's normal for a child to try to hurt someone when she's angry. It's not normal for a child to choke a sibling as a planned action.

Read the article. It goes on to talk about a treatment facility for violent juvenile offenders where the benchmark of success is that after they've been discharged, they've committed crimes at a lower rate than untreated felons and they haven't killed anyone.

If you think about it, that is a good outcome. Regardless of who or what is to blame, the US spends billions on supposedly corrective treatment in the form of prisons. Punishment isn't a deterrant to those adults and all of those adults were once kindergartners. If we could redirect children who are juvenile delinquents, we could prevent many violent crimes.   

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

  This child had been removed from her bio parent(s) because her birth mother lost her job ; literally ripped away from presumably a loving parent except for financial issues and the child remained in foster care for the essentially the 1st 2 years of her life and the documentation indicates : " no emotional scars" ????

Rather than blaming the child first , I think we need to first take a look at the adults and professionals who created the situation. Now this is not to say this child is not dangerous nor to minimize this child's psychological issues. However this child is a symptom of the larger problem.

TowerWife
by Member on May. 26, 2017 at 10:42 AM
3 moms liked this
I really think some people are wired wrong and others have trauma and abuse. It's hard to say with this girl. Very sad either way
Verrine
by Bronze Member on May. 26, 2017 at 10:43 AM

Read the article. Abuse could always be possible for any child, but based on the article, I don't think it is likely. The adoptive mother (who has 6 other children) visits every 6 weeks and they are taking her home this summer. 

Quoting MrsHMS: Thank you for sharing that. I think she was abused.
Ms.KitKat
by on May. 26, 2017 at 10:54 AM
1 mom liked this

I am not missing that bad events happen to many people. Believe me when I say this, I see how bad events, events out of one's control or even by their own hands creates other bad events. 

This child in all likelihood was very susceptible to trauma psychologically.

What pisses me off is that the professionals believed it was far better to tear this child away from her (presumably) loving parent rather than to put in place supports so that child could remain with her family. IMHO it was at the very point this child was ripped away that the psychological trauma started (of course only going by the op as stated) and not in foster care. FC only exacerbated the trauma and then placing this psychologically fragile child into an afamily not properly equipped to parent such a child for that family to turn around and ship her off hundreds of miles away to try and now "fix" her.

Perhaps I will read the full article. I only hope this facility is properly equipped to provide therapy for trauma associated with being an adoptee otherwise this will be just 1 more trauma for this child.

Quoting Verrine:

No emotional scars is cavalier, true, but I think you're missing that bad events happen to many people and most don't react this way. Many kids who've been through the foster care system develop Reactive Attachment Disorder, but most kids do not try to kill their siblings. It's normal for a child to try to hurt someone when she's angry. It's not normal for a child to choke a sibling as a planned action.

Read the article. It goes on to talk about a treatment facility for violent juvenile offenders where the benchmark of success is that after they've been discharged, they've committed crimes at a lower rate than untreated felons and they haven't killed anyone.

If you think about it, that is a good outcome. Regardless of who or what is to blame, the US spends billions on supposedly corrective treatment in the form of prisons. Punishment isn't a deterrant to those adults and all of those adults were once kindergartners. If we could redirect children who are juvenile delinquents, we could prevent many violent crimes.   

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

  This child had been removed from her bio parent(s) because her birth mother lost her job ; literally ripped away from presumably a loving parent except for financial issues and the child remained in foster care for the essentially the 1st 2 years of her life and the documentation indicates : " no emotional scars" ????

Rather than blaming the child first , I think we need to first take a look at the adults and professionals who created the situation. Now this is not to say this child is not dangerous nor to minimize this child's psychological issues. However this child is a symptom of the larger problem.


PPCLC
by Lisa on May. 26, 2017 at 10:59 AM
1 mom liked this

I wouldn't even know what to do or how to react as a parent to all of this. :(

So sad and so frustrating, I am sure, as your heart is broken and you're feeling helpless.

Verrine
by Bronze Member on May. 26, 2017 at 11:03 AM

The article mentions that the parents live in Idaho and eventually mom wound up in New York while trying to figure out what to do. The parents were trying, but they couldn't find answers. It's tough enough to find a psychiatrist who will diagnose childhood bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and those are medically treatable. Psychopathy is not. It's a very tough situation when you have one child who has no remorse for harming her siblings because you want to do the right thing by her while protecting the others. They are going to bring her home this summer because they think that she's gotten as far as she can while at the treatment center. 

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

I am not missing that bad events happen to many people. Believe me when I say this, I see how bad events, events out of one's control or even by their own hands creates other bad events. 

This child in all likelihood was very susceptible to trauma psychologically.

What pisses me off is that the professionals believed it was far better to tear this child away from her (presumably) loving parent rather than to put in place supports so that child could remain with her family. IMHO it was at the very point this child was ripped away that the psychological trauma started (of course only going by the op as stated) and not in foster care. FC only exacerbated the trauma and then placing this psychologically fragile child into an afamily not properly equipped to parent such a child for that family to turn around and ship her off hundreds of miles away to try and now "fix" her.

Perhaps I will read the full article. I only hope this facility is properly equipped to provide therapy for trauma associated with being an adoptee otherwise this will be just 1 more trauma for this child.

Quoting Verrine:

No emotional scars is cavalier, true, but I think you're missing that bad events happen to many people and most don't react this way. Many kids who've been through the foster care system develop Reactive Attachment Disorder, but most kids do not try to kill their siblings. It's normal for a child to try to hurt someone when she's angry. It's not normal for a child to choke a sibling as a planned action.

Read the article. It goes on to talk about a treatment facility for violent juvenile offenders where the benchmark of success is that after they've been discharged, they've committed crimes at a lower rate than untreated felons and they haven't killed anyone.

If you think about it, that is a good outcome. Regardless of who or what is to blame, the US spends billions on supposedly corrective treatment in the form of prisons. Punishment isn't a deterrant to those adults and all of those adults were once kindergartners. If we could redirect children who are juvenile delinquents, we could prevent many violent crimes.   

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

  This child had been removed from her bio parent(s) because her birth mother lost her job ; literally ripped away from presumably a loving parent except for financial issues and the child remained in foster care for the essentially the 1st 2 years of her life and the documentation indicates : " no emotional scars" ????

Rather than blaming the child first , I think we need to first take a look at the adults and professionals who created the situation. Now this is not to say this child is not dangerous nor to minimize this child's psychological issues. However this child is a symptom of the larger problem.

Ms.KitKat
by on May. 26, 2017 at 11:03 AM
2 moms liked this

oh what wonderful aparents- come to rescue the child [insert yuge saracsm font]

imho in having experience with such children and families, the best afamily would be one who does not collect children but rather has skill in parenting traumatized children with no other children within 5 years younger or older

Quoting Verrine:

Read the article. Abuse could always be possible for any child, but based on the article, I don't think it is likely. The adoptive mother (who has 6 other children) visits every 6 weeks and they are taking her home this summer. 

Quoting MrsHMS: Thank you for sharing that. I think she was abused.


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