Is my 7 year old nephew expressing sociopathic tendencies?
I've noticed that my 7 year old nephew's behavior may not be the "norm" for how most children behave. I've associated it with sociopathy because I've recently been doing research about the sociopathic disorder for my writing and as I read the traits and warning signs for it, the first thing I thought about was my nephew. He's manipulative; he steals; he lies constantly just for the sake of it; he shows no remorse; he inflicts pain on others and animals; he shows a blatant disregard for the rules--as in, he thinks they don't apply to him; he's almost peed on people; he cares nothing for others' feelings; he takes pleasure in seeing other kids--or anyone, for that matter--get hurt.
It started around the age of 2-3. He would continually hit and scratch my little brother (his uncle). My brother and my nephew are 6 months apart and they grew up in the same house so the adults' attention has always been divided between them. Neither of them knew what it was like to have all the attention and then suddenly have it directed at another child, so I don't put jealousy high up on the list of why he could be acting out. As my nephew grew up, his behavior has only gotten worse. He hasn't eased up on the hitting of my brother and he does it everyday and he shows no remorse for his actions. When his mother scolds him for hitting my brother, he looks at her and laughs right in her face. His mother has tried to discipline him multiple times in various ways and he doesn't care, it doesn't faze him; he does not bat an eye at this. When she tries to punish him, he just stares at her with no expression on his face and I get creeped out just watching him like that. And then after she gets done talking, he just runs away and continues his erratic behavior.
If his mom catches him doing something he's not supposed to, he tells her it wasn't him, even after she just saw him do it. He lies about the simplest of things for no reason. Many times I've sneaked up on him while he's playing in his room with my brother and I hear him whispering things to him. He says stuff like "I hate you" or he curses at him or just taunts him until my brother cries, running out of the room. He also hurts his little siblings. I've caught him many times grabbing one of the kids by the arm or telling them that he's going to hurt them. He's not allowed near his siblings--or other children in the family--by himself, anymore. And it's not just what he says, it's how he says it; when he threatens people he talks in a low, menacing, cold voice. When he thinks no one is looking, he smiles this cruelly dangerous smile while he looks at someone, most times after he's just hurt them. It gives me chills just looking at it. He relishes in the pain he inflicts.
When he gets really angry, he will flip. When he was 6, his mother took a toy out of his hand that he took from his little sister and his mom gave the toy back to the girl. He watched his mom with such a hateful look as she walked away from him and toward his sister and once she turned back around, he lunged at her, grabbing her hair and hitting her in the face. He was screaming so loud, too. It took two people to restrain him off of her. Her face was all scratched up and she was bleeding and she cried. When he calmed down later and saw how she looked and saw that she cried, he showed no remorse. He never apologized to her and he pretended as if the whole thing had never happened. He's attacked his family before, but never to this extent.
We can't even leave him alone for one second. Twice we've caught him just before he peed on people who were sleeping in their beds. We can't have pets anymore because he harms them. He would pull the cat's tail or he would pull the cat's whiskers out. One time he threw the cat across the room. Eyes need to be on him at all times or he's going to get into something that he's not supposed to. I think it's ridiculous that a 7 year old cannot even go into the kitchen by himself because he's going to be doing something he's not supposed to!
He does really well with his academic subjects, though; he gets good grades but his behavior in school is also bad. He has punched kids, he cut a girl's hair, he cut up his pants for seemingly no reason. He's manipulative, too. He went to school once and told the teachers stories that almost got his mother into serious trouble. But then when he comes home he says that the teachers hate him and that they don't let him go out for recess because they don't like him and so his mother and the teachers are constantly in touch with each other, getting the truth from one another. He'll spend time with his grandmother and tell her stories about how he doesn't like being with his mom because she's mean and then he'll go to his mother and tell her that his grandmother didn't feed him. He's always lying to everyone to set them at odds with each other.
Sometimes I wonder how I could think so badly about my nephew because sometimes, he's so sweet and he laughs and gets excited over some stuff and hugs his family and tells us that he loves us, but then I remember just how destructive he can be toward us, too. His mother had a therapist come in once and observe his behavior and he just switched his personality just like that. The whole time the therapist was there he was such a sweet boy and didn't hit my brother once--he even shared his toys with him. The therapist concluded that there was nothing wrong him and that he was probably just having a tantrum. It's infuriating because what does she know just from spending 6 hours with the boy?! You can't give an absolute answer within 6 hours but his mother took the therapist's word for it, anyway. I've suggested to my sister (his mother) that she needs to seek help, that she needs to get him evaluated because I fear for the safety of his siblings and my brother, and, if I'm quite honest, sometimes myself. Whenever I approach the subject of his behavior though, all she says is "It's just a phase, he'll get over it" or more commonly, "he's just a boy."
Am I over-reacting in saying that he's on the path for being a sociopath or are these warning signs? His behavior is just too extreme to ignore but he has his gentle moments. He has moments when he seems like such a happy child, but for some unknown reason, he gets extremely sociopath-like.
I would get a second opinion from another therapist. It sounds as it the initial therapist was manipulated by your nephew while completely dismissing your nephew's conduct at home and at school. Kids with conduct disorders can be very manipulative to get their way. This therapist doesn't sound very competent. I would even work with the school counselor to determine what support he/she can provide.
There are two positive things to hold on to - Your nephew has some level of self control as he was able to behave for the therapist. Also, his academics isn't suffering as a result of his behavior.
However, I can overly stress the need to get your nephew mental health treatment now as he is only 7 years old. If he goes untreated, there is a good possibility that his conduct problems will escalate affecting his academic performance.
I agree with Mark completely. And this is definitely not something he will outgrow. It will only get worse.
Since I imagine that your brother is also in the same school. You might want to talk to his teacher and see if she has any ideas on getting the school involved.
Also you might want to check out these two links below involving kids with somewhat similar kinds of problems. Lot of recommendations are made as well as books to buy. Some of it may be useful.
One thing I know about the fact he switched personalities when the therapist was there is apart of Dissociative identity disorder. That is where they have multiple personalities. I would definitely get a second therapist's opinion. Maybe have her keep an eye out on him from a distance or maybe you could videotape the things he does and show them to a therapist. Some cases can cause trouble for kids if you send them to a special place which you should know as where you lock them up with "special treatment doctors" until they get completely better. That could cause them to worsen over the time they are in there and eventually come up with a plan to get out and do very bad things when they get out. But, I would maybe get a video camera and tape his actions and show them to a therapist to help him.
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