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Should a child be labeled a psychopath?

Is it dangerous to label a child's behavior at a young age?
Is it dangerous to label a child's behavior at a young age?

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Children of all ages are known to "act out," throwing tantrums or sulking to get their own way. But when should a parent become concerned that these actions mean something more sinister? And how would you feel if your child was diagnosed as a psychopath?

Studies conducted by psychologists into the minds of "callous-unemotional" children have found a lack of remorse or empathy, with some deemed at risk of becoming psychopathic adults. Evaluation methods include the use of psychological exams such as the Child Psychology Scale and the Inventory of Callous-Unemotional Traits.

The issue is examined in a recent New York Times Magazine article, with psychologists unable to agree on a standard method of testing, or if children should be labeled as psychopaths at all.

Is it possible to accurately diagnose young children as psychopaths when they are still developing? As a parent, if you received this diagnosis for your child, would you tell him or her and try to work with the child to change the behavior? Could there be a self-fulfilling prophecy if children are labeled as psychopaths at a young age, and then "act out" this label as adults?

Vote below and leave your thoughts in the comments:


Dan Waschbusch, professor of psychology at the Center for Children and Families in the psychology department at Florida International University

Laurence Steinberg, professor of psychology at Temple University