There is a quick question you can ask yourself to determine if you are raising a little psychopath. Does your child routinely torture animals?
In 2006, researchers from New South Wales University and Griffith University confirmed what many psychologists already suspected: animal cruelty is closely linked with "lack of empathy" and "callous disregard" in children. These traits are commonly associated with psychopaths, and animal cruelty is a better predictor of these traits than problematic parenting, in fact.
There are a lot of possible explanations for why animal cruelty is such a good predictor of psychopathy in kids. The most convincing, in my mind, is that there is no reason to torture an animal other than to be cruel. Kids may get into fights with other kids, for instance, but there is typically some explanation for the fight (e.g. "He called me a name," or "She was mean to my friend"). The only "justification" for animal cruelty is that the child likes torturing for the sake of torturing.
So, does your kid torture animals? If not, then you can rest easy that he or she is probably not pure evil. Your child may have other behavioral problems, which could be caused by a host of issues. And, just because your kid doesn't torture animals, you still need to be mindful of concerning behavior.
But, if your kid does torture animals, I would suggest locking the door to your room at night.
Thanks for reading-- Max Wachtel, Ph.D.
Dadds, M., Whiting, C., & Hawes, D. (2006). Accosiations Among Cruelty To Animals, Family Conflict, and Psychopathic Traits in Childhood. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(3), 411-429.