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Sociopaths as parents (part 3): Hostility spreads!

Scientists now believe that the set of personality traits that cause sociopathy develops in people with genetic risk. But research also shows that genetics alone cannot account for the presence of sociopathy in our society. Sociopathy is caused by an interaction between genes and environment. In my opinion, many kids are twice cursed by genetics. The same genes that put them at risk also give them at least one unfit parent. This unfit parent creates an environment where the genes that produce sociopathy can become manifest.

In part 1 of this series, I listed several parenting behaviors that foster the development of sociopathy. This week we will discuss the trait anger and hostility that characterizes sociopathy. Nowhere are gene-environment interactions more apparent than in the development of an angry, hostile, suspicious style of relating to others.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that children at risk for sociopathy tend to adopt a suspicious approach during social interactions with both peers and adults. They are quick to interpret the behavior of others as hostile, angry or otherwise malevolent. They are also more likely to propose aggressive solutions to situations that involve conflict. When at risk kids respond in kind to perceived hostility, other children reject them. This rejection serves to confirm to the child that others are indeed malevolent–a classic self-fulfilling prophesy.

I am convinced that this suspicious, hostile stance we see in at risk children is due to their focus on dominance and power. At risk children tend to focus on competition and power as opposed to affection in relationships. If your child is focused on dominance, she/he will appear to you to be strong willed and will not respond well to correction. Many parents respond to dominant children by trying to put them in their place. They thus model aggressive behavior. Engaging in dominance struggles only further activates the dominance drive in at risk children. Dealing with a child’s dominance behavior, is perhaps the biggest challenge parents of at risk children face.

The only tool we have to reduce dominance behavior in at risk children and teens is affection. Affectionate interactions are incompatible with dominance behavior, so, if you want your child to be easier to live with, you have to teach him/her to be affectionate. You have to do everything in your power to give your child the ability to love. When strong dominance motivation is appropriately balanced with empathy and affection, the result is a great leader. Our kids who are born dominant are born leaders if we are able to guide them to have this balance.

I believe the dominance behavior at risk children show is inborn. My son was born with this dominant temperament and I work daily to teach him to love. He is now nearly 5 and does show a great deal of empathy and affection, however, he also shows the dominance behavior I am discussing. For example, there are times when we are shopping and someone gets close to our cart. My son becomes very territorial and says to adults, “This is our cart, don’t touch our stuff!” I promise he did not learn this from me. When we are in public I make it a point to smile, greet people and wish them a good day. Notice, too, that my son is not afraid to confront adults he doesn’t know. Just a few weeks ago, we drove to a local bike trail with our bikes on the bike rack of the van. As I was unloading the bikes, a woman approached me to ask about the trail. Her tone was a little anxious and her expression somewhat dry. My son interpreted her body language and expressions as hostile and said, “Don’t be mean to my mom!”

When these issues come up, I reassure my son and encourage him to give people the benefit of the doubt. “That nice lady only wanted to know about the trail.” I relate these experiences here because I want you to consider what would happen to my son if there was an adult male in his life who modeled the same competitive, suspicious behavior he is predisposed to. I have no doubt what would happen; these traits would become greatly magnified!

Studies have confirmed that nurture magnifies nature to produce antisocial behavior in at risk children. Two of the primary predictors of sociopathy in the children of sociopaths are a hostile style on the part of the sociopathic parent and hostile parenting. Interestingly, sibling to sibling spread of antisocial behavior also occurs via this hostility factor. Last week we received a letter from a mother whose former husband and now adult son are both sociopaths. She expressed guilt over not fighting harder when her son asked to live with his father. She didn’t fight because she also had two other children in the home who were suffering at the hands of their sibling, who was developing sociopathic personality traits. I believe that this mother’s decision, to focus her energy on the children she believed could be helped, likely saved the other two children. In the real world, people who have had children with sociopaths often have to make very difficult, gut-wrenching decisions.

Sociopaths not only model a suspicious/hostile attitude toward others, they can also be hostile toward family members, including children. For children who are not dominant, hostility directed toward them from a sociopathic parent creates anxiety and depression. When dominant children are the recipients of hostility, they simply throw it back or displace it on others. Either way, a home that is not a source of peace is bad for child well-being. In order to learn to love, children must learn to enjoy affection. In homes where anger abounds, children come to enjoy food, various forms of video entertainment, and other escapes, as opposed to really enjoying loved ones. This creates a problem with the pleasure balance that sets these children up to develop alcoholism and addiction later on. When love does not abound in our lives we seek to fill the void…and the result can be disastrous.



86 Comments on "Sociopaths as parents (part 3): Hostility spreads!"

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  1. Ox Drover says:

    Dear FAD, No darling I don’t think you sound crazy, but if you react every time to all the small things or if you put up a big fit about the hair cuts, when Jerk face is wanting to get a tattoo for junior you may have used up all your “credit” with the court or your attorney by complaining about hair cuts on a 2 yr old which I really do not believe is a MAJOR THING and I don’t think most judges would either. I know it is important to you, but what I am saying is that in the LARGER SCHEME OF THINGS IN THE WORLD, a hair cut (or even 10 hair cuts) is not going to warp or injure your kid at 2 yrs old.

    If your son was 15 and wanted to grow his hair out and daddykins took him down and forceably shaved his head, now we are talking a different thing.

    Daddykins comments about the baby “not looking like a girl” is I think daddy’s problems with his own manhood, and again,, the control and ATTENTIOn he is seeking I think.

    I think jerkk face wants ATTENTION and/or a REACTION, and he really doesn’t care which one he gets as long as you do not ignore him. He wants to quarrel and discuss and prove to you that he is as much in charge of the baby as you are. The baby is a possession I think, a LEASH to tug on your neck and keep jerk face tethered to you so that you cannot escape.

    You think all this attention seeking is bad, wait until you start to date again!~ LOL

    Just keep the written interactions as brief as possible is my advice, and make sure that you do not argue with him (that’s attention) just concise and precise and through the journal if possible.

    Hang in there darling! You are doing so much better than you were a year ago and you know you are! ((((hugs)))) and always my prayers for you and junior.



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  2. lesson learned says:

    FAD,

    My exPOS ex wife handles it very well I think. The advice Oxy gave you is absolutely CORRECT. THEY WANT/LOVE a reaction. The child is his possession. And that’s ALL it is. My ex’s kids are now teenagers and he uses money and the disneyland dad crap to suck them in and to get at his ex. She just blows it off. She refuses contact unless it is time to pick up/drop off, the children. She emails and keeps it short and sweet. She does not give into any BS that may create arguments.

    TOTALLY gray rock. It pisses him off!!! LOL, countless times I’ve heard what a bitch she is and how SHE is using the kids against HIM LOL!!! GOOD FOR HER!! She just doesn’t give a rats ass what he does or how he does it. She’s happy in her life and she doesn’t let him get to her. Period. IT doesn’t matter anymore.

    Good LUck.

    LL



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  3. FightAnotherDay says:

    Argh.

    We went to court and now our son is in day care Tues. and Thurs.
    Jerkface watches him (acting as daycare M, W, F,

    I am a teacher and have had snow days T, W and NOW Friday.
    As primary I have our son because I am not working.
    Now he is asking to have him when the conditions improve.
    1st, its silly because Jr. naps for 2 hours out of the 4 jerkface has suggested. (he probably didn’t consider this as I don’t think he provides our son with routine),
    2nd sorry, it’s my day, I don’t need “day care”. It is also my weekend so this is my friday anyway.

    Gulp.
    How should I respond to his request other than remind him Jr. will be sleeping for half that time?



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  4. FightAnotherDay says:

    I have consulted with my attorney and wanted to share this with you.

    If you have followed my past ramblings about my feelings of denying myself and my fears of jerkfaces lie-filled e-mails you know I am stressed (understatement) about hims “framing” me.

    My attorney assures me that while being flexible with the agreement will make me look “better” in court, the reverse: following the agreement to a “T”, will NOT have the reverse effect of making me look bad.

    She also recommends that I NOT react to or “engage” in his rhetoric.

    She said that if he ever wanted to submit his e-mails as any sort of proof that I am, for example: alienating our son, he would have to present FURTHER REAL proof of such.

    She said not to worry.



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  5. bluejay says:

    FightAnotherDay,

    I’m happy to hear that your attorney could help relieve some of your anxiety, hearing from her that you don’t need to obsess about what your ex say’s. I had a therapist (who works with children) tell me that when you’re dealing with an anti-social personality disordered individual, it’s equivalent to dealing with an alcoholic – there is always going to be unwanted drama. I am still learning what to react to and what to dismiss, so you’re not alone. Take care.



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