14 May 2012

Child Psychopathy

The New York Times, in a vivid and lengthy article spells out the case for callous-unemotional type discipline problem kids (i.e. kids with "conduct disorder") being kids on a path to adult psychopathy, absent interventions that haven't been really worked out yet.

The case for adult psychopathy almost universally having roots no later than in early childhood is compelling. But, it isn't yet clear if childhood diagnosis is reliable. Many kids who are terrible discipline problems as children grow out of it, but ordinary "hot blooded" anti-social activity and the kind of impulsivity associated with ADHD are different in kind than than distinct subtype who are callous and unemotional (really just codewords for behaviors assocaited with psychopathy as adults). Multiple researchers in the field are making the case (for example, in the study discussed in this February 23, 2011 blog post) that this subtype of much more predictive of adult psychopathy than ordinary anti-social behavior which has multiple causes and behavior syndromes encompassed within the broader definition. They are also starting to understand its neurological basis.

A particularly pertinent question the finds pose is whether it really makes sense to keep juvenile delinquency records confidential. A huge percentage of adult offenders who go on to become recidivist serious offenders are continuing a pattern of conduct that began when they were children. Not disclosing juvenile records and not considering those records in setting permissible sentencing ranges exposes large numbers of offenders who offend for the first time as adults and are likely to reform themselves to the same risk of a very long and harsh punishment as offenders whose juvenile records make them high risk candidates for serious reoffending. And, the confidentiality of the process, in addition to making it very difficult to determine if the process is proceeding fairly, also prevents private individuals from effectively limiting their exposure to risk for young adults who do not yet have adult criminal records but pose a highly elevated risk to the people whom they are around.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

More on the story at Gene Expression. There is lots of commentary on the argument that the 10% of financial services professionals are pscyhopaths cite being an urban myth, but this distracts from the core points of the article.