All children do inappropriate things every now and then. Does that mean they have antisocial personality disorder? Remember your own adolescence… didn’t you also behave in ways that you now see were problematic or dangerous?
Now, how can we differentiate an occasional behavior from a psychological pathology? Given the consequences, it is important to know what symptoms to look for. Then, if we suspect that someone we know has this disorder, we can ask qualified professionals for help. The disorder makes things hard in the family, sometime unbearable. In addition, their relationships are also affected. Young people could even run into legal problems.
What behaviors are characteristic of antisocial personality disorder?
The 15 behaviors that children with the disorder have are usually grouped into 4 groups: aggression against people and animals, destruction of property, deception or theft, and serious rule-breaking. Next, we will look at these behaviors more in depth. Children must show at least three of the following behaviors to be a candidate for this disorder. Finally, behaviors must be present for at least a year before we can consider it antisocial personality disorder.
- Aggression towards people and animals
- have used a weapon to cause serious damage to others
- have exercised physical cruelty against others
- often harass, threaten, or intimidate others
- have been physical cruel towards animals
- have stolen
- often start fights
- have sexually assaulted someone
- Destruction of property
- have deliberately started a fire with the intention of causing serious damage
- have deliberately destroyed someone’s property
- Deception or theft
- have invaded someone’s house, building, or car
- often lie to get things or favors, or to avoid obligations
- have stolen nontrivial valuables without confronting the victim
- Serious breach of the rules:
- often go out at night against their parents’ rules, starting before age 13
- spend nights away from home without permission, at least one or two absences lasting a long time
- Often miss school, starting before age 13
Antisocial personality disorder in children and teens
Young people who show these behaviors persistently tend to have limited prosocial emotions. These are emotions that help them understand the emotional state of others. For example, they have a lack of remorse or concern for their actions. Additionally, they show superficial or deficient affection, and a lack of sensitivity and empathy.
As you can imagine, the behaviors of children with antisocial personality disorder can be quite harmful. Some are serious problems. However, that does not mean that nothing can be done.
In fact, it is extremely important to take action and try to help. Therefore, if you read this article and realize you know someone who fits this profile, don’t hesitate to look for a good psychologist!
Images courtesy of Mads Schmidt Rasmussen, Amritanshu Sikdar, and Jacob Ufkes.