5 Signs of Psychopathy in Children

Although you may have a rough idea that psychopathic children repeatedly disregard and violate of the rights of others, there’s way more to the disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). What are they? In this article, we’ll be extracting the aforementioned idea of psychopathy, which is also referred to as antisocial personality disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Here are 5 signs of psychopathy in children:

1. A child fails to conform to social norms, often doing things that are on ground for arrest

Do you know of a child that often gets into legal trouble? This can be because they purposely destroy public property, steal things from shops, or violate rules continuously even when asked to stop. If you do, then you may have just identified a child with a psychopathic trait.

2. A child deceives others for their personal benefit

Ever hear of a child say “I didn’t do it!” to get out of trouble, or even worse, children to manipulate others to get what they want? These scenarios fall under the category of deceitfulness — the idea that a child wants others to believe in things that are simply not true. Oftentimes, they do they because they want some personal gain, even if it means hurting others around them!

3. The kid who is aggressive and irritable

An example of aggression is a kid who always manages to get into physical fights with others. When this happens repeatedly and becomes hard to control, this may be indicative of another trait of psychopathy in children.

4. The children does not “feel bad” for doing wrong things

Let’s say that you catch a child stealing $20 from your wallet. Upon confronting him or her, he or she appears unbothered and tries to “reason his way out” to make it seem that you were the irresponsible one! Worse of all, they don’t feel bad — they could be really good at coning their way through any situation… even better than you.

5. Reckless disregard for the safety of others

These are children who make decisions that deliberately put others at risk. For example, a five-year-old child who attempts to drive their parent’s car down a high-speed freeway is not only putting themselves in danger, but also the drivers around them. By doing this, they are risking the safety of others.

The ideas of “psychopathy” and “psychopath” appear in books, movies, and tv shows, such as this segment of Calvin and Hobbes! But what does it really mean?

Putting the 5 signs together: how do I know if a child is psychopathic?

To be diagnosed as having antisocial personality disorder, a child must fulfill 3 or more of the 5 signs of psychopathy in children, be at least eighteen years old, and have evidence of conduct disorder before age 15. They must also not have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder when exhibiting these traits.

In conclusion, a “child” cannot be diagnosed as psychopathic (having antisocial personality disorder) unless they are over eighteen years old, but can demonstrate psychopathic traits, such as those described above. Please do not diagnose yourself or children around you. This article is for informative purposes only!



American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5®). American Psychiatric Pub.

Substance, A., & Mental, H. S. A. (2016). DSM-5 Changes: Implications for Child Serious Emotional Disturbance.

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