Living with Children: Animal torture is marker for antisocial behavior
Question: My 18-year-old son and a slightly younger friend recently found some mice and decided to dispose of them. They drowned one and set the other one on fire. When I confronted my son for torturing animals, his response was “They're just mice.” Is this typical boy behavior, or should I be concerned?
Answer: This may be “boy behavior” in that boys are more likely to do such things than girls, but it is not typical boy behavior. Animal torture and abuse is a strong marker of Antisocial Personality Disorder.
The website “How to Spot a Sociopath” (www.wikihow.com/Spot-a-Sociopath) defines APD as a “disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity and the ability to lie in order to achieve one's goals.”
The fact that your son tortured mice to death is not, in and of itself, diagnostic, but it raises suspicions. His cavalier attitude when you confronted him raises those suspicions.
The question turns on whether other aspects of your son's behavior fit the criteria. It is possible for a person to exhibit an isolated sociopathic behavior without being a sociopath.
If, however, your son habitually lies, seems callous toward the problems of others, is generally narcissistic and often manipulative of others, I would recommend a professional evaluation. He's still young enough that, if he's confronted with a problem of this sort in a professional setting, he can, possibly, make corrections to the direction his life is taking (assuming the evaluation reveals a diagnostic issue).
Even if your son doesn't exhibit the above markers, a psychological evaluation might be valuable. If a psychologist gives him a clean bill of health, the process will emphasize to him the seriousness of what he did. At the very least, he needs to understand that deliberately killing an animal is not by any stretch the equivalent of stepping on a bug by accident.
Q: My 11-year old son, an only child, continues to ask me to “snuggle” with him and scratch his back at bed time. This is a time for us to read aloud, chat about concerns or questions and say prayers.
Sometimes, if I'm too busy, he just goes off to bed, and, sometimes, his dad cuddles instead of me. An older friend whom I respect said a pre-pubescent boy is too old for this kind of cuddle routine, that it sends the wrong mother-son message. I always assumed that the day would come when he would not want me to step foot in his room and decided to enjoy it for as long as it lasted, but am I continuing a routine that should come to an end?
A: Not in my estimation. I'm sure your friend is well-meaning, but I disagree that this is inappropriate behavior for a mom to engage in with an 11-year-old boy, especially given that (a) he accepts it when you are too busy to cuddle, (b) his dad cuddles with him at times and (c) you sound like a healthy bunch of humans. The day is rapidly coming when your son will probably no longer want you to come to his room.
Visit family psychologist John Rosemond at www.johnrosemond.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kennywood fanatic, 82, rides Jack Rabbit 95 times in a row
- Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates past Mets
- Steel Valley baseball gets another chance to advance
- Summertime is the perfect opportunity to dig into a good book
- Housing authority officer shot dead in New Orleans
- Senior Pitchford makes Serra track history
- Mercyhurst wins opener at NCAA D-II baseball championships
- Chicago inmate eats screws, needles, amasses $1M medical tab
- Deer Lakes softball team seeks 2nd WPIAL title in 4 years
- Florida mother who refused circumcision for son, 4, freed
- Ex-Baldwin, Pitt star Pinkston not giving up on NFL dream