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Friday, May 18, 2012

Can You Call a 9 Year Old a Psychopath?

This is an article written by Jennifer Kahn, who teaches at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. This is her first article for the magazine. This story is about a study being conducted at Florida International University,directed by Dan Waschbush about children exhibiting a disorder labeled as "callous unemotional children", who exhibit a distinctive lack of affect, remorse o empathy and who are considered at risk of becoming psychopats as adults. Their behavior is a mixture of impulsiveness, aggression, manipulativeness and defiance. An anatomical analysis of their brains shows a significant difference with the regular brain structure: a smaller subgenical cortex and a 5 to 10% reduction in brain density in portions of the paralimbic system, region of the brain which is associated with empathy an social values and active in moral decision making. It has also been discovered that this condition is genetic and highly heritable, but the genetic risk can be mitigated by environmental influences, like warm,understanding and effective parenting. Also, studies show that it may be possible to "rewire" the brain so that children affected by this disorder might develop greater empathy through terapies that teach them to identify emotions and behave accordingly. As I was reading through the different comments to this powerful article, there were opinions ranging from an inadecuate treatment of a child as a guinea pig in a closed environment, where they are very conscious of being observed as "rare objects", to the ones offered by some educated scholar who, with some reluctance, offered a possibility of possession by an evil entity and suggested religious intervention in the treatment. Personally, I think that in the American society, in which I live, scientists are trying to label human behavior to extremes which tend to draw "difficult to manage" kids in special education facilities which distinguish them from regular schooling. This, while making classes more manageable for educators, could also mean the breeding of a generation of resentful kids who grow with a conscience that they are different and that can use that as an excuse to perpetuate or justify their future actions. As a parent of three very different children, with different psychological approaches and needs, I have learned by experience that "conscious" children and adults use their early childhood experiences as an excuse for their passions and reactions and carry them all their lives as "saving canes" on which to rely to explain their mishaps. I believe that the big line which distinguishes animal behavior from human behavior is the intellectual capacity of the human brain which has the oportunity to develop while living in society. There have also been studies of individuals who have been nurtured and lived by accident with animals of higher intelligence, like apes,and had no contact with humans. Their brains "were wired" for that experience and their reactions were primitive. Once they were rescued to human society, they were able to adapt and learn from the new circumstances. By the same token, I believe that man is the result of the environment in which he is raised, and if he is sorrounded by bad influences he will respond to those primitive instincts...without no control and care for the basic feelings. Also, education and a warm sorrounding are basic in the rearing of a child. Why not stop labeling behaviors, and try to make all children identify people's emotions and make them less selfish and caring? At home, at school, that should be the priority, because if these scientists believe there could be a rewiring of the brain of the so called UC children, why not rewire all of us into a more sensitive society. Which are the limits of normality? And if this condition is hereditary, as the scientists say, what are the hopes for chidren being reared by manipulative parents who have themselves not learned about empathy for other people feelings...in this case, their own children. As the article suggests, this should be a therapy which involves the whole family... and in my opinion, society in general,if we are to be subject to unemotional and ruthless politicians. Copy and Paste the link and please read the mentioned article. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/magazine/can-you-call-a-9-year-old-a-psychopath.html?smid=pl-share