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Rise in Teen Psychopaths in society

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March 5, 2005
Bud Talkinghorn: The coming of the teeny psychopath

While crime in North America has fallen over the last decade, teenage crime has increased. What is doubly worrying is not just the numbers of minor crimes, i.e. shoplifting, but the severity of their offenses. Harris and Klebold's rampage in Columbine was simply the apex of viscous teenage murders. There had been psychopathic mass slayings before that by kids as young as 13. On CNN there was a case of a 14 year old who shot a female bus driver to death in front of a bus load of students. The rationale was so trivial that we shake our heads in disbelief. It seems she had reprimanded him for chewing tobacco. There has been an on-going series of these senseless murders. What sticks out in my mind is the recurring description of the teens' complete lack of remorse. The thrill killing by the teens Leopard and Loeb in the 30's of one kid was so shocking that it dominated the world's headlines. Today, it wouldn't even make the front page. The body count was too low. Also, there were no female teen killers until of late. The murder of Reena Virk by a gang of girls was sensational, but would have been ho-hum in the States, where it is becoming much more common. A case on the Oprah show, profiled a grade 11 lesbian and her lover accomplice luring another girl out to a shack. They brutally beat her, shoved a tire iron up her rectum and left her dying. On the way home, they realized that she might live to inform on them, so they bought a can of gas and set her on fire. Then happy with the day's work, they went to a Burger King for some snacks. The dead girl's offense? A mistaken belief that she was trying to seduce one of their lesbian pals. The movie "The River's Edge", which portrayed a teenager who killed a female classmate, then took other students on a daily tour of her decomposing body, was based on a true story from California. None of the visitors turned him in at first.

While teachers in the past encountered a few students who exhibited the classic traits of the psychopath, their numbers were small, relative to today. Also they never considered that punishing them would trigger a disproportionate revenge attack. Today that would be a consideration. Two years ago in Alberta there were 70-some odd accusations by students about sexual abuse by their teachers. Thorough investigation disproved all but three. Many of the accusers admitted that they did it to avenge poor marks or some other minor slight. When told how they had damaged their teachers' reputations forever, some showed indifference.

I don't know what the answer is for how to stop these monsters. Prison psychologists I have talked to or whose work I have read don't believe they can be cured. According to Dr. Robert Hare, a Vancouver authority on psychopaths, there is little we can do except identify them and mount vigilance against their predatory methods. Possibly criminal psychopaths (not all are, but all are dangerous "trust bandits") should be labelled dangerous offenders, without hope of rehabilitation. Dr. Hare's checklist of psychopathy is used worldwide to identify them. A few of his main characteristics may help you spot them, for they live amongst you.

--Glibness/superficial charm
--Need for constant stimulation/easily bored
--Pathological lying
--Lack of true remorse or guilt
--Shallow affect
--Lack of empathy
--Conning/manipulative
--Promiscuous sexual behaviour
--Criminal versatility
--Early behavioural problems
--Cruelty to children or animals
--Parasitic lifestyle (excerpt from High Risk: Children without Conscience, by Dr. Ken Magid and Carole McKelvey)




These are not all the characteristics but they constitute the main ones. Hare, in his own book, Without Conscience, stresses that having a few of these does not prove psychopathy. For instance, a child who is irresponsible or a behaviour problem, might simply suffer from poor parenting. It is only when at least eight or more of these symptoms show up, that you should start to worry. Torturing small animals without any remorse for their suffering is a major red flag, though. To conclude, I ask you to keep your eyes open, for these ruthless predators dwell amongst you. The non-criminal ones might be your friends, but only until they have abused your trust thoroughly, or more frightening, you might work for one. One told me that, on discovering that his father had died while he was in New York City, rather then fly directly home, he stayed on and picked up two hookers, to fullfill his "shower fantasy". When I asked how he could do such a thing, he replied, "The old man was a loser. Period". He later seduced and impregnated one of his employees, then abandoned her. His punishment? He kept advancing up the administrative ladder. Scary.

Bud Talkinghorn

posted by News Junkie Canada at Saturday, March 05, 2005

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