Sociopathic Parents and Their Effects on Children
Sociopathic parents exist and can cause great harm to their children through both emotional and physical abuse, even to the point of producing sociopathic children. In addition, co-parenting with a sociopath can be very troubling.
A sociopath is a man or a woman who cares only about him/herself (What Is A Sociopathic Person Like?). All the world is his stage, and all the people merely his puppets on a string. He is a social predator in all aspects of his life, including parenthood; he's a sociopathic parent.
Traits of Sociopathic Parents
At the most basic level, sociopathic parents aren't warm and fuzzy. Cold, distant, and unwelcoming, he provides neither comfort nor affection. James Fallon, a neurobiologist who studies the brains of sociopaths and happens to be one himself, is one of the rare sociopaths who has sustained a marriage over time and helped raise children. He describes his feelings toward his children as indifferent, "[d]ominated less by warmth than by entertainment and intellectual interest."
By sociopathic standards, Fallon is "loving parent of the year". Other sociopath parents aren't so kind and generous. The only true feeling sociopath parents have is anger, and they typically express it loudly and physically (Do Sociopaths Cry or Even Have Feelings?). Because the expressed anger is out of proportion to whatever induced it, children are left hurt, confused, and with a sense that the world is unpredictable, illogical, and unsafe. Antisocial parents teach their children that the world is chaotic and inconsistent.
Sociopathic parents have other hallmark parenting traits that amount to psychological abuse:
- Lack of attachment, bonding, love
- Dismissiveness (because kids are boring)
- Disregard for the child's welfare
- Harsh expectations and demands
- Neglect, often extreme
- Purposeful attempts to corrupt a child (exposure to pornography, encouraging delinquent behavior)
As if the sociopathic parent wasn't bad enough, this parent is often a spouse or a partner. Co-parenting with a sociopath can be a daily challenge. In all parenting partnerships, there exists an ongoing need to negotiate and compromise; unfortunately, the sociopath neither negotiates nor compromises. Ever. Co-parenting with a sociopath creates a strained relationship that adds yet another layer of difficulty to family life (Co-Parenting With An Abuser: How to Help Your Kids, Yourself).
A Sociopath Mother!
The sociopath mother is no June Cleaver. She is much more like Game of Thrones' Cersei Lannister. Granted, she's excellent at emulating June Cleaver. Typical of a sociopath, this mom can morph into any persona that suits her in a given moment. When others are watching, she launches into Supermom. She dotes, she encourages, she loves, she attends. She provides the snacks at the end of the soccer game. Everyone loves SuperJune.
Then, when the game is over and the family is back home, Cersei returns. She doesn't need SuperJune because no one is around to entrap as future tools of manipulation.
Far from being a nurturing, loving attachment figure, the sociopath mother is a cold, abusive, frightening figure representing chaos and emotional distance. She ignores and she neglects. She controls and manipulates; to the sociopathic mother, her child isn't a person in his own right but a possession that exists to serve her. She uses insincere, shallow affection to manipulate. She hardly praises or encourages, but she lavishes the child with verbal abuse and punishment.
Society's norms mirror our biological wiring: mothers are designed to nurture and protect, so when they don't, the results are devastating to the child.
The Sociopathic Parent's Effect on Their Kids
Children are adversely affected by a sociopathic parent. The exact nature and impact of the ramifications of abuse vary from child to child and are dependent upon the severity of the sociopathy and the level of functioning of the parent, the nature of the child and her level of resiliency, and the degree and presence of other support systems. Still in one way or another, every child is impacted by having a sociopath parent. Much of the harm done to a child by a sociopathic parent is seen in behavior. The child might
- shrink in isolation or express problems through bullying and aggression
- become easily distracted
- be either overly emotional or flat
- have poor school performance.
The child's mental health is often affected as well. Approximately twenty-five percent of kids develop a mental illness such as childhood anxiety and depression (Woods, 2011). Sociopathic parents instill fear, shame, and a sense of worthlessness and self-blame in their children.
A sociopath parent is what a child fears: the monster under his bed and everywhere, and he can't turn to this parent for comfort.
Last Updated: 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD