Psychopathy and how to detect it

Psychopathy and how to detect it


Over the past week, sadness and shock has engulfed Kiambaa residents after a gruesome murder of 5 people in a homestead; 4 family members and 1 worker. Investigations later confirmed that the five had been murdered by a fellow family member. Lawrence Simon Warunge confessed to killing his mother, father, two siblings and a worker. Shockingly, after the 22- year old killed the family members, he showered ate the food the mother had prepared and later sat down and watched a television programme. As if that is not astonishing enough, when the prosecution read the charges it would press against him when he takes plea, he calmly and emotionlessly responded “no objection”. The suspect allegedly felt neglected by the parents and that the siblings sided with them, he described the parents as satanic and killers. These odd traits displayed by Lawrence leaves you thinking of him of nothing less than a psychopath and makes you wonder if he was one all along just that no one noticed.

Research estimates that almost 1% of the population meet the criteria for psychopathy. According to Wikipedia psychopathy is defined as a personality disorder characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse and bold dis-inhibited and egotistical traits. In particular, common signs of psychopathy include:

  • Socially irresponsible behavior,
  • Disregarding or violating the rights of others,
  • Inability to distinguish between right and wrong,
  • Difficulty with showing remorse or empathy,
  • Tendency to lie often,
  • Manipulating and hurting others and
  • General disregard towards safety and responsibility.

Psychopaths are however not the same as sociopaths. Both of this are considered abnormal personality disorder (APD), however sociopaths are more prone to rage and violence. They are unable to have a normal life unlike psychopaths who are able maintain the appearance of a normal life. Sociopaths also tend to be spontaneous in their criminal activities compared to psychopaths whose criminal activities are well and carefully thought out.

Various research has been done to determine whether its genetic, environmental or interpersonal factors that influence psychopathy. The results have however proven that it is not a black and white issue, there are many gray areas. Early exposure to a dysfunctional environment is likely to contribute to psychopathy.

According to an article written by good therapy, one such study done by various researchers where they evaluated parent-child relationships and social environment. They found out that the pattern of disrupted parent-child relationships and antisocial tendencies contributes to developmental problems.

Dr. Hare and his associates developed a powerful tool called Psychopathy Checklist Revised List (PCL-R) to assess whether a person psychopathy traits. A person who possess all of the interpersonal traits measured by PCL-R is considered a psychopath.

A study done in 2016 by University of Michigan showed that psychopathy can be seen in children as early as 2-years old

According to Dr. Todd Grane, early signs that a child is at risk of becoming a psychopath have been listed below. It’s important to note that a child may display these factors and not develop psychopathy. Kids aren’t either psychopaths or not and that some traits maybe found to some degree in most children.

  • Bedwetting
  • Fascination with fire and destroying property
  • Hurting small animals and practicing on stuffed animals
  • Cheating friends, enemies and those who are neutral
  • Ignoring a crying child or failing to recognize distress in faces
  • Attacking a teacher, being dominant with authority figure
  • Committing a crime alone or fantasizing about committing a crime
  • Desire to see disturbing images or scenes, want to see a person die.
  • Fearless and not worried about consequences.
  • Bullying, wanting people to fear them.


Recent studies suggest that symptoms of psychopathy can improve when intensive care aimed at the unique needs of children who rank high in psychopathy. These children require special treatment as they don’t respond well to disciplinary measures since they seem to not bothered by the consequences.

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