Children With Negative Childhood Memories Are More Prone to Violence

Whitman and Akutagawa (2004) argued that children who were neglected by their mother are more likely to develop antisocial and violent habits. The first connection of a child to the world is with his mother. The role of the mother is not only for physical needs such as food or clothes, but also for emotional comfort. If the child does not receive the love from his mother, it is likely that he will not be able to develop the ability to give or receive love, appreciation, or positive emotion in general. Without empathy, the child will find it difficult to connect with others and have no problem with manipulating people to satisfy his desires.

In addition, for some people who experienced traumatic event from their childhood, those disturbing memories could never be processed. Heide and Solomon (2006) pointed out that victims from trauma had to relive the terrifying moments due to the traumatic memories get pinned in the right limbic system instead of the left cerebral cortex. The authors continued to note that because memories were stored in a wrong region, the person cannot use those memories to learn from the past experience, and therefore is more open to act violently (Heide & Solomon, 2006). With a better understanding about psychopathy and sociopathy, we can have a better idea of finding appropriate treatments for children who developed PTSD symptoms from experiencing child abuse as well as better diagnostic system to recognize children displaying sociopathic tendencies.

Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) was found to successfully reduce the PTSD symptomatology of surveyed adolescents by 50% and to reduce the percentage of surveyed parents exceeding clinical thresholds for psychiatric distress by 75% (Swenson, Schaeffer, Henggeler, Faldowski, & Mayhew, 2010). The reason made MST-CAN effective mainly was because it interacted with both the adolescents and their parents to achieve their own desired outcomes. This included a safety plan specifically designed for each family giving family members advices when they felt unsafe, a treatment team effectively interacted with Child Protective Services (CPS) system to ensure clinical need was considered when decision from CPS were made, a clarification process was utilized to help parents acknowledge the abuse incident and apologize to the child, and necessary cognitive-behavioral conventions (Swenson et al., 2010).

Another study was found to be effective in helping adult survivors of childhood trauma was Emotion Focused Therapy, which showed significant improvements in “symptomatology, current abuse-related problems, global and specific interpersonal problems, and self-affiliation” (Paivio & Nieuwenhuis, 2001). It should be noted that effective treatments for adult survivors of childhood trauma share the same degree of importance as treatments for children and adolescents. Even though brain injury may be more serious for adults due to the long period after the trauma, it is still possible for the treatments to help them reduce distress and have a more objective perspective towards the accident. Beside treatments for PTSD victims, a proper diagnostic system and treatments for children with conduct disorder is also crucial.

Conduct disorder is defined as a behavioral and emotional disorder that occur in children under the age of 18. A child may be diagnosed with conduct disorder when showing signs of aggressive, destructive, deceitful behavior or actions of breaking the law (Baker, 2016). It is undeniable that it takes a lot of time and effort to effectively treat conduct disorder. A complete assessment from different sources such as the child himself, caregivers, school, and possibly therapist is required, which is not always easy to obtain considering most cases occur in family with low socioeconomic status. Still, efforts in parent management training and effective interventions such as Multisystemic Therapy (MST) or Functional Family Therapy (FFT) are still continuingly being made (Baker, 2016).

In conclusion, there is not a direct relationship indicating an abused child would become a serial killer, but it is undebatable that being abused or neglected during childhood is a big factor of developing sociopathy, which is commonly identified as a trait of a serial killer. The study also agreed with theories of psychopathy mainly results from genetics while sociopathy often develops from environmental influences, including childhood trauma. Consider the fact that child abuse can possibly lead to a terrifying result as serial homicide, it is crucial to seek for appropriate treatment.

Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is believed to be the most effective intervention for both abused children and adolescents with serious conduct disorders. Emotion Focused Therapy and Functional Family Therapy are also shown to be effective. Even though having valid treatments is important, preventing child abuse and neglect from the beginning should be preferred and promoted.

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