Evidence for substantial genetic risk for psychopathy in 7-year-olds

Essi Viding, et al. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry,
June 2005.

Some children are born with psychopathic tendencies which
predispose them to anti-social behaviour, a new study

Using a sample of 3,687 pairs of twins, researchers used teachers’
ratings to classify which children demonstrated psychopathic
tendencies and antisocial behaviour. Psychopathic tendencies were
defined as a lack of empathy and remorse.

Researchers divided the children displaying antisocial behaviour
into those who also had psychopathic tendencies and those that did
not, and found that antisocial behaviour was strongly inherited
among children with psychopathic tendencies.

Dr Viding from the institute of Psychiatry at King’s College
London, who lead the research, said that these children had an
“unlucky combination of genes” which predisposed them to antisocial
behaviour, but that this did not mean nothing could be done to

“Children are open to protective environmental influences early in
life and these influences can buffer the effect of genetic
vulnerability,” Viding said.

Review by Frances Rickford

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