Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have suggested that callous and unemotional (CU) traits associated with psychopathy in adults can now be detected in children as young as three. The study reports that identifying young children with psychopathic traits can help in earlier treatments.
Researchers for the study used parent-teacher questionnaires and new computer programs to evaluate more than 200 children between the age group of three and six. The experiment involved combining the questionnaire with other tests to ensure its validity for younger patients. The findings showed that 10% children lacked empathy, affection and remorse. All these factors could contribute to the risk of becoming antisocial in later life.
The lack of these factors is similar to the adult population with an antisocial attitude. Similarly in another experiment, scientists from King’s College, London examined the visual preferences of five week old children to see whether they preferred looking at a red ball or human face. When the babies turned two-and-a-half-years-old they were tested for CU traits. The results found that babies who preferred looking at the object rather than human are more likely to exhibit antisocial behaviour in later life.