MINNEAPOLIS—A study published Monday in The Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry has concluded that an estimated 98 percent of children under the age of 10 are remorseless sociopaths with little regard for anything other than their own egocentric interests and pleasures.
According to Dr. Leonard Mateo, a developmental psychologist at the University of Minnesota and lead author of the study, most adults are completely unaware that they could be living among callous monsters who would remorselessly exploit them to obtain something as insignificant as an ice cream cone or a new toy.
"The most disturbing facet of this ubiquitous childhood disorder is an utter lack of empathy," Mateo said. "These people—if you can even call them that—deliberately violate every social norm without ever pausing to consider how their selfish behavior might affect others. It's as if they have no concept of anyone but themselves."
"The depths of depravity that these tiny psychopaths are capable of reaching are really quite chilling," Mateo added.
According to the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, a clinical diagnostic tool, sociopaths often display superficial charm, pathological lying, manipulative behaviors, and a grandiose sense of self-importance. After observing 700 children engaged in everyday activities, Mateo and his colleagues found that 684 exhibited these behaviors at a severe or profound level.
The children studied also displayed many secondary hallmarks of antisocial personality disorder, most notably poor impulse control, an inability to plan ahead, and a proclivity for violence—often in the form of extended tantrums—when their needs were not immediately met.
"Children will use any tool at their disposal to secure gratification," Mateo said. "And as soon as the desire is fulfilled, be it some material want or simply an insatiable and narcissistic desire for validation, they quickly become bored and lose interest in their victims, all the while thinking only of satisfying whatever their next hedonistic craving might be."
Mateo added that even when subjects were directly confronted with the consequences of their inexplicable behavior, they had little or no capacity for expressing guilt, other than insincere utterances of "sorry" that were usually coerced.
Because children are so skilled at mimicking normal human emotions and will say anything without consideration for accuracy or truth, Mateo said that people often don't realize that they've been exploited until it is too late. Though he maintained that anyone can fall victim to a child's egocentric behavior, Mateo warned that grandmothers were especially susceptible to the self- serving machinations of tiny little sociopaths.
Despite the overwhelming evidence presented in the study, its findings have been met with heavy criticism from people who associate with children on a regular basis.
Batavia, NY resident and 38-year-old mother Mary Corcoran echoed the sentiments of many other adults who refuse to believe they are sharing their homes with merciless predators.
"Not my Jimmy. Just this morning, he told me I was the best mommy in the whole world," Corcoran said of her son, 5. "In fact, he's been such a sweet little boy this month that Santa just may bring him everything he asks for."
According to renowned child psychologist Dr. Pritha Singh, author of Born Without Souls, diagnosing preadolecents as sociopaths is primarily a theoretical interest, as the disorder is considered untreatable.
"We've tried behavior modification therapies, but children actually learn from our techniques and become even more adept at manipulating others while concealing their shameless misanthropy," Singh said. "Sadly, experience has taught us there is little hope for rehabilitation."
"Just look at the way most adults act," Singh added.