Sociopathy is inherited – choosing not to have children

This weeks post is a result of re-reading some an old comment I made on a website about childbirthing when you are a survivor. I’ve never birthed or raised a child, and don’t plan to. When I was younger, I had a  strong aversion to the tearing that always happens during childbirth. I had some good ideas why this might be so, but of course didn’t have proof till I saw the scar tissue from the tearing I’d experienced during repeated vaginal rapes starting as a very young child.

The doula, a survivor herself, whose blog it was, responded to my comment by saying in part that women can give birth even with scar tissue, which of course was never the point.

It got me thinking about all the reasons I’ve chosen not to birth a child. You would think being a lesbian might be one of them, but it isn’treally. I know lots of same sex couples with children. We may have an awesome birth control method, but we can fairly easily get pregnant if we want to. Even the country  and place I live in are liberal enough that my child wouldn’t experience much in the way of serious discrimination, no more than any other kid in a multicultural society does.

Then of course, there are the environmental reasons. By choosing not to have a child, I’m making the single largest environmental conservation action that I could make. Even with an extremely conserving and eco-friendly lifestyle, human beings just do way more harm than good to the planet, and there need to be less of us if the planet is going to continue to support life in the long run.

And there are the temperament reasons. I have trouble enough sleeping without the expected sleeplessness of early parenthood, and I am extremely unhappy and foggy without sleep. The thought of enduring this for years is almost inconceivable (no pun intended). I’m also a bit of a space cadet, what with all the PTSD, and I wouldn’t want to be responsible for a little being I might accidentally injure with my forgetfulness. I have recurring nightmares where I make some mistake that injures my baby.

But really the most compelling reason for not having children is that sociopathy is apparently mostly genetic. My father is a sociopath, and I can’t take the chance that I might birth and raise one. Screening for sperm donors doesn’t usually include screening for sociopathy either, so my kid could get a double genetic load with the wrong donor. Not an acceptable risk to me. If there was an in vitro blood test for sociopathic tendencies, and I learned my baby had them, I would abort. I’d feel bad about it, and I’d pray about it, but I’d do it. The risk of harm from just one sociopath over his or her lifetime is just too great.

For those of you who, like me, have a first order relative who is or was a sociopath/psychopath/has antisocial personality disorder, I respectfully suggest that you consider never passing this gene on.

If you are at risk for passing sociopathy on to your children and have already had or plan to have children, or if you raise a child who is at risk, here are some resources to spot and help overcome sociopathic tendencies in your children.

14 thoughts on “Sociopathy is inherited – choosing not to have children”

  1. My brother is a sociopath, something that started to emerge by the time he was in his early teens.

    My maternal grandmother was definitely a sociopath and her daughter, my aunt, I suspect was one. There was a huge rift of separation between her and my mother and my mother does not even know exactly when her mother and sister died.

    I was dumped by my brother when I was twelve, never included in any aspect of his life until today when he is now 53. We grew up in the same house, so if he wanted something, wanted to be unpleasant, or before he was in his mid-teens, he would interact with me, for example on a family holiday.

    Psychopathy is definitely inherited, there are degrees of it and you can be very high on the scale without being a killer or a criminal. It is also shaped by denial and enablers in a family. These enablers will also have facile views about gays being paedophiles and that heterosexual paedophilia is all about teenage girls who although still children, look like adults, so in all a mis-understanding. My own uncle is such an enabler and has attempted to guilt-trip me about my non-interaction with my brother. He has said that my exclusion of him (other way around) was terribly hurtful to his now long-deceased parents. Combine that with a total lack of boundaries in a family and it means that nobody is ever going to be capable of seeing the wood for the trees.

    I have very grave doubts about our society. It is far from sane or humane and I am dubious about bringing new people into such a world. I dis-approve of our sterile and restricting methods of education and I also think there are too many people in the world.

    Given that none of my offspring is going to be a Bach or an Einstein, my little gift to humanity, is not to even risk creating a sociopath, so that people down the line have to suffer what I grew up with.

    1. sworddancewarrior

      Hi Giles,
      Yes, that’s basically what I came to as well. It doesn’t mean you can’t adopt if you want to parent.
      May you outlive them all.

  2. Just read several articles on “inherited” or environmental.
    A thorough study showed that about 56% of sociopaths have primarily inherited this personality disorder. The rest have a very complex set of variables, including abuse or neglect in your childhood, low socioeconomic status, violence in the home or locations, but many other elements as well.
    I think your leading premise that sociopathy is heavily an inherited trait. All of us battling mental illness know the huge lingering social stigma of mental illness. Even in my enlightened group of progressive activists I still hear how “crazy” people shouldn’t be able to purchase guns! I have realized that in our present societal pressure to be not racist homo- or zenophobic, misogynist, climate denying, Trumpers, we have left a large group out of our tolerant open-mindedness- anyone with a mental diagnosis.
    Everyone thinks a serial killer or pedophile must be a psycho/sociopath. But there are millions of both in the US. And they can actually live productive lives with a family with self awareness and some counseling. Maany serials are psychopaths, but 98+% of psychopaths, altho many are not model citizens or leave emotional wreckage in their paths, they are mostly nonviolent if treated early. Now a small group seem doomed to torment society. Thus, I respect yr choice. I wasn’t going to have kids because I knew I was self-centered, had NO experience witth kids (I’d lean over my friends’kids and they would statt wailing-lol. I got preg at 43, was going to terminate (hi likelihood of Downs plus 5 generatiins of addiction) but had a healthy daughter. So sometimes we go high risk and it’s ok….sometimes not.
    Anyway, I fight now for understanding and education about MI. There are SOOOO many stereotypes and idiotic misconceptions about us, I hate to give them more fuel about our mental status. Believe it or not all you Americans, not all heinous rapes, nurders, sprees are perpetrated by “CRAZY” people. Most are just damaged violent products of a society that actual idolizes greed, success, materialism, manipulation and ignorance. Let’s not give em more ammo to crycify us.
    And thanks for the article-you attacked some tough issues that we need to be talking about.
    Peace out.

    1. sworddancewarrior

      Hi Msging,
      I get you on not reinforcing stigma. I talked about your comment with my partner last night. With a fairly similar risk, she chose to birth a child and I didn’t. She doesn’t think the risk is that high, and that nurture is a big factor.

      Here’s the thing, the default behaviour of a person who is born without the ability to experience empathy, is the very definition of what we consider bad/evil in our society. Stigma comes from fear, discriminatory attitudes and blame, and is usually unfair for people with MI. People who are perceived as dangerous are often stigmatized. In the case of a person with schizophrenia, the most stigmatized mental illness, provided they are receiving competent medical treatment, they are no more likely to harm anyone than anyone else and stigma is cruel and unfair. In the case of a person with psychopathy, they are for sure going to harm others, throughout their life. It’s correct to be wary.

      Absolutely it’s not appropriate for PTSD, schizophrenia, depression, BPD or other mental illnesses or brain problems, but if I can’t say I don’t want my child to be a psychopath, something is wrong. A psychopath isn’t going to hurt themselves, they are going to hurt many others, without remorse. Again, this is the very definition of a bad person. I’m not saying to kill all psychopaths, although I do think that a person that can’t be trusted not to hurt others should be supervised so they can’t harm others.

      And I agree that psychopathy isn’t the cause of all or most of the violent crime out there. But neither is abuse. It’s popular to condone and explain abuse by saying the perpetrators were abused. I think it’s comforting because it makes sense to people, but it’s not correct. It’s also not fair to the majority of survivors who don’t abuse. Abusers abuse because they want to, because they don’t acknowledge the humanity of others and because they get away with it. Their life experiences are no excuse and neither are their genetics. There is no excuse.

  3. Thank you for the article. Sociopathology is all around me: my father is a sociopath, my sister is a sociopath, and my former husband is too. These people NEVER stop harming. I’ve been abused for 50 years. I’ve heard horror stories about my father’s mother too and believe, from how she is described, that she may too have been a sociopath. So I believe it is inherited. I’ve recently found a counselor online who is very knowledgeable on narcissistic personality disorder and sociopathology. His name is Ross Rosenberg. He has You tube videos and a practice in Chicago. I’m going to be getting his book soon. Take care everyone and sorry for those whose lives are touched by this evil. I have awful PTSD as a result.

  4. Interesting article and comments. I’ve worried about this myself. Recently, I’ve realised that my father is a psychopath (the evidence was always there, but the pathological disorder had yet to be ascribed) and that I have ADHD. I’m currently trying to find a link between psychopathy in parents and ADHD in their children. I’m interested to find out if I could have been a psychopath if I hadn’t had such a loving mother, brother and sister. Now I pride myself as being very moral and caring. I can’t ever remember being totally indifferent to suffering, or wanting to inflict pain.

    I don’t know, I have a feeling that I wasn’t born with a psychopathic predisposition, but the idea still creeps me out.

  5. You know, lots of my motivation for not having children are the same as yours (except in my case I’m also afraid of the risk of inheriting cancer and alzheimer :/ they both run in my family), and the last one you mentioned made me think of my biggest motivation for not having children, which is that I fear I would be an abusive parent.

    I had abusive parents myself (I still have, I still have to live with them, but they don’t act abusive anymore. With my younger brother, I think they haven’t been abusive, of which I am glad) and my biggest fear of course is to become like them.

    I already seen that they affected me in negative ways; “thanks” to them, I cannot cry unless I am hidden somewhere that feels safe (like my closet or under my blanket) and I see crying as something shameful, almost disgusting.
    I saw it when my mother started crying after a particularly horrible argument we had, that involved my sexual orientation and her being extremely crude about it; she suddendly burst into tears and let herself slide down on the floor like a child. My first instinctual thought, then, wasn’t “oh my god, I made her cry, I am an horrible person”. My first instinctual thought was more along the lines of *STOP IT OR I WILL GIVE YOU SOMETHING SERIOUS TO CRY ABOUT” and a strong urge to physically hurt her.

    (Of course I didn’t do it. I turned around and ran out of the door; I stayed outside my house for the whole day because of how upset I was and because my reaction scared me.)
    Maybe you can guess why I reacted that way.
    Crying was not tolerated, when I was a child. If you cried “without a good reason”, you would be GIVEN one until you were able to stop.

    That’s how f****p up I am thanks to their abuse. How could I trust myself raising children if I react like this to someone crying? I would probably only end up hurting them. I would be an abusive parent. I would make them resent me and scar them for their whole life. I cannot do that to a child.

    Sometimes I don’t even know how I could trust myself having a relationship with someone else, so how could I ever risk to have children? 🙁

    But I never thought about the possibility of my children inheriting a genetic predisposition for abuse. One more good reason not to procreate.

  6. Pingback: Inheriting Evil | May We Dance Upon Their Graves

  7. I’m not sure sociopathy is inherited…

    The article you’re citing states that “in children with psychopathic tendencies, antisocial behaviour was strongly inherited. In contrast, the antisocial behaviour of children who did not have psychopathic tendencies was mainly influenced by environmental factors”.

    If I understand well, if your child has no early-onset psychopathic tendencies, then all is well and provided you give a right environment, no antisocial tendencies will appear. On the contrary if he has early-onset psychopathic tendencies, then his antisocial behavior will be mostly inherited and you’re in big trouble.

    Strictly speaking, this research paper doesn’t mean that psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies are inherited. It shows “antisocial behavior with psychopathic tendencies” is mainly inherited. That’s a different story altogether.

    Since you are not, yourself, an antisocial psychopath, I would say your children, if you had felt like having any, would not have been at risk from inheriting it from their grandfather – since the fact that you don’t have that behavior, plainly shows that you have not inhedited it…

    This does not mean I don’t respect your choice regarding children. But I think it’s very harsh to tell fellow incest survivors they have high risks of having sociopathic children. If the survivors themselves don’t exhibit “antisocial behavior with psychopathic tendencies”, and are not married to a psychopath, the risk on their children is pretty low, even with a first order relative who is a psychopath.

    While I was very afraid of being a sociopath myself (as the daughter of a sociopath), as a teenager and a young adult – not seeing it actually happen to me has made me accept that I was a very different person, and I more or less allowed myself to live, since I’m no threat to society.

    I have three children. I honestly thought that, by their father not being a sociopath, they had less chances of becoming sociopaths themselves, should childbearing make a sociopath out of me. Ten years later the turn of events made me acknowldge at last that I had married an abuser of the narcissistic pervert kind. So, we’re separated, but my kids have been partially raised by a sociopath anyway. So I wouldn’t say it’s much of a success story…

    Though my children are troubled by the separation, they have exhibited no early signs of sociopathy. They are kind to animals, they have friends (more than I ever had), they have no behavioural problems at school. They are not antisocial, nor have psychopathic tendencies. They seem to be able to show empathy and remorse – well, it’s a mother speaking, so I could be kidding myself. I hope they never become sociopaths.

    The good part is that, while I was very afraid of “turning pedophile” on my own children, it has not happened. Time and time again I have checked with myself if I had any sexual desire toward my children and I’ve found absolutely nothing, to my own relief – and to my deeper disgust of my own father. I have never had even nightmares of sexual contact with my children (and you know one can’t control one’s nightmares – at almost 40, I still have nightmares where I end up willingly f*ing my father). I don’t have sexual desires towards other children as well, so all’s good on this side.

    The bad part is that I did marry an abuser. That happens much more to women who have been abused. I ‘ve come to accept this big mistake I’ve made, as part of the fall-outs of the childhood abuse I survived.


  8. I didn’t realize that it was an inheritable disorder. My half-brother is either a psychopath or a sociopath, I can never remember which. I was diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago, that last article being grouped with the others…

      1. I discovered yesterday that I was probably misdiagnosed with ADHD because the symptoms of PTSD are pretty similar to the casual observer.

        But yeah, that is weird. But I guess it makes sense, being in the anti-social disorder grouping. The inattentive type curl up inside themselves and the hyperactive and combined push people away by being too nosy and not respecting boundaries. Just in a general sense, I realize everybody is different.

  9. Very interesting post. Your blog I will come back over and check out some of your other posts. Appreciate you sharing, thank you. Blessings.

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