Can a 9-year-old be a psychopath?

I just finished reading a riveting article that left me completely speechless. Published in The New York Times this past weekend, it's titled "Can You Call a 9-Year-Old a Psychopath?" and it tells the story of a boy full of uncontrollable rage whose parents have been trying to figure out what's wrong with him for years. After several different diagnoses, they were told last spring that he might be a psychopath. The article was very well researched, reported and written. It's full of fascinating information about the human brain, the possible reasons behind psychopathy and current treatments, but the one thing that struck me the most was what Michael's mom had to say about being a mom to a 9-year-old psychopath:

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As horrible as this is to say, as a mom, the truth is that you put up a wall. It's like being in the army, facing a barrage of fire every day. You have to steel yourself against the outbursts and the hate... There's not a lot of joy and happiness in raising Michael.

That quote right there, broke my heart in pieces. And it made me feel like crap about complaining about my misbehaving kids who make me feel like I'm about to go crazy about 15 times a day. I take feeling like that one million times over having to be a mom to a child who is incapable of feeling empathy and is a master of manipulation. A child so mentally unstable that you never ever know where he's coming from, what will trigger his rage or whether he's been truthful about anything he says or does.

I know a mom's love is supposed to be unconditional and never-ending, but what happens when one child--even if through no fault of their own--takes up so much of our energies and changes the whole family dynamic because of a mental disorder? What is a mom to do?

I truly don't know how this family of five--Michael has two little brothers--survives on a daily basis. I would be scared out of my mind of having someone like that living with me. Not so much for myself, but for my other children as I would always worry that they could be hurt in unimaginable ways or even killed. ¡Qué miedo!

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While some might find the article highly disturbing, I have to say it helped me put things in perspective and it reminded me to be thankful, once again, for having healthy children because, in the end, nothing else matters.

Do you think that children as young as 9-years-old can be diagnosed as psychopath?

Image via Alaina Abplanalp Photography/flickr