Angels and devils: Sadism and violence in children

Music, Graham (2021) Angels and devils: Sadism and violence in children. In: From Trauma to Harming Others. Therapeutic Work with Delinquent, Violent and Sexually Harmful Children and Young People. Routledge, Abingdon, pp. 79-93. ISBN 9780367815219

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Abstract

This chapter describes the features of violence and sadism in children seen at the Portman Clinic, using the related vertices of psychoanalysis and developmental science. Presentations of anti-social tendencies with the core complex issues at their core can arise when early experiences of emotional safety are lacking. Children who suffer violence and trauma often lack much empathy and mentalizing capacity, believing that life is not fair, safe or reliable. More reactive children and adults often seek justice but they misperceive the motivations of others and can very easily feel that they are ‘victims’. Many adult psychopaths were anti-social children, started fires, torturing pets and showing cruelty. The presence of callous-unemotional traits in children, alongside conduct disorders, hugely increases the likelihood of serious offending, violent crime and shorter periods between re-offending. In adolescence, when the dopaminergic circuitry is fast developing, risks of addictive behaviours are heightened, whether to drugs, computer games or sexual and other forms of cruelty and sadism.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Psychotherapy
Criminology > Forensic Psychotherapy
Disabilities & Disorders (mental & physical) > Behaviour Disorders
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services
URI: http://repository.tavistockandportman.ac.uk/id/eprint/2146

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