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Closely spaced siblings and psycopaths

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Have anyone of you read through the research on psycopaths and the link with closely spaced children?

I can't post the entire article by Elliot Barker M.D. here, but this is the heart of this issue:

A fourth obstacle is the sometimes problematic close spacing of children. When taking a history on a murderer, I try to understand the early formative years by asking the parents what was happening in their lives beginning six months before the child was conceived. From these histories, it appears that the close spacing of siblings almost always increases the difficulty in proper nurturing. Among families with the very best of support systems - where both parents are equally involved and the economic base is reasonable - it is possible to cope well with closely spaced children. But by and large, a three- or four-year spacing between children (the natural spacing of totally committed breastfeeding) tends to reap enormous emotional benefits to individual children. This allows children a position that will not be usurped by a younger sibling before they are capable of understanding it or before they are able to get by with less immediate attention to their needs.
Are experiences in the first three years critical in developing this two-part type of empathy? Yes - if you accept that psychopathy can be created in the first three years.
For about half a century, we have known one unfailing recipe for creating psychopaths -- move a child through a dozen foster homes in the first three years. There are probably other things - genetic, organic, or biochemical, that can sometimes predispose a person to psychopathy. But that should not lull us into forgetting the one never-failing recipe. More importantly, we should be mindful that less severe disruptions of attachment, like a dozen different caregivers in the first three years can create partial psychopaths.


I know we've done polls here on optimal space between children and I totally get that it's hard for a 2 year old, as compared with a 3 year old, to understand how to wait for their needs to be met.

This stuff scares me terribly. We want to have lots of children but if we waited three to four years between them, I'm into high-risk ages (40's) for infertility and birth defects.

I'd love to hear thoughts on this and whether you all think this is valid. Is there any feasible way to protect a child under three or four if/when a sibling comes along? Do you think the damage to the toddler is inevitable? Should the first three years of life be regarded as so critical, no siblings should come along before the child is past three?
post #2 of 23
Well, I think (and hope) it's a bunch of bull. We are AP parents and totally committed to breastfeeding. Yet I still get pg before my kids are 3 or 4. Do I think they are going to be psycho? No, I do not. That's just silly, IMO. My kids have a way better childhood than I did. My only brother was 3 1/2 years older than I was but that was about all we had going for us in terms of AP style parenting.
post #3 of 23
I think that parents have more to do with pshycopathy than how closely their siblings are behind or before them.. If parents are intent on being with their children and showing them love then that is what is important... Haveing parents who don't care once there is a new baby is going to produce life long issues.. Regardless of whether you are 1 or 4 or 14..

Just my .02, and i don't have a degree...

Warm Squishy Feelings...

post #4 of 23
What I read of that article, I understood as saying that in an already not good situation, the birth of a sibling can really make it worse,. NOT that just because you have closely spaced sibs they will be sociopaths.
post #5 of 23
khrisday- ITA, I would look at it as saying that many of the psychopaths they studied may have been closely spaced, NOT that the majority of closely spaced sibs will be psychopaths. That is a big difference. Come to think about it, I was a closely spaced sib (next sib was 20 months younger) and so were many, many baby boomers because the pill was not available in the 1950's through the mid 60's. When I was growing up three children was considered a small family and most families had very closely spaced children (I don't remember ever seeing anyone bf either). I take all studies like that with a grain of salt.
post #6 of 23
In my family, we are all closely spaced as well (3 of us in 3 years). We're all relatively normal. In fact, there is a 4 year gap between #3 and #4, and my mom says that that was the hardest gap of all - #3 REALLY gave #4 a hard time and hated giving up being the 'baby' of the family.

Mom never had that problem with closely spaced kids.

I know that the first 3 years are important in a child's life, but when research is done, it is very difficult to tease out what are consequences of events in a child's first 3 years, and what are the consequences of events throughout the rest of their childhood years, you know?

Causality is an awfully difficult thing to pin down! The absolute crucial importance of the first 3 years is an idea Bowlby (first came up with attachment theory) came up with - he thought that if a child didn't form a secure attachment in the first 3 years of life, that child would end up as a psycopath.

He's actually been proven wrong. While it IS extremely damaging for a child not to form such attachments at an early stage and does leave lasting problems, there is hope for these children - the outlook is not as bleak as it is sometimes made out to be.

All of that to say - I'd take the results of this study with a grain of salt. As others have said, I'm sure closely spaced kids in an already difficult situation could/would have detrimental effects - but it's going to be a multi-factoral kind of thing, you know?
post #7 of 23
Well, I guess I'll go and hide all the sharp objects since my kids are only 15 months apart!

Where do they find these people???:
post #8 of 23
My husband is the oldest of 10. There are 18 years between them. That is an average of less than 2 years apart (most were 18mos) They are all perfectly fine people. No psychos (that we know of) So I would ignore that story.
post #9 of 23
When I first started reading frogertgrls post (Hi frogertfrl!), I thought, "Ya know, this sounds like Jan Hunt's soapbox on Naturalchild.org." and sure enough that's where the info is from.

I don't know why Jan Hunt is so intent on scaring people into having children 3 or more years apart - it does appear to be a big theme with her. (BTW she has an only child, so I take all things she has to say about raising siblings with a grain of salt. In my own profession I give advice to parents about children, and my tune changed completely after I had one child, and then even more after I had two).

I'm 41 years old, and I'm finding it difficult to remember any families I grew up with who *didn't* have closely-spaced children. I think closely spaced children have always been the norm!


Mom to two wonderful, psychologically healthy children born 23 months apart!
post #10 of 23
ITA with pynki and khrisday...

Just because most psychopaths come from closely-spaced families, does not at all mean that most closely-spaced families produce psychopaths.

When I think about what it takes to really really mess up a human being, it scares me how EASY it is. You can really, really f*ck up some poor kid by just being totally mean, detached, and unpredictable to a little baby whose brain is still developing. Add-in neglect, due to another child, and I can see why that is a factor.

I think this is why I find mothering such an awesome responsibility. I'm responsible for producing a person who is (hopefully) going to be an emotionally and mentally (and physically) healthy contributor to society. It's no small task, and very easy to mess it up!
post #11 of 23

Good God

Yet another reason to blame the mom for mental illness of the adult child.

It's not even been 20 years since autism was all the fault of 'refrigerator mothers'.

Stuff like this really pisses me off.

If child spacing really was the supreme cause of psychopathic behavior, the virtually everyone OUTSIDE the western world would be psychopaths. However, perhaps one could argue that it's more likely to be the other way around? ;>

This really reminds me of the hysteria one encounters over male child care providers. People are convinced that all males who want to spend their career and daily lives with children are to be suspect of child molestation until proven innocent--when the sad fact is that one should statistically be watching ones MALE RELATIVES, and not an unrelated family member (who is fingerprinted and has gone through several levels of background check, let's hope.). Perhaps most child molesters are male (the ones that are caught, anyway) but it in no way means that most males are child molesters.

This type of irresponsible scare tactics/finger pointing masquerading as academia and medicine makes me ill. :P
post #12 of 23
I really like how she says that 3-4 years is natural spacing if one is totally committed to breastfeeding. Well, I coulnd't have been more committed literally nursing 20-25 through the day and night and still ovulated at 10 weeks PP. I have read a lot about making women feel guilty about starting their cycles before 15 months PP but this one takes the cake
The average return of menses if a woman exclsively BF is 14.5 months, well guess what - if you were lucky enough to go 14.5 months and then got pregnant your kids would only be 23-24 months apart. Sounds like another way for her to justify having only one child (not that there's anything wrong with that ) and blaming women who have choices different than hers.
It would be interesting to see the statistics between what she has stated on closely spaced sibs and only's.
My first 2 are 27 months apart #2 & #3 are 7 years apart and #3 and #4 will be 16 months apart. I guess I should start saving for their therapy bills and defense lawyers now.

post #13 of 23
"I guess I should start saving for their therapy bills and defense lawyers now."
Me too!

I was tandem nursing this time and still got my period back at 10 wks postpartum. I would say I was nursing someone at least 30 -40 times/day. I guess that's not dedicated enough.:
post #14 of 23
Ekblad ~ Oh No I was sure that since I would be tandem nursing when #4 is born that AF wouldn't rear her ugly head for at least a year The strange thing with me is that when I had my boys I started them on solids per the ped : and with #1 didn't start until 5-6 months PP and with #2 I was 9 months PP. With #3 there was no paci only co-sleeping and still ovulated at 10 weeks, I felt so betrayed. It seems the older I get the more fertile I am. I actually had to try to get pregnant with my first 2. With #3 we talked about it one night and got pg THAT night, with #4 we were using the same method we've been using for years and still got pg.
I actually feel very blessed and know this child chose us for a reason
Cheers to you!

post #15 of 23
I didn't start my period with 1, 2 or 3 until they were quite a bit older. I never got it at all between 2 and 3 but apparently I was fertile! I am more fertile as the years go by as well! I am terrified of getting pg now! We do want a couple more kids but not yet!!!
post #16 of 23
One thing that I remember a friend saying, who just had her 8th child is that " the 8th child is the luckliest. He came into this world with NINE (7 siblings, 2 parents) people who love and adore him for him to attach to.

I have also heard similiar sentiments from other people with large families. The more older siblings a child has, the more people who love, welcome, care for and attach to that child. Those 6th, 7th, 8th, babies are NEVER put down. They get sooo much attention and love.

These people had their children around 2 years apart (Some less than 2 years, some more than 2 years).

(Of course this only applies to loving, healthy, attached families).

Frogertgrl, if you and your dh want another child, and feel that you can love and care for him/her I would go for it. I don't think how closely spaced the children are, has as much to do with how they turn out as how much love and attached caring they get.

Just because a toddler has a closely spaced sibling doesn't mean they are doomed to failure. On the contrary , it is one more person for them to love, to learn empathy, caring, kindness, sharing, etc.
post #17 of 23
I guess instead of saving for college it should be for therapy. EEK, I Think this is BULL. I didnt plan on having children less than 18m apart. It just happened. But I would like to think that I did every possible thing to make sure both these boys get adequate nurturing and attention from us all. I actually believe our oldest child, 4 and 5 years older than the younger too has suffered the most because the second child had special needs and then boom, 17 months later we had another baby.
I take this type of study with a grain of salt.
post #18 of 23
Are you sure it didn't say the MOM would be a physchopath!?:LOL

I'm having a bad night!
post #19 of 23
post #20 of 23

Makin' More Friends on Mothering.com

I think many people are correct to challenge causality here between closely spaced sibs and psychpathy -- it's like saying because you are using chocolate, you are making cake. There is no contesting the fact that chocolate is sometimes an ingredient in cake, but it's an ingredient in lots of other things too. I think the 'recipe' for psychopathy has far more ingredients than only one. Finally, if you can find serial killers or psychopaths who are only children, that turns the situation into neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition.

That said, I think it's an unwise idea to have closely spaced siblings for the obvious reasons -- Mom is very tired chasing a toddler (or baby!) plus dealing with a newborn; the newborn cannot possibly receive the same amount of attention as did the elder sibling; the elder sibling no longer receives the same amount of attention and may resent it...the list goes on and on. I have a friend of mine who's pg with #2 (#1 is 2 yo and pretty demanding of Mom's attention), and she's already talking about putting her dd in preschool to have time to deal with the newborn. I feel sorry for dd, who (it seems to me) is getting the sticky end of the lollipop here.
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