Jennifer Roback Morse

These children often become sophisticated manipulators. Even if the child is eventually adopted by loving and competent parents, the behaviors may continue. Their adoptive parents are beside themselves over their child’s destructive, sneaky and manipulative behavior.

We once did therapeutic respite care for a deeply disturbed 6 year-old boy who had been driving his parents crazy. He came to our house to do chores, while his parents got a much needed break from the constant supervision he required. He was pleasant and obedient, as we expected he would be. He spent the day helping us plant strawberries. A day after he left, however, we discovered a strange smell coming from the bathroom: he had urinated down the hot air register. Superficially charming, ostensibly compliant, and very sneaky.

Remember how Saddam enchanted gullible western journalists? Remember Saddam Hussein playing cat and mouse with Hans Blix? Perfectly normal behavior for a socio-path.

A seriously attachment disordered child will show no regret at having hurt another person, or may offer perfunctory apologies. He may find it fun to torture animals.

Saddam’s sadism was legendary. Evidently, he found it fun to put people through plastic shredders. He even began taking his son Uday to observe torture sessions when the child was ten.

The disturbed children I have seen are difficult and scary enough for anyone to have to deal with. Imagine one of these children grown up. Let him run a country. Allow him to be unaccountable to anyone. What you’ll get is Saddam’s Iraq. The world would be way ahead if our opinion-leaders had some remote understanding of the kind of person they’re dealing with.

In next week’s column, I’ll tell you how to deal with attachment disordered children, and what that has to do with how we ought to treat Saddam. But for now, just realize his thirty years of recreational torture is not the behavior of a normal person. Normal methods will do nothing to discourage future sociopaths, or to adequately repair the harm this one has caused.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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