Q: My 18-year-old son and a slightly younger friend recently found some mice and decided to dispose of them. They drowned one and set the other one on fire. When I confronted my son for torturing animals, his response was “They’re just mice.” Is this typical boy behavior or should I be concerned?
The mere fact that your son tortured mice to death is not, in and of itself, diagnostic, but it certainly raises suspicions. His cavalier attitude when you confronted him raises those suspicions even higher.
The question turns on whether or not other aspects of your son’s behavior fit the criteria. It is possible, in other words, for a person to exhibit an isolated sociopathic behavior without actually being a sociopath. If, however, your son habitually lies, seems callous toward the problems of others, is generally narcissistic, and often manipulative of others, then I would recommend a professional evaluation. He’s still young enough that if he’s confronted with a problem of this sort in a professional setting, he can possibly make some corrections to the direction his life is taking (assuming the evaluation reveals a diagnostic issue).
In fact, even if your son doesn’t exhibit the above markers, a psychological evaluation might be valuable. If a psychologist gives him a clean bill of health, the process will surely emphasize to him the seriousness of what he did. At the very least, he needs to understand that deliberately killing an animal is not by any stretch the equivalent of stepping on a bug by accident.
Cuddle while you can