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Bedwetting Myth: Not a trait of a potential sociopath

November 20, 2019 1 min read

I was appalled to read the article about red flags of a potential mass murderer, which included bedwetting as one of the triad, along with animal cruelty and fire-setting.  Having worked with thousands of children who suffered with bedwetting, I can say confidently that none of them progressed to being a murderer.  The majority are well-adjusted, happy and capable members of our society.

I did a little research on this topic and how the Macdonald triad, animal cruelty, fire-setting and bedwetting, came to be predictive of criminality.

Roughly 55 years ago, JW Macdonald made the observation in 48 psychotic patients who had threatened to kill someone, but had not actually done it.  When other researchers tried to replicate his findings with larger groups and better controls, no one’s results came close.

Bedwetting, high on the list, was evident in more offenders than animal cruelty, and yet recent research has shown that enuresis is not an indicator of psychological maladjustment.  Bedwetting, however, does affect about 5% of all children so it’s reasonable that it would be present in many of the offenders questioned.

Today, researchers who study crime acknowledge that bedwetting is not linked with sociopathic behavior. Some kids who wet the bed can be distressed about it but successful treatment improves their self-esteem and confidence.

Until we design and carry out better studies than we've seen thus far, media agencies should refrain from stating that this triad identifies a future serial killer.

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