Do you believe there's such a thing as a "bad seed"?

Let’s begin with a definition: “bad seed,” for the purposes of this thread, is a child raised by normal parents who turns out to be pure evil. In other words, let’s leave out abnormal bad experiences (wars, molestation, cranial injury, etc.) obvious mental illness (schizophrenia, psychosis), or the effects of drugs. It would help if said bad seed has siblings that are good seed, or at least okay seed.

Know anybody like that? I don’t, myself, and I’m glad I don’t.

(Special bonus points if you’re a bad seed yourself!)

I think that by definition a “bad seed” is a sociopath, which as the word implies is a pathology. While sociopaths most definitely exist, no question about it, it is a mental abnormality and they really don’t choose to be that way. A diagnosed sociopath I once worked with when I was a case manager in mental health probably summed it up nicely when he said “It’s not that I don’t want to care about the feelings and pain of others, it’s just that I don’t” (and he wasn’t being glib or trying to be funny). The ones I have known all had at least relatively normal parents.

So, bad seeds exist but it’s I think ultimately physiological/pathological in origin. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions- they should, for they at least intellectually know what they are doing is wrong and self-serving, and they should be punished accordingly and I would argue they should be punished to an even greater degree than others since they have no emotional negative reinforcement and thus only a selfish fear of reprisal is going to “correct” their behavior. But I do think it’s essentially a birth defect when someone’s an “all the way” bad seed.

I make a distinction between the sociopath and people who are assholes due to drugs or circumstance. The main difference is that there is hope for the latter.

I have a cousin that is one. My aunt and uncle are two great and pure people that would do anything for their three kids. The first two turned out great. They went to good colleges even though my aunt and uncle never did and they shot right out and figured out what they wanted to and did it. Then there was the youngest, Brian. You wanted to kknow about drugs and he admitted he has had a meth problem since high school. That seemed to be enough. I can’t count how many times he has been in jail and he once cursed out a judge in the middle of giving him public service and dared the judge to so something better. He went to jail again for two months. Two weeks ago he assualted someone with a broken beer bottle and may go to prison over it. He seems hellbent on destruction for himself and everyone around him. Nobody seems to be able to help him either. We all assume that he will be dead soon enough. He just cruises the streets on his motorcycle seeking out bad things.

Yes I do think that some people are just born to be bad. Nancy Spungen was born into a nice middle class family and her younger brother and sister turned out fine. Yet Nancy was a bad child from the start.

Since we know some people are born with good personalities, and some people grown up in hideous environments and turn out very well, it’s only reasonable to assume that some people will turn out bad no matter what the circumstances.

I had to go and read up on Nancy Spungen in Wikipedia. It seems she was born a month and a half prematurely, and suffered from blue-baby syndrome. Her mother apparently claims she was also a paranoid schizophrenic. Maybe a damaged seed more than a bad seed.

I may be wrong, but I don’t recall Jeffrey Dahmer as having anything grossly out of the ordinary in his childhood, but I’m not sure he can be considered evil, anyway.

You should read Deborah Spungen’s autobiography/biography of Nancy called “And I don’t want to live this life.” It’s a fascinating read, and it sheds a lot of light on Nancy’s problems. I think she was definitely mentally ill- not a bad seed.

I don’t believe in ‘evil’ people. If you do awful things to other humans, then there’s something wrong with your brain. I think that eventually, all such ailments will be preventable or treatable.


While I don’t recall if she was premature or not, I do remember that it was jaundice, and an extremely high bilirubin count, which eventually led to a near-total blood transfusion, that Deborah often wondered about causing irreparable damage to the infant Nancy.

drools acid

You rang?

Yes, I do. I’ve met a couple.

On our road to pathologize everything, it’s hard to declare someone a “bad seed” any more.

That and when we see someone like that, we just KNOW their a few flavors short of the 31. I’m certain that one day we will know what biological triggers there are for such people.

I have been constantly amazed by my daughter. Her default setting is happy. She can’t even throw a tantrum yet and maintain it for more than a few minutes. Then I go to work and deal with people who always seem to be pissed off.

When I was a teenager, my brother was a problem kid. My mother, in desperation signed up for the Tough Love system. We ended up with this rotten kid in our house who was just, useless. He stands out as one of the few people I’ve ever really gone off on. Of course, he was a teenager, so it might have been that. But I have no idea if he grew out of it. God he was a piece of shit, even for a teenager. (When my brother was arrested, the warrant on him described him as “quiet disposition, calm demeanor, no violent tendencies.”)

Every time I think about this, I get hung up on the fact that families who look completely normal from the outside can be really whacked in private. And by the time a person’s grown up, lots of the determining factors of their mental make-up are decades in the past. I know that in my own family, various members can have vastly differing memories of the same event or even a general recollection of ‘how things were’.

All ‘bad seeds’ would presumably be sociopaths, but would all sociopaths be to some degree bad - amoral? My reading on the topic skews towards the lurid, so I wonder about the not-wrecking-people’s-lives sort of sociopath, if there is such a thing. Is there such a thing?

Wait - what? Sid stabbed her: how does that make her a bad seed - dirtying his knife? So she was a bleach blonde junkie slut with a thing for destructive rock musicians - thirty years on, she would have had her own TV show and a cosmetics line.

Or alternatively, there’s some secret trauma – molestation by a neighbor, say – or an unsuspected medical problem that no one ever learns about. So from the outside, everything looks normal – parents are normal, siblings are normal – but the putative bad seed in fact has hidden damage.

My second wife’s son. He’s never had anyone around him but loving, caring people…and yet he’s always been a total shit. I remember being amazed and disgusted at seeing him, age 3 1/2, make a deliberate and systematic effort to hurt his grandmother’s feelings. From the moment he was enrolled in school, a constant stream of disciplinary referals have followed him home. He’s about 12 now and has only grown worse with age. As he enters his teens, I foresee bad things.

Having read the book mentioned above, I can only go by it. The “bad seed” parts were long before she even met Sid - uncontrollable violent rages, self-mutilation as a toddler, attacking her siblings and parents, drug abuse (of course), theft, etc. One doesn’t become a bleach blonde junkie slut overnight.

Deborah also suspects that Nancy goaded Sid into stabbing her - that it became a game of “if you really loved me, you’d end my pain.” That was the sort of mindfuck she played on her family for years. Nancy was certainly smart enough and Sid pussywhipped enough that she could have easily manipulated him into the deed, especially if he was drunk or drugged.

Whynot, I read Deborah Spungen’s book too. Nancy decided what she wanted to do, and rules be damned. She didn’t live by her parent’s rules, her schools’ rules, or by society’s rules. Her two siblings turned out fine (Well, Susan did work for Martha Stewart). Nancy was uncontrollable from the start, and nothing seem to be able to stop her. She was sent to a boarding school for problem children, went to college at age 16 and still couldn’t straight herself out.

I know that Nancy was murdered, but I don’t consider her an “innocent victim.” If she had been walking down the street and was attacked and killed, she would have been. But she wanted to die, and in all likelihood she set herself up to be killed by Sid. She bought the knife and mentioned to her mother that she was going to die before she was 21.

Thirty years on, doctors would have taken her parents seriously, instead of saying “She’s just acting out; you have to take a hard line with her.” More effective meds would have been prescribed. Insurance would have covered the treatments she needed. Or a sliding-scale fee would have been applied.

Really, Nancy’s parents tried every way they could. It was most unfortunate for them that Nancy was born in the spare-the-rod 1950s, and came of age in the kids-are-free-spirits 1960s. The way Deborah describes it, it was like a non-funny version of “One Froggy Evening.” Nancy was exhibiting all kinds of truly disturbing behavior, and all the doctors heard was “Ribbit.”