IPT Book Reviews

Title: Psychopathy: Antisocial, Criminal, and Violent Behavior  Positive Review Positive Review
Editors: Theodore Millon, Erik Simonsen, Morton Birket-Smith, and Roger D. Davis
Publisher: Guilford Publications, Inc., 1998

Guilford Publications, Inc.
72 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
(800) 365-7006
$60.00 (c)

This 476-page book is the result of an international meeting on psychopathy sponsored by the Institute of Personality Theory and Psychopathology. The contributors, who come from Scandinavia, Great Britain, the United States, and Canada, present varied perspectives on the concept of psychopathy. The book is divided into five sections: history and viewpoints, typologies, etiology, comorbidity, and treatment. References follow each chapter, and the book ends with a subject index.

Although psychopathy has been recognized for a long time, there is a renewed interest in the concept, since psychopaths, who are characterized by their egocentricity, incapacity for love, guiltlessness, lack of remorse and shame, lack of insight, and failure to learn from experience, are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crime and social distress. This book reflects the diversity of this renewed interest. Several researchers have proposed various typologies of psychopaths and there are discussions of how psychopathy relates to other personality disorders and to alcoholism, narcotic addiction, and pedophilia.

Some of the concepts are controversial. There is disagreement as to whether psychopathy is better seen as a discrete trait or taxon, or as lying on a continuum. One author maintains that "psychopathic" is a moral term that is used to reject and vilify rather than help these patients. In a chapter titled, "The Case for Parental Licensure," David Lykken argues that, since parental malfeasance is resulting in increasing numbers of children who are at high risk for sociopathy or psychopathy, biological parents should be legally required to meet the same criteria demanded of persons who wish to adopt a child. In the chapter on psychopathy in the pedophile, Darwin Dorr claims that the majority of pedophiles are psychopathic.

The chapter by Robert Hare provides a short overview of his conception of psychopathy and the assessment technique he devised, the PCL-R and PCL-SV. These rating scales have proven to be extremely useful in that the psychopathy, as measured by the PCL-R is highly correlated with criminal recidivism. Other chapters deal with a wide variety of topics, including indicators of organic dysfunction in psychopathic children, cross-cultural aspects of psychopathy, psychopathy and psychiatric comorbidity, sadistic personality in murderers, and management of treatment for psychopathy.

This book is an excellent resource for any professional who must deal with psychopaths or perform risk assessment in forensic populations.

Reviewed by Hollida Wakefield, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

Order this book: Hardcover

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