Vol. 7, No. 1, 2001 Page 5


Book Review: Bad Boys, Bad Men

By Donald W. Black, with C. L. Larson
Oxford University Press, $20.00 (hardcover), $11.96 (paperback)

Psychiatrist/researcher Black has gathered new evidence from genetics, neuroscience, current events, and his own case studies to describe the disordered behavior of the seven million Americans who reportedly have antisocial personality disorder, or ASP.

Black has presented ASP in an extremely readable, comprehensive, and well-documented book. His descriptions of those with ASP are superb, as he describes how symptoms of the disorder appear in early childhood and details their devastating consequences as the ASP individual grows into adulthood. He describes the warning signs that predict which children are more likely to become dangerous adults, and examines the role of the criminal justice system in dealing with individuals with ASP. Under "Finding Ways to Cope," he offers advice to individuals having ASP and families affected by it.

One criticism: Black suggests psychotherapy for individuals with ASP, but considering his descriptions of this disorder, such treatment would seem to have limited therapeutic value. However, if you want to be able to identify someone with ASP, we recommend that you read this book. And if you know individuals who are dealing with the havoc wreaked by "Hidden Antisocials," as Black calls them, Bad Boys, Bad Men can be an invaluable gift.

*****

Quotes from Bad Boys, Bad Men, by Donald Black:

Adults who defy social norms often establish a pattern of misbehavior in childhood, sometimes seeming to live without a conscience, to shirk the rules and expectations that keep most of us in check. They show a disturbing lack of empathy and fail to learn from their experiences, always blaming someone else for their problems and misdeeds. Such people can explain why the shopkeeper deserves to be robbed, why the spouse asks to be beaten, why their every betrayal is justified.

Family studies of ASP have generally shown that nearly 20 percent one in fiveof antisocials' first-degree relatives are themselves antisocial and that between one-quarter and one-third are alcoholic. Depression, drug abuse, somatization disorder, ADD, and learning disabilities also seem to run in these families. A wide range of factors may disrupt the central nervous system as it develops during gestation and early life, producing abnormal effects that may include a propensity for antisocial behavior. Poor prenatal nutrition, drug abuse and smoking by the pregnant mother or birth complications that rob the child's brain of oxygen are a few such factors. Many antisocials have a history of childhood ADD, a condition with effects that can linger into adulthood. Childhood ADD is characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inability to sustain attention, and its symptoms overlap with those of conduct disorder.

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