The newly published paperback
version is eminently good value. It remains the most recent book to review the
state of knowledge of the clinical aspects of the concept of psychopathy. The
authors are leading researchers in the field, and the chapters cover almost all
the major topics, as well as some that are less familiar (such as one on
parental licensure), and are grouped into five sections: history and
viewpoints, typologies, etiology, comorbidity and treatment. The book has been
carefully edited so as to ensure wide coverage without sacrificing the
particular perspectives of each author, and judgements as to the strongest
chapters will depend on the reader's theoretical interests and preferences.
I have only a
couple of criticisms. Firstly, the historical chapter seems less successful
than the others, and unnecessarily restricted in its range of sources. As a
brief example, although his pioneering contribution is dismissed by the authors
as a misuse of Pinel's "morally neutral clinical syndrome", Rush's
concept of "moral derangement" actually dates from 1786, 15 years before
Pinel's notion of manie sans delire,
and employs the quite different language of the Scottish 'faculty'
psychologists. Rush coins the terms, 'micronomia', to refer to all cases of
weakened or limited 'moral faculty' (i.e. ethical awareness), and 'anomia' to
refer to its total absence. By 1812, the date assigned to his views in this
chapter, he had moved away from this explicitly moral concept, perhaps because
the radical challenge such views represented to the existing cultural and
political order caused them to be ignored by the establishment. There are many
other examples in which the subtleties of the historical record seem to have
been sacrificed to broad generalizations which represent what might be termed
the 'received view'. My complaint about restricted sources, is exemplified by
the fact that the only book, as far as I am aware, which is devoted entirely to
the history of the concept of psychopathy (Werlinder 1978), the first edited
collection of clinical papers on psychopathic disorder in the English language,
if we discount Karpman's mixed psychoanalytical material of the 1940s (Craft
1966), the first major collection of research papers (Hare & Schalling
1978), and the stream of publications arising out of Ronald Blackburn's
pioneering research with psychopathic offenders in Britain from the 1960s
onward, are all overlooked.
criticism is that, although the text is bursting at the seams and something had
to give, it is disappointing not to see a systematic review of assessment
tools, especially given a) continuing uncertainty over the role of psychopathy
and PCL-R scores in predicting violent recidivism, and b) the development of a
range of assessment tools specifically for the DSM-IV personality disorders. For the whole issue of assessment,
however, we can turn to the text edited by Gacono (2000), devoted exclusively
to that topic.
As it is, this
is the ideal starting point for the trainee clinician, and a thought-provoking
read for the experienced psychopathy specialist. Of course, much has happened
in the last five years, and a second volume would be an exciting prospect.
M (ed.) (1966) Psychopathic Disorders.
Oxford: Pergamon Press.
CB (ed) (2000) The Clinical and Forensic
Assessment of Psychopathy: A Practitioner's Guide. Trenton NJ: Erlbaum
RD, Schalling D (eds.) (1978) Psychopathic
Behaviour: Approaches to Research. New York: John Wiley.
H (1978) Psychopathy: A History of the
Concepts. Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksell.
© 2003 Colin A. Holmes
Dr Colin A Holmes,
School of Nursing Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland,