IPT Book Reviews

Title: The Psychopathology of Crime  Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Adrian Raine
Publisher: Academic Press, Inc., 1993

Academic Press
Harcourt Brace & Company
525 B St., Suite 1900
San Diego, CA 92101-4495
(619) 231-0926
$59.95 (c)

Crime is much on the minds of people today.  There is a widespread conviction that anxiety and fear about crime are a major factor in our spiritual, social, political, and economic churning.  In the midst of this confusion, the major thesis of this 377-page book, that crime is a disorder, is likely to be rejected out of hand.  The author states, "This book was not written with the intention of being popular with its readers" (p. xviii).  Nevertheless. its argument needs to be taken seriously.  It is a closely reasoned, careful, and often persuasive presentation of the research evidence on the biological basis of criminal behavior.  It is difficult to fault the author's use of research since the bodies of relevant research are evaluated in terms of the highest standards of scientific research, any necessary limits and qualifications are stated simply and explicitly, and the dangers of over generalization are regularly exposed.  The book contains a comprehensive bibliography and both an author index and a subject index.

The first chapter reviews definitions of disorder and asserts that repeated criminal behavior meets the requirements to be defined as a disorder.  The construct validity of the definition of crime as disorder is also set forth in the description of the nomological net including all major factors that play a role in influencing criminal behavior.  Separate chapters address each factor, summarize the research evidence, assess the current state of the data, and set forth the implications for the perception of crime as a disorder.  The research factors are familial, extrafamilial, cognitive, neuropsychological, psychophysiological, brain imaging, biochemical, and genetic.

The material on brain imaging will be of interest to those involved with dealing with sexual offenses.  While the evidence remains somewhat limited in the number of studies, there appears to be a strong suggestion that frontal lobe anomalies are related to violence and the more assaultive sexual crimes, while temporal lobe variables, are associated with the more passive, less violent sexual offenders.  The evidence on brain functioning and pedophilia is suggestive of a biological basis for this behavioral pattern.  What this may mean to the professionals who respond to criminal sexual acts is not clear but it surely means something rather profound.

The final chapter reviews the reasons often given for rejecting the thesis that crime is a disorder.  In each case, the weaknesses or fallacies in the arguments against crime as a disorder are demonstrated.  The implications of understanding crime as a disorder are succinctly presented.

This is a challenging book.  It questions many popular conceptions.  It does not equivocate when confronting hard, knotty questions.  It challenges readers to argue with the presentation but it is not possible to simply ignore the evidence.  It may well infuriate some readers but it needs to be read carefully by anybody who wants to think responsibly about crime.  Any policies, decisions, or actions taken to remedy the effects of criminal behavior for the society or individuals should be informed by the facts presented in this book.  Politicians, mental health professionals, and all justice system authorities ought to read this book carefully even if they profoundly disagree with the main idea.  It can be a humbling experience.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

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