Violent Men: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Violence

Article excerpt

Violent Men: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Violence (New, Revised Edition) by Hans Toch. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1992, 286 pp.

In Violent Men, Hans Toch presents a scientifically sound examination of the intrapersonal and interpersonal factors that underlie recurrent violent behavior in men. Grounded in social learning theory, this book evaluates personal attributes (e.g., personality factors, attitudes, perceptions) of violent men as well as the social context in which their violence occurs. However, Toch does not simply lay out a list of "risk factors" for violence. Rather, by conducting highly detailed interviews of men within the criminal justice system (those profiled in Violent Men include incarcerated inmates and police officers); he provides very detailed and dynamic insights into the thoughts, motivations, and experiences of men with a propensity for violence. Thus, this book will be of interest to psychologists, criminologists, sociologists, social workers, and any other professional whose work intersects violence and the criminal justice system.

This revised edition was as relevant when published in 1992-amid recent race riots, reports of police brutality, and disturbing crime statistics-as was its predecessor when published in 1969 in the wake of assassinations and race and student riots. Indeed, the need to advance our scholarly understanding of the roots of violent behavior and the methods that may reduce it is consistently en vogue. Unfortunately, a considerable amount of the data reported in Violent Men is drawn from this first edition and, as such, feels dated to the reader. More importantly, this now 15-year-old revised edition is obviously unable to consider emerging empirical and theoretical advancements in the conceptualization and treatment of violent offenders. Nevertheless, this book still merits attention. The ideas advanced by Toch will still be inspiring and thought provoking to any scientist or clinician with an interest in violence. Moreover, the scientifically sound, qualitative methodology provides a solid foundation from which contemporary researchers may continue to build.

Violent Men focuses primarily upon men who are involved in the criminal justice system and are recurrent perpetrators of violence. Chapter 1 introduces a social psychological conceptualization of recurrent violent behavior and describes the methodology utilized to obtain case histories. Specifically, data were collected via highly detailed interviews of inmates within the California Department of Corrections and officers of the San Francisco and Oakland police departments. Many of these interviews were conducted by "non-professional" researchers who shared similar cultural and demographic backgrounds with interviewees. …