The Antisocial Personalities

The Antisocial Personalities

The Antisocial Personalities

The Antisocial Personalities

Synopsis

The antisocial personalities who are responsible for most crime, including violent crime, in the United States are not psychopaths but rather sociopaths, persons of broadly normal temperament who have failed to acquire the attributes of socialization, not because of innate peculiarities in themselves, but because of a failure of the usual socializing agents, primarily their parents.

Excerpt

During most of the 20th century, psychiatric diagnosis was an impressionistic art form and studies showed that even experienced practitioners often could not agree in classifying the same patients except in a very general way. Diagnoses sometimes were based on highly subjective inferences about the patient's unconscious impulses and motivations or on the clinician's unsystematic and even quirky observations accumulated over years of practice. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) published its first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) in 1952 but it was not until the third edition, known as DSM-III, appeared in 1980 that some measure of diagnostic consistency was finally achieved. This was accomplished in DSM-III, in the subsequent revision, DSM-III-R, and in the current DSM-IV, published in 1994, by formulating diagnostic criteria that were relatively objective and noninferential. For the most part, the criteria were arrived at by consensus of committees of clinicians rather than by statistical analysis of empirical data.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

In this diagnostic scheme, antisocial personality disorder (APD) takes the place of such earlier labels as psychopathy, sociopathy, and dyssocial personality. To be diagnosed with APD, an individual must show (a) "a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years," and (b) the person must be at least 18 years of age. Moreover, there must be (c) "evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15." In addition, (d) "the occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of Schizophrenia or a Manic Episode" (APA, 1994, pp. 649-650). In DSM-III-R, Criterion C could be satisfied by any 3 of 12 quite specific facts about the individual's behavior before age 15 (e.g., "was often truant") and Criterion A required evidence of at least 4,of 10 relatively specific adult behaviors (e.g., "lacks ability to function as a responsible parent, as indicated by one or more of the following: (a) malnutrition of child, ... (f) repeated squandering, on personal items, of money required for household . . .

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