The Psychology and Neurobiology of Violence

By deMause, Lloyd | The Journal of Psychohistory, Fall 2007 | Go to article overview

The Psychology and Neurobiology of Violence


deMause, Lloyd, The Journal of Psychohistory


In the past two decades over a hundred careful studies have shown that violence is the result of insecure/disorganized early attachments. Furthermore, in recent years major advances in neurobiological techniques have revealed how these early disordered attachments are embedded in the brain and are reenacted in later life in personal and social violence.

This book is based upon the premise that the evolution of amounts of interpersonal violence, terrorism and war Is dependent upon the evolution of historical personality types, which I call "psychoclasses." This evolution, in turn, depends upon the historical evolution of childrearing modes, as shown in the charts below. The evidence for the evolution of childrearing has been the subject of seven books and over eighty scholarly articles by myself published during the past four decades, backed up by the findings of over fifty psychohistorical colleagues which I have published in my scholarly journals, The Journal of Psychohistory and The Journal of Psychoanalytic Anthropology.1

The evolution of childrearing is an uneven historical process, both within societies and in different areas of the world, so each nation today has all six personality modes-which I term "psychoclasses"-within it, forming its various levels of political behavior from reactionary to progressive. Nevertheless, the evolution of childrearing modes and historical personalities-which I term "psychogenesis"-has improved personalities over the centuries in almost all areas of the globe, reducing the violence produced by abusive and abandoning parenting. This historical evolution of childrearing is reflected in the opening sentence of my 1974 book, The History of Childhood:

The history of childhood is a nightmare from which we have only recently begun to awaken. The further back in history one goes, the lower the level of child care, and the more likely children are to be killed, abandoned, beaten, terrorized, and sexually abused.2

Since I will be showing in this book that childrearing is the origin of both personal violence and war, this improvement over the centuries in childhood in the most advanced societies should show a steady decrease in personal and group violence. The chart below demonstrates this decline in human violence, based upon actual rates of the various forms of violence as shown in the historical record. It reflects a steady decline of those dying from infanticide (infanticide is not usually counted as murder), homicide, suicide, war and democide (state killing of its own population) from about 75 percent in tribal groups to under 2 percent dying of violence in developed democratic societies today.3

As we will see in forthcoming chapters, the rate of childrearing evolution for most of history crucially depends upon the amount of love and support give to mothers, who have been the primary caretakers of children in their early years. Psychogenesis depends upon parents not reinflicting the damage done to them by their own families. It usually goes unrecorded in the historical record, occurring as mothers decide not to use her child erotically, not to tie it up so long in tight swaddling bands, not to turn her back or call the child "demanding" as the child tries to relate to her. A mother who was badly abused herself as a child, sexually, physically, emotionally, can hardly be expected to be able to give love and empathy to her own child-she is severely "post-partum depressed," as most mothers were in history and as a third or more of mothers still are today in more advanced nations (up to 80% have "baby blues.")4 Mothers are human, after all, and since most females in history have been routinely tied up, genitally mutilated, beaten, raped and subjected to daily abuse (as for instance most Muslim women today still are),5 one can hardly be surprised that as mothers they are not able to be loving caretakers of their children. As we will see in later chapters, it is after historical periods when girls and women are given new rights and opportunities to grow that they improve childrearing and that when the next generation becomes adult it introduces new political freedoms and economic opportunities, changing society for the better as they become more independent of old ways. …

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