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Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy)

Bad Boys, Bad Men: Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy)

by Donald W. Black

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Whether called black sheep, sociopaths, con men, or misfits, some men break all the rules. They shirk everyday responsibilities, abuse drugs and alcohol, take up criminal careers , and lash out at family members. In the worst cases, they commit rape, murder, and other acts of extreme violence. What makes these men behave as if they had no conscience?

Bad Boys,


Whether called black sheep, sociopaths, con men, or misfits, some men break all the rules. They shirk everyday responsibilities, abuse drugs and alcohol, take up criminal careers , and lash out at family members. In the worst cases, they commit rape, murder, and other acts of extreme violence. What makes these men behave as if they had no conscience?

Bad Boys, Bad Men examines antisocial personality disorder or ASP, the mysterious mental condition that underlies this lifelong penchant for bad behavior. Psychiatrist and researcher Donald W. Black, MD, draws on case studies, scientific data, and current events to explore antisocial behavior and to chart the history, nature, and treatment of a misunderstood disorder that affects up to seven million Americans. Citing new evidence from genetics and neuroscience, Black argues that this condition is tied to biological causes and that some people are simply born bad. Bad Boys, Bad Men introduces us to people like Ernie, the quintessential juvenile delinquent who had an incestuous relationship with his mother and descended into crime and alcoholism; and John Wayne Gacy, the notorious serial killer whose lifelong pattern of misbehavior escalated to the rape and murder of more than 30 young men and boys. These compelling cases read like medical detective stories as Black tries to separate the lies these men tell from the facts of their lives.

For this Revised and Updated edition, Dr. Black includes new research findings, including the most recent work on the genetic and biological determinants of antisocial personality disorder, and he also discusses the difference between, and overlap with, psychopathy. Several new cases have been added to Bad Boys, Bad Men, including Mike Tyson and Saddam Hussein, and he also briefly discusses antisocial women such as Aileen Wuornos, the lead character in the movie, Monster.

Acclaim for the first edition:

"For a fascinating and insightful journey inside the criminal mind one could not find a better guide than Dr. Donald Black, one of the world's leading authorities on the classification of aberrant behaviorsEL. A magnificent achievement."
—Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., author of Brain Lock

"Clearly written, informative, and filled with intriguing stories of real people....Tells us what we need to know about antisocial personality disorder. A wonderful book."
—John M. Oldham, MD, Columbia University

"A clear and thorough account of the current scientific understanding of a baffling condition, Bad Boys, Bad Men will appeal to those interested in the origins of repetitive criminal behavior. The book will be of especial use to the families of the antisocial."
—Peter D. Kramer, author of Listening to Prozac

"A tour de force. Don Black has distilled decades of his clinical experience and a comprehensive review of research on antisocial personality disorder into the definitive vade mecum on the topic."
—John H. Greist, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Medical School

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this revised and updated treatise on sociopathy, or "antisocial personality disorder", Black, a professor of psychiatry, advances the thesis that some people, from a young age "remain stuck in a rut of bad behavior.... Their resistance to authority and norms becomes the dominant force in their lives, often consigning them and their families to poverty, loneliness, addiction, and despair." According to Black, this continual rebellion is pathological, characteristic, in fact, of antisocial personality disorder. Heavy on anecdotal evidence, Black's descriptions of possible causes of ASP (nature; nurture) and possible treatments (therapy; incarceration) might seem more convincing if sociological analysis were as important to him as case history. While this book may offer those struggling with ASP (or proximity to ASP) some potential explanations, it often seems to select evidence in such a way as to suggest that character is destiny. Black allows that ASP, as he defines it, has a complex, multifactorial etiology. But any book that suggests that "ncarceration may be the best way to control the most severe and persistent cases of ASP" ought, at the very least, to think harder about the dysfunctional American prison system and the society that built it. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"With this superb new volume, Donald Black has managed to produce an authoritative book on antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy that promises to be a valuable resource for partners and families of those touched by this disorder. In an accessible and jargon-free prose style that is a pleasure to read, the author describes the clinical picture, the causes, the outcomes and potential treatments of antisocial individuals. He also educates the public on the so-called "white collar sociopaths" who are hiding in plain sight. Mental health and medical professionals will gain as much from reading this outstanding contribution as the general public. I heartily recommend it." — Glen O. Gabbard, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

"Donald Black's Bad Boys, Bad Men tackles an issue that leaps off the front pages of our newspapers and enters our living rooms from the nightly news broadcasts—that of criminal behavior, delinquency and antisocial personality disorder...By describing noted antisocial murderers such as Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy, as well as hidden antisocials who obtain power and fame, this book brings to life the true impact of the disorder, and even proposes ways to cope with it. This book is essential reading for the curious, the fearful and the scholarly observer of such behavior and its consequences." — Eric Hollander, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

"An eye-opener suited for all libraries." — Library Journal

"Presenting compelling case studies, including histories of young ASP patients traced into middle-age, Dr. Black explains the melange of biologic, psychologic, and sociologic factors that shape the behaviors of those with ASP. His writing is utterly accessible to all interested readers, and his expertise and wisdom shine from each page." — Marc D. Feldman, M.D., Co-author of Stranger Than Fiction: When Our Minds Betray Us and Patient or Pretender

"A sobering estimate of the amount of harm done not only to the lives of the men with these behavior problems but to all those with whom they have contact. Though Dr. Black recognizes the poor success rate so far in treatment of this disorder, he has many suggestions about new ways of approaching the problem and offering help both to those affected and their families." — Lee N. Robins, Professor Social Science in Psychiatry, Washington University, and author of Deviant Children Grown Up

"This will be an essential resource for psychiatrists, psychologists, criminologists, victims of crime, families of individuals afflicted with ASP and anyone else interested in understanding antisocial behavior." — MenStuff

"The new edition of Donald Black's Bad Boys, Bad Men should be front and center on every thinking person's bookshelf. What makes antisocial personalities, psychopaths, and sociopaths tick? How did they get that way? Are they merely criminals who have no respect for the law, or do they have brain disorders that might benefit from treatment? I can think of no better source of expert and authoritative information to answer these questions than Black's new book. And there's a plus: Black is a good writer, and the book is filled with engrossing stories about real people with these conditions and what happened to them over time. A valuable book, and one that's hard to put down!"
— John M. Oldham, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff, The Menninger Clinic; Professor and Executive Vice Chair, Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

"Bad Boys, Bad Men is an outstanding contribution to the literature on antisocial personality disorder. It makes this concept accessible to the lay person and should be required reading for psychiatry and psychology trainees and social workers, as well as individuals involved in the criminal justice system at all levels. The use of cases brings this concept to life and makes it easy to remember and understand. I have to agree with the liner notes by Dr. John Oldham, this book was difficult to put down." —John R. Dequardo, M.D., American Journal of Psychiatry

Product Details

Oxford University Press, USA
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5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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Meet the Author

Donald W. Black, MD, is a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City. A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Utah School of Medicine, he has received numerous awards for teaching, research, and patient care, and is listed in "Best Doctors in America." He serves as a consultant to the Iowa Department of Corrections. He writes extensively for professional audiences and his work has been featured in television and print media worldwide.

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