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Meloy, J.R. (1999). On violence. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(3):626-627.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(3):626-627

On violence

J. Reid Meloy

Dear Sir,

It is ironic that in the same issue of the International Journal of Psychoanalysis (1998: 79, 5) there is an article that discusses analysts' unwillingness to read and consider empirical research (Schachter & Luborsky, pp. 965-9) and an article which illustrates their point (Glasser, pp. 887-902). ‘On violence’ dismisses thirty years of research concerning the psychobiological categorization of violence as either ‘predatory’ or ‘affective’ (Mirsky & Siegel, 1994), and proposes, instead, a transparently related, but confusing distinction between ‘self-preservative’ and ‘sado-masochistic’ violence.

I would feel less troubled if Glasser was ignorant of work in this area—of which I am a forensic and psychoanalytic contributor (Meloy, 1988, 1997)—but he references my first book, and then absurdly states that ‘predatory violence’ is not violence (pp. 889-90), as if an exclamation point would convince the reader. He then goes on to present a table of eleven criteria (p. 897) which separate his modes of violence, several of which are suspiciously similar to a table of thirteen criteria which I published in 1988, without any reference to my work. He further provides no explanations for his criteria (face validity) and no data on whether these criteria can be accurately measured and therefore differentiated (reliability).

Most distressing is the muddled thinking in this article. For example, he postulates a movement of aggression into violence for both types which lies on a continuum (p. 896) that may be expressed in stages, all of which are object relational (his examples), but in the preceding paragraph states that self-preservative violence involves no object relationship.

For those interested in the study of violence, to which little attention has been paid in the psychoanalytic community despite its prevalence in our species, I would refer them to the extensive multidisciplinary work available on the psychobiological and object relations understanding of affective and predatory violence: two well-established, empirically derived, and clinically supported categories.


Meloy, J. R. (1988). The Psychopathic Mind: Origins, Dynamics, and Treatment. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

Meloy, J. R. (1997). Predatory violence during mass murder. J. Forensic Sci., 42:326-329.

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