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Smart, F. (1966). The psychopath: William McCord and Joan McCord. Princeton/Toronto/London/New York, Van Nostrand, 1964. pp. viii + 173. 14s.. J. Anal. Psychol., 11(1):83-84.

(1966). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 11(1):83-84

The psychopath: William McCord and Joan McCord. Princeton/Toronto/London/New York, Van Nostrand, 1964. pp. viii + 173. 14s.

Review by:
Frances Smart

William McCord is Associate Professor of Sociology and Joan McCord is Research Associate in the Department of Sociology, both at Stanford University. Their aim is to clarify the nature of psychopathy, to synthesize and evaluate knowledge concerning causation and treatment, and to indicate certain social and legal policies which may, in a more rational fashion than at present, reduce the cost of the psychopath to the community.

Their definition of the psychopath is the asocial, aggressive, highly-impulsive person, who feels little or no guilt and is unable to form lasting bonds of affection with other human beings. This definition excludes the ‘inadequate’ and the ‘creative’ types described by Sir David Henderson in Britain in the thirties. While some may dispute the assertion that the psychopath, according to this definition, is invariably aggressive, the emphasis is on his ‘guiltlessness’ and ‘lovelessness’. These characteristics, especially the absence of guilt feelings and therefore of remorse or anxiety, distinguish the psychopath from the neurotic individual, which is important from the point of view of treatment.

The chapter on treatment is the authors' most valuable contribution. They agree with the generally accepted view that the adult psychopath is untreatable except in rare cases, but schools have been opened for the treatment of psychopathic children, based on the principles of Aichhorn. The McCords felt that the treatment had been insufficiently tested and they therefore chose a school—the Wiltwyck School for Boys in New York—in which ‘milieu therapy’ was being used, to make a series of studies aimed at evaluating the therapy. Milieu therapy consists in providing a loving, permissive environment, so in contrast to the typical background of bitterness and rejection from which so many delinquents have sprung. The investigation was based on interviews, personality tests, and observational ratings made by the counsellors in charge of the boys, who did not know how the ratings were being used. The changes which took place in different types of children were thus measured objectively.

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