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Schlesinger, L.B. (2001). The Reproduction of Evil: A Clinical and Cultural Perspective. Sue Grand, Ph.D. New York: Analytic Press, 2000. 198 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 70(2):499-502.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 70(2):499-502

The Reproduction of Evil: A Clinical and Cultural Perspective. Sue Grand, Ph.D. New York: Analytic Press, 2000. 198 pp.

Review by:
Louis B. Schlesinger

The effects of childhood abuse and neglect have been studied carefully over the past twenty years, and a variety of negative consequences have been found, including lowered levels of empathy, an increased number of suicide attempts, and an increased incidence of criminality. Probably the most widely known consequence for children who have been abused is that they often grow up to be abusers themselves. This pattern seems to be most evident if the type of abuse was sexual. While certainly, not all children—not even the majority of children—who have been abused grow up to be abusers, almost all abusers have a history of abuse. The literature is filled with examples of people abused or neglected as children who subsequently committed all sorts of antisocial acts, including murder.,

But why? What are the psychodynamics that lead so many individuals who were abused as children to inflict on others the same pain they once experienced? Is it simply an identification with the aggressor, or can the motivation be explained further? It is this question—how and why such conduct perpetuates itself—that Grand tackles in her new book, aptly titled The Reproduction of Evil: A Clinical and Cultural Perspective. The author attempts to understand the link between trauma experienced and the subsequent perpetration of trauma on others. Through case studies and references to the work of others, Grand analyzes the inner lives of victims of “malignant trauma” who go on to commit acts of child abuse, incest, and various forms of severe violence.

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