Despite mounting references to the "transgenerational transmission of violence," we still lack a compelling understanding of the linkage between the interpersonal violence of early life and the criminal violence of adulthood. In Prologue to Violence, Abby Stein draws on the gripping narratives of 65 incarcerated subjects and extensive material from law enforcement files to remedy this lacuna in both the forensic and psychodynamic literature. In the process, she calls into question prevailing beliefs about criminal character and motivation. For Stein the early trauma to which adult criminals are subjected remains unformulated and, as such, unavailable for reflection. Contrary to common belief, these criminals, especially sex murderers, do not commit their crimes in a rational or fully conscious way. They are not driven by deviant fantasy, their psychopathy is not inborn, and they rarely commit acts of violence "without conscience."
Stein's interdisciplinary analysis of her data infuses contemporary relational psychoanalysis with the insights of neuroscience, traumatology, criminology, and cognitive and narrative psychology. A powerful challenge to offender treatment programs to address the shaping impact of childhood trauma rather than merely to "correct" the cognitions of violent offenders, Prologue to Violence will be equally compelling to researchers and academics investigating child abuse and adult violence. Its mental health readership will be broad and deep, ranging beyond clinicians who work with offender populations to all therapists who wrestle with experiences of dissociation and aggressive enactment in everyday life.
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