Confronting Antisocial Personality Disorder (Sociopathy) By Donald W. Black, MD
Bad Boys, Bad Men by Dr. Donald Black explains how childhood traumatic experiences can cause antisocial behavior that leads to destructive choices as an adult, which can inflict lasting damage.
One of the book’s many characters is Ernie. Dr. Black begins Ernie’s story with his adoption by John and Dorothy Walker as a young child. He describes how Ernie was a charming and intelligent boy with a great smile. The Walkers provided him with the essential elements of a good home, but his adoptive mother beat him for violations of her strict rules.
As he grew, Ernie began to emerge as a troubled youth. He got into fights with his peers, was caught shoplifting, and was eventually expelled from school. He began to spend time in juvenile detention services where he slashed another boy with a razor while confined in a reformatory. In connection with this incident, Dr. Black wrote that Ernie “was proud of how he manipulated the reformatory’s staff.”
Dr. Black describes antisocial behavior as a form of rebellion against society, a refusal to accept the obligations that tie individuals in a society to one another. A young person engaging in antisocial behaviors may go on to lead a life of crime if such tendencies go unaddressed, Dr. Black explains.
Ernie’s story caught my interest because his childhood affected his adult life, to which I could relate. His troubled childhood escalated into spending 17 years in prison — armed robbery, receiving stolen goods, burglary, and attempted murder appeared on his record with more than 20 arrests.
The narrative of Ernie’s story sounded too close to home for me, and I identified with the trauma Ernie experienced. The book reminded me that my choices during my own troubled childhood contributed to my destructive choices as an adult. Like Ernie, the abusive decisions I made as an adult led me to have problems with law enforcement, and led me to prison.
Dr. Black writes that those who suffer from an antisocial behavior and other related disorders do not seem to understand or care about the difference between good and bad on an intellectual or emotional level.
Reading this book gave me greater understanding of myself, a greater understanding about my own destructive choices in my past. There was no one in my life who knew how to nurture an inner-city youth like me who had been exposed to too much trauma.
The book attributes bad parenting, defective genes, and childhood abuse as causative factors in antisocial personality disorders. According to the author, signs of antisocial disorder include aggression towards people, destruction of property, deceitfulness, and theft. These are signs that I knew all too well.
I never knew the exact nature of what antisocial behavior was until I read this book. The explanation Dr. Black gives is thorough and to the point. He notes that women suffer less from such disorders because they are more likely to express their emotions compared to men. Dr. Black’s point resonated with me because the young men of my era did not show their emotions and this carried on into my adult life.
Dr. Black says people are fascinated with antisocial behavior because people have an interest in wickedness, such as is all too often in the news from the likes of Sadam Hussein to Jeffery Dahmer. The book also entails Mike Tyson’s antisocial behaviors that provided tabloid fodder for years. This made me wonder: Does our fascination with antisocial behaviors and disorders help or hurt our society’s ability to facilitate healthy childhood development?
This book contains numerous stories and scientific explanations that illuminate the exact nature of antisocial behaviors and related disorders. Most incarcerated people have been antisocial at one time or another — this is how many of us ended up in prison after all.
Yet as we cross the threshold of rehabilitation and self-realization by discovering new revelations about our past and current behavior, we are also better able to understand other people who suffer from the same challenges.
After reading Bad Boys, Bad Men I can attest that the saying, “each one, teach one” is true because Ernie’s story has taught me new revelations about myself, and maybe it can for you as well.