24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2006
This is a very interesting book that revolves around a crucially important discovery close to my own heart: that biology is not destiny.
Liane Leedom is a psychiatrist who gives a candid account about her realization that at least one of her own children had a strong genetic loading for sociopathic personality disorder and attention deficit disorder. So she set about plowing the scientific literature, as well as using her clinical experience to see whether there was any way to prevent the child from falling victim to a lifetime of personal problems.
The result is a large number of useful practical pieces of advice about helping the child, adolescent and adult at risk of developing a specific psychiatric problem with a strong genetic component. The text is broken up by a great many nicely chosen and appropriate illustrations.
Liane talks about an interesting model, which is that the core problems of antisocial personality disorder are:
1. Poor impulse control
2. An inability to love
3. Poor moral reasoning
This is a novel and interesting way of thinking about the problem that developed out of study of twins that was published last year. None of us yet knows whether this model is accurate, but it does provide a useful framework for some of the advice that follows.
I like this book very much, so why only four stars? I fear that the first chapter may put off many people: it, and indeed much of the book is in serious need of an editor and a proofreader. Throughout the text she usually, but not always, uses bold type for "at risk" so it's difficult to work out why sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn't. Many other things are bolded so it gets a bit confusing.
I like that she has provided some scientific references to support her statements, but sadly they are rather disorganized. Some of the same scientific papers are cited several times and in some places single numbers refer to several citations. A lot of research is mentioned, but I kept wanting Liane to tell me what she thought and how the different pieces of research tied together.
This is a good book as it stands, but unless you really know the field, you may want to skim through the first chapter and head straight for the advice sections. With some editing, proofing and rearranging the book could be excellent.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2012
Before running from the price here, this book can be found at the author's website new for $14.95
Author and Psychiatrist Liane J Leedom M.D. wrote this book as a manual for parents of children at a higher genetic risk of antisocial personality, addiction, and ADHD. Her background in psychiatry, and also as the former spouse of a sociopath, makes her a good candidate for the author of such a book.
In the introduction of this book, the author talks about the role of genetics when it comes to disorders, and also about prevention, while giving some of her background in this field. In the next chapter, she covers nature versus nurture and asserts that a child's outcome is not genetically determined, but that genetics only play a factor in the outcome and that parenting can certainly bend and shape that outcome. She also introduces her concept of the Inner Triangle, made up of Ability to Love, Impulse Control, and Moral Reasoning Ability, and relates the Inner Triangle back to the relationship it has with antisocial personality, addiction, and ADHD.
In all three of these (antisocial personality, addiction, and ADHD), Dr. Leedom says that the Inner Triangle is not fully developed, or not functioning properly. When you look at the three components of the Inner Triangle, you can see the connection.
Ability to Love is about forming attachments to other people, and forming empathy. This ability is greatly impaired in people with antisocial personality disorder and in addicts. In this book, the author dedicates 62 pages to covering this topic. She goes into detail on what ability to love is, how it develops, and how to recognize it (or a lack of it) in your children. She also includes, very importantly, how to repair your relationship with your child, with age specific recommendations. I found her ideas to be very thoroughly stated, and I was glad to see this being broken down into age groups of how ability to love develops and manifests itself at each stage of a child's life through adolescence. Perhaps most helpful to me was the section on the first year, where warning signs can already be noticed. The author takes you step by step at each age group and helps you understand how to teach your child to have affection and empathy for other people, a trait that many parents take for granted, but which a parent of an at risk child can not to take for granted.
Impulse Control is the next point in the Inner Triangle which must be developed in order to produce healthy adults. This chapter is also very in-depth, spanning 60 pages to cover a multitude of topics. The author suggests teaching impulse control primarily through rewards and setting limits, and she offers step-by-step instructions for setting and enforcing limits. Possibly the most difficult advice for some parents to follow here will be a statement she makes about enforcing consequences, in all capital letters: DO NOT NEGOTIATE. She describes the different kinds of consequences parents can use, and offers some more specific tips on limit-setting with teens and older children. Impulse control as it relates to emotion, and specifically anger, is covered, followed by a section on impulse control when it comes to food and comfort.
One thing I really liked about this chapter was what she had to say about the strong-willed child. The so-called strong-willed child actually does not have good will-power, but has a lack of impulse control and a strong drive for social dominance. The topic of social dominance is also covered thoroughly toward the end of the chapter, and definitely relevant to the at risk child. Another topic she covers in depth is teaching impulse control when it comes to entertainment, and teaching an at risk child to enjoy entertainment that is not all thrill-seeking, such as playing a musical instrument or a game like chess. These children need guidance to learn how to slow down, or they will find themselves bored when they're not being over-stimulated, and place themselves even more at risk for these behaviors.
The next chapter covers Moral Reasoning Ability. This is a much shorter chapter; it is only 16 pages long, but still covers a lot. Dr. Leedom starts out by explaining that moral reasoning ability is unique to humans, and then goes into the stages of moral development, which starts at the point of "I should always get what I want," and ends at "I should do the right thing." Believing "I should always get what I want" is the normal state for an infant, but unfortunately for some at risk children, development never proceeds past this point even in adulthood. The author claims that moral reasoning ability develops when parents train impulse control. This chapter continues with the importance of the parent-child bond, asserting parental authority, and teaching respect. I found the ideas presented here to be very practical for parents to apply.
After this, the Inner Triangle is revisited in chapter 6. The author goes a little more in depth on some of the personality traits that are characteristic of people who form antisocial personality disorder, and she gives this assessment: "Fearlessness and the lack of a strong bond with parents prevent the development of conscience, which usually occurs prior to age five." Improving all sides of the Inner Triangle can help to build this bond with parents and overcome the complications of a fearless child. The sides of the Inner Triangle are covered again in brief, and then the author adds points to the triangle. Between Impulse Control and Moral Reasoning, one develops Guild. Between Ability to Love and Moral Reasoning one develops Good-ness, and between Ability to Love and Impulse Control, one develops Peace.
Something that I am glad she also included in this chapter is a brief section on Environmentally-Induced Antisocial Personality Disorder. I am glad this was included, in part because most of my previous study on this topic was related to non-genetic factors resulting in APD, but also because I think other parents need to know the potential risk factors, if genetics is not a concern.
As a final point in this particular chapter, the author discusses the question of whether APD is an Illness, or Evil. I expected a psychiatrist to tout it as an illness, but I gained a lot of respect for this author when concludes that psychopaths (aka sociopaths or individuals with antisocial personality) are indeed evil, and not simply suffering an incurable illness. They are consciously responsible for their actions.
In the next chapter, the author covers addiction more in depth. She states that addiction starts with an impulse, and briefly touches again on parenting and prevention. Recovery is discussed, followed by information on addiction progressing to antisocial personality disorder.
Chapter eight is specific to the special needs of a child with ADHD, and I think parents of an ADHD child would find this chapter (and the whole book) very helpful. There are tips on helping your child socially and academically. She also addresses the topic of medication, and offers hope and insight for parents who are concerned about their child developing APD.
Next comes the parent's Inner Triangle, and I am so so glad this was brought up in the book, because it is also vital (in my opinion). This chapter walks you through your own Impulse Control, Ability to Love and Moral Reasoning Ability, and relays the impact of parenting strengths and weaknesses on the development of children. She discusses the problems that can arise from bossy parents, as well as pushover parents. She also readdresses spanking and yelling, and then gives a brief summary of effective parenting. Finally, there is a note and reminder not to get involved in a blame game for a child's behavior, and states as many mothers already know that blaming mothers is unproductive and often destructive. She urges people instead to stop blaming and start taking responsibility.
The next two chapters are Questions From Parents, and How To Get Help From Professionals. The Q&A from parents actually had some of my exact questions in this chapter, and I found the chapter on choosing a professional to receive help from to be very thorough and informative.
On Having Loved a Psychopath is the final chapter, and a good closing for this book. In this chapter, I could really relate to the author, particularly when she says, "I enjoyed the time I spent with a psychopath. I enjoyed our family life, our quiet times and our holidays. I was attached to him and I loved him." Unfortunately, the psychopath's feelings are shallow, and part of a plan to manipulate. Some are more dangerous than others, but the lack of a conscience makes all of them emotionally dangerous.
This book was in my opinion an excellent read and an excellent guide for any parent whose child may be at risk. This book was so rich with information that it was in some ways difficult to review, since my reviews tend to at least in part be summaries. One thing I really appreciate about this book is that it teaches positive parenting strategies and attachment. There is an emphasis throughout the book that punishment is detrimental to the at risk child, and specifically unproductive for these children, which is a point that I think some parents have difficulty taking to heart. However, to parents willing to understand the reasoning behind non-punitive parenting practices, and look more at the long-term relationship with their children, I think this book offers an excellent plan of action.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2014
What I've read is mostly useful, informed, and intelligent. Unfortunately, it's too late for me. My parents were depressed. My father abused my mother. When I was four years old, my aunt kidnapped me to protect me from my abusive father, but even by then some damage had been done. No matter how smart you are; no matter how well trained you are, you can be fooled by a psychopath predator, as was the author of this book, an intelligent, competent psychiatrist (apparently) who was deceived by a psychopath husband. She is trying to make amends with this book.
I just finished reading the book (I have to get it back quickly to the library I borrowed it from) and as I finished it, my problems with the book became clearer in my mind.
I suspect (and I am probably deluding myself) that I am a psychopath or at least something similar. Some of us crazy and dangerous people are fairly self-aware, and a positive stroke to us would not be amiss. Maybe Liane will get to that. I check in again after I read more. I just felt with so many adulatory reviews a little balance would not be a bad idea.
I just finished reading the book. (I have this on an interlibrary loan and have to get it back to the library by tomorrow or the FBI will be after me [joke, but I do have to get it back]. As I finished the book, the uneasy feeling I have about it became clearer in my mind. Dr. Leedom is a very intelligent and well-informed person and her book has a great deal of useful and intelligent information and guidance.
She also strikes me as in an odd way, a very naïve and innocent person. It may be a completely unjustified leap, but in a way I am not surprised that she married a dangerous and abusive man who got in a lot of trouble and caused harm to her and their children.
Part of this gets tricky because it has to do with religious belief and I am a very strong atheist. On page 164, she tries to be polite and respectful to unbelievers such as myself, but when she says, "Belief in a high purpose for life does not necessarily have to involve belief in God. Even if you don't believe in God, you can still believe in a higher purpose for your own life and the lives of your children," the condescension and distrust of people who don't share her belief system seems to leap out at me.
There are a multitude of problems, both philosophical and practical with such arguments, and similar ones she spouts in places such as page 164 where she gets into addiction and she starts touting fairly standard "12-step" programs against addiction. Without going into a lot of detail here, there are many problems with 12-step programs. They work for some people, but not for all.
To begin with, hard as it is for religious believers to accept, there is not the slightest bit of empirical evidence to indicate that religious belief is anything but total fantasy made up by human imagination. God does not exist. Period.
Second, religious belief does no more to promote love and goodness than any other widespread human value system and ideological system. In the history of all religions, there are widespread examples of caring, altruism, moral guidance, conscience and so on AND there are widespread examples of hate, fear, prejudice, violence, cruelty, and genocide. Check out Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (to name the six most widely believed religions in the world (and you can trot down a thousand other religious competitors) they all have nobility and virtue and they all have blood and horror in their histories. Idealists such as Dr. Leedom cherrypick the "good" stuff and practice intense "head in the sand" denial about the other part of religion. In Chapter 9 (and other parts) she (correctly, I agree) condemns punishment as a parenting and guidance method. Speaking as a 70-year old atheist who grew up immersed in an overwhelmingly Christian society, I would need an entire state the size of California to list all the times I have encountered Christian parents who engaged in bullying and punitive behavior because they believed that was what "God the stern father" wants them to do.
In a way similar to how Thomas Jefferson wrote his own version of the Bible (trying to expunge the obvious superstition in that book), Dr. Leeson has created her own maternal, kind version of Christianity and trying to cover up the nasty paternalism which pervades the "Abrahamic" religions.
Religious belief has dominated human beings for thousands of years. 80% or so of human beings still believe in a "high purpose" or "higher being" which just does not exist. Atheism is not a belief system in the same way. It doesn't offer a "higher purpose." It just describes the universe more accurately. Humans are gradually sliding into a "post-religious" part of our history. For many reasons, we are in the most dangerous and difficult portion of our species' existence since we wandered around on African savannahs and learned to communicate. For individual parents, especially ones with at-risk children, her book offers a great deal of useful advice and information. From a philosophical and societal point of view, in my opinion, she has relatively little of useful advice to offer.