High Risk: Children Without A Conscience, by Dr. Ken Magid and Carole A.McKelvey

Reviewed by John A. Speyrer

The authors have written a blockbuster of a book. High Risk is all about the making of a psychopath and warns that in the future our society will have greater and greater numbers of such individuals preying on the rest of the population. If you doubt this, ask a school teacher friend whether or not there are more children today with serious behavioral problems. Confronting these people, who cannot be reached by appeals to reason, kindness or traditional psychotherapy, will be a losing battle.

What causes these anti-social personality types? The authors claim that lack of or inadequate bonding or attachment of the new-born is the key. Magid and McKelvey claim that if there are attachment inadequacies, then the child becomes angry, mistrustful, and resentful. They write that babies are not becoming attached because too many mothers are working outside the home, that our divorce rate is too high, that there is a crisis in day-care, that too many teenagers are having children, that there is increasing child abuse and neglect, and that adoptions are occuring too late in the child's life.

The authors believe that day-care is not merely a dilemma in finding satisfactory care, but a part of the problem, since the effects of separation from the mother are a painful burden endured by very young infants. Even for older children, they feel that the level of care in typical centers is inadequate. The authors claim that as more and more women enter the work-force, a greater number of children are being sent to day-care centers. In spite of this, no national policy of parental leave upon the birth of a child exists in this country; however, more than 75 other countries have a guaranteed infant care leave policy in effect.

Children who are at a higher risk of becoming psychopaths are those who have been shuttled to a number of different foster homes beginning at an early age. These multiple placements are interpreted by the child as rejections. The success of an adoption is oftentimes directly proportional to the age of the adoptee.

Accompanying the infant day-care crisis and problems with adoptions is the soaring rate of illegitimacy. Nationally, 30 percent of births are to single mothers, and of that number the overwhelming majority are to teenagers below age 17 who are unprepared for motherhood. The results of illegitimacy are poverty, quitting school, and child abuse. When the infant becomes the cause of the mother's unhappiness, abuse is often the result.

In the past, psychotherapy, for both psychopaths and child anti-social types, has always failed. And yet, the author writes that a profound religious experience can sometimes reach these persons. For young children, the authors have much confidence in holding therapy. Discovered by Dr. Robert Zaslow in 1966, and initially called rage reduction therapy, holding therapy forces young children to become vulnerable and allows the unbonded child to access painful hidden emotions. A case history of such a child is given. High Risk concludes by saying that it will take a national effort to resolve all of the problems which are the result of raising generations of children without a conscience.