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The Macdonald Triad: Persistence of an Urban Legend

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Abstract:

For the last half century, a trio of behaviors—cruelty to animals, firesetting, and enuresis—has enjoyed popular acceptance by criminologists, psychologists, and law enforcement officers. These professionals have long linked the presence of the Macdonald Triad in childhood to a variety of criminal careers. Recent crime series on television and Hollywood movies have breathed new life into the alleged phenomenon. Of 90 undergraduate students in a criminal psychology class asked to “research” the Macdonald Triad, 88 reported the alleged phenomenon related to sociopaths or to serial murderers. In fact, John Macdonald’s (1963) study was of psychiatric patients who threatened violence and makes no reference to either sociopaths or multiple murderers. More importantly, using a methodology based on grounded theory, an extensive review of the literature offers little empirical support for the triad as a bona fide phenomenon. Yet it persists. These observations raise critical questions for educators and practitioners in criminal justice. As educators, how thoroughly do we vet the concepts we teach? As practitioners, what constitutes reliable information? More broadly, what lends credibility to an alleged phenomenon? This paper examines the Macdonald triad and its evolution over time with an eye to addressing these questions.
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Association:
Name: ASC Annual Meeting
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http://www.asc41.com


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p431806_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Skrapec, Candice. and Ryan, Kori. "The Macdonald Triad: Persistence of an Urban Legend" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASC Annual Meeting, San Francisco Marriott, San Francisco, California, Nov 16, 2010 <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p431806_index.html>

APA Citation:

Skrapec, C. and Ryan, K. , 2010-11-16 "The Macdonald Triad: Persistence of an Urban Legend" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASC Annual Meeting, San Francisco Marriott, San Francisco, California <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p431806_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: For the last half century, a trio of behaviors—cruelty to animals, firesetting, and enuresis—has enjoyed popular acceptance by criminologists, psychologists, and law enforcement officers. These professionals have long linked the presence of the Macdonald Triad in childhood to a variety of criminal careers. Recent crime series on television and Hollywood movies have breathed new life into the alleged phenomenon. Of 90 undergraduate students in a criminal psychology class asked to “research” the Macdonald Triad, 88 reported the alleged phenomenon related to sociopaths or to serial murderers. In fact, John Macdonald’s (1963) study was of psychiatric patients who threatened violence and makes no reference to either sociopaths or multiple murderers. More importantly, using a methodology based on grounded theory, an extensive review of the literature offers little empirical support for the triad as a bona fide phenomenon. Yet it persists. These observations raise critical questions for educators and practitioners in criminal justice. As educators, how thoroughly do we vet the concepts we teach? As practitioners, what constitutes reliable information? More broadly, what lends credibility to an alleged phenomenon? This paper examines the Macdonald triad and its evolution over time with an eye to addressing these questions.


Similar Titles:
The Macdonald Triad: Predictor of Violence or Urban Myth?

Urban Legends: How Teaching Myths Strangle Progressive Education in Urban Settings


 
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