Following the grief over the loss of life in school shootings, I started researching and realized that others were doing the same thing, trying to find the root cause for the extreme rage and motivation to harm others. I knew from a couple of situations that what happens to children during escalated and prolonged family conflict had something to do with these rampages.
A few insights shared on Mic.com:
“A parent’s death or divorce also appears to be a commonality among some of the lone shooters — Adam Lanza (Newtown, 2012), Elliot Rodgers (Santa Barbara, 2014) and Nikolas Cruz (Parkland 2018). Research indicates boys appear to be more at risk than girls when their parents divorce, particularly when it comes to higher suicide rates.
“It’s one brick or thread that could set a child up to have more a vulnerability if someone doesn’t step in and raise a child, teaching them to respect the rights of others and that actions have consequences,” said Richard Warshak, a clinical psychologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and author of Divorce Poison, which explores acrimonious divorce and the psychological effects on children of parental bad-mouthing.
“Divorce sets in motion a set of changes that put kids at risk for problems in behavior.”
Divorce is not “inherently bad” for every child, he says. But there are risks, especially if it changes the family’s financial situation or parents “bad-mouth” each other.
Several studies over three decades show that divorce — especially an acrimonious one — can increase a child’s risk for developing depression, anxiety and engaging in criminal acts.”
These issues aren’t things we discuss often enough, but we should.
I wish I didn’t have a personal experience to validate these findings, but I do. I witnessed it in my own step-sons, when I was too young and without the authority to help them overcome what had happened to them and their mother. And, I didn’t have the right information at the time. I just knew they were suffering, and it seemed like there had to be a way to help them through it. I wish I could have done more to help them avoid failures in those early years, and the loss of one’s life later on.
No, I can’t go back in time, but I can engage leadership, stakeholders and problem-solves across society to do more with what we know now.