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This news summary supports two premises in this
educational Web site:
Parental neglect and
abandonment cause serious psychological wounds in typical young kids.
If unacknowledged and
ignored, these wounds can cause adult stress and illness, harm to
others, and premature death.
the recent series of well-publicized U.S. school shootings by "disturbed"
youths, the media and mental-health professionals usually downplay or ignore
family dysfunction as a major cause of the shooting. This article is an
See my comments after the summary. The links and hilights below
are mine. - P. K. Gerlach, MSW
+ + +
(AP) — Adam Lanza's parents and
educators contributed to his social isolation in the years before he carried
out the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre by accommodating —
and not confronting — his difficulties engaging with the world, according to
a state report issued Friday.
The Office of the Child Advocate, which investigated Lanza's upbringing to
glean lessons for preventing future tragedies, concluded that Lanza's
parents, education team and others missed signs of how deeply troubled he
was and opportunities to steer him toward more appropriate treatment.
Lanza killed his mother then shot
his way into the Newtown school on Dec. 14, 2012, and gunned down 20
children and six educators before committing suicide.
Lanza's obsessions with firearms, death and mass shootings have been
documented by police files, and investigators previously concluded the
motive for the shootings may never be known.
In exploring what could have been done differently, the new report honed in
on his mother, Nancy Lanza, who backed her son's resistance to medication
and from the 10th grade on kept him at home, where he was surrounded by an
arsenal of firearms and spent long hours playing violent video games.
"Mrs. Lanza's approach to try and help him was to actually shelter him and
protect him and pull him further away from the world, and that in turn
turned out to be a very tragic mistake," said Julian Ford, one of the
report's authors, at a news conference.
The authors said Lanza's parents
tried to obtain help for him in variety of ways, but they did not know which
path to take and appeared not to
grasp the depth and severity of his disabilities. His parents were divorced,
and Lanza had not seen his father for two years. After 2008, his parents did
not appear to seek any mental health treatment for him, and there was no
sustained input from a mental health provider after 2006, according to the
The one provider that seemed to understand the gravity of his condition, the
Yale Child Study Center, evaluated him in 2006 and called for
rigorous daily therapy and medication for conditions including anxiety. At
the time, a Yale psychiatrist warned there was risk to creating a
"prosthetic environment which spares him having to encounter other students
or to work to overcome his social difficulties," according to the report.
The day after the evaluation, Nancy Lanza told the doctor by email that her
son would not agree to any sort of medication and that he had been angered
by the doctor's line of questioning.
The Yale recommendations went largely unheeded.
In the eighth grade, Lanza was placed on "homebound" status, though he later
returned before finishing high school through a combination of independent
study, tutoring and college classes. Along the way, the report said, there
was no indication that the Newtown school system or the pediatrician
coordinated with service providers regarding Lanza's mental health needs,
according to the report, which referred to Lanza as "AL."
"Records indicate that the school system cared about AL's success but also
unwittingly enabled Mrs. Lanza's preference to accommodate and appease AL
through the educational plan's lack of attention to social-emotional
support, failure to provide related services, and agreement to AL's plan of
independent study and early graduation at age 17," wrote the report's
Joseph Erardi Jr., the superintendent of schools for Newtown, said the
report will have great meaning if "there is one school leader, one district,
one mental health provider or one set of parents who reads this work and can
prevent such a heinous crime."
The report also provocatively asks whether a family that was not white or as
affluent as the Lanzas would have been given the same leeway to manage
treatment for their troubled child.
"Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide
deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent
parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority?" the report said.
Despite disturbing, violence-laced writings that came to the attention of
teachers, investigators say there is no evidence Lanza displayed tendencies
for violence or aggression.
After 35 years' study as a family therapist, I propose that psychological
incurred from early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma) pass
from parents to children - who grow up and repeat this toxic
I've found that divorce is a reliable indicator
Lanza's parents were divorced, which suggests their "troubled" boy was
raised in a dysfunctional home. The
Office of the Child Advocate
study apparently did not examine whether each of Lanza's parents were
survivors of early-childhood trauma.
Adam's parents and the professionals they contacted on his behalf didn't
acknowledge this toxic dysfunction, and viewed Adam as the problem, not his
parents. No one - including
the Yale Child Study Center psychiatrist, school officials, and the media -
starting before the parents' divorce
prevented this school massacre