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Gun Violence, Crime and How We Raise Our Children

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

The purpose of this blog is not to provide any solutions. Instead, it is to discuss a serious problem in present day America.

The nation was shocked after the horrific shooting of 20 young children and 6 adults in the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. This has not been the first or only mass shooting in the United States. According to Mother Jones, a leading news organization on the Web,  there have been at least 61 mass shootings since 1982. The web site goes on to document other homicides committed with guns by geographic area. These statistics are very discouraging. What is so interesting is that these shootings are accompanied by a decrease in gun ownership in recent years. The picture is even more shocking when combined with other crimes such as drug abuse, drug trafficking, drug related shootings and drug related thefts.

Why is this happening?

Since Sandy Hook, many theories are being advanced. Some target the availability of assault weapons, the lack of gun control, violence in the movies, on television and in video games. Others blame the fact that guns are available to the mentally ill despite the fact that the rate of violence among this group is no higher than the general population. Most certainly, there is no single explanation for all of this violence and each of the ones just mentioned play some role. However ,one of the most important explanatory factors that seems to be overlooked is the role of the family in raising children.

One of the major problems, in the opinion of this writer, is that children are being raised without any concern for the well being of others. In the last century, the father of psychoanalysis said that the personality if made up of three parts: the id, ego and superego. The id comprises all the primitive instincts towards sex, rage and the demand for satisfaction of the instincts without delay. The superego controls all of those instincts through the use of conscience or guilt. The ego balances id and superego so that we get a normally functioning individual who knows how to delay the need to gratify the instincts and function properly in the real world. In other words, it seems that there is something not quite right about superego development in many children.

Why should this be so?

Perhaps the extremely high rate of divorce today, which is at least 50% of all marriages, the advent of single parent families, with mother raising children without the presence of the father, or the lack of the extended family such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, that brings about children who seem to be focused on the self rather than others. Some writers have labelled this as the age of narcissism, with the major focus being on the self. In this way, the individual could justify murder by believing that they were, in some ways, treated unfairly while being raised. In other words, it is as if to say, “the world should revolve around me, not other people?

It is also possible that the lack of parenting, even in homes with both parents present, is due to the fact that everyone is working two and three jobs just to maintain the budget. This means that, without adequate parenting, there is no time to teach and role model generosity and moral thinking to children. All that seems to come through to kids is that the pursuit of money is all that is important.

In discussing this issue with friends, one of them suggested that the problem could be due to the fact that children are being raised without faith in God and religion. Certainly, religious training seems to bring a level of comfort and meaningfullness to many people who are believers. Yet, historically and even today, there seems to be nothing about religion that prevents terrorism and war. Yet, faith may provide ethical teaching and a sense of conscience that may be missing for many today.

We saw a recent example of this kind of selfish and unethical thinking in negotiations over the fiscal cliff between the President and Congress in attempting to solve the budget crisis in the U.S. As Democrats and Republicans wrangled with each other over this issue, it seemed as if winning or losing became more important than serving the nation and the needs of the people of the country. If the nation had gone over the fiscal cliff without a solution, taxes would have sharply increased for all Americans and all types of essential services that people need would have come to an end. The stock market could have crashed with dire economic results for the world and for ordinary people who have small amounts of money invested. Yet, the two sides arm wrestled while everyone’s anxiety increased as the worried about how the financial well being of their families would be impacted. The final act of selfishness to come out of this drama is that Congress did not allocate the funds promised to help those victimized by super storm Sandy in both New York and New Jersey. Months after that devastating storm left people homeless after suffering terrible losses, people are still struggling just to survive and in a season that has now turned to winter with sub freezing temperatures.

What are your thoughts about this problem? What solutions do you suggest? Your comments are encouraged

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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