Friday, March 13, 2015

Does child abuse and bullying lead to more violence?

Why is this still in doubt?

The following quote is from Dave Cullen’s book “Columbine”. 

"There's no evidence that bullying led to murder, but considerable evidence it was a problem at Columbine High." (p.158)  

This should raise the question what constitutes evidence that bullying could lead to murder or that it could be a contributing cause. I have concluded that I can state for a fact that there are multiple contributing causes to violence and that two of the strongest contributing causes are child abuse and bullying. I consider these two conclusions to be well proven by many academic researchers and it can be confirmed by most reasonable laypersons if they think it through. Just think about times that you may have endured bullying or abuse and wanted to get even. You may have gotten over it but if you had to put up with much more of it do you think you would have gotten over it so easy. The academic researchers who support these conclusions include James Garbarino, Ellen deLara, Alice Miller, Dorothy Otnow Lewis, Joanne Scaglione, Lonnie Athens and many more. They have done extensive research to indicate that children who are abused as a child are much more likely to be violent as an adult. There is an enormous amount of data to back up these conclusions yet there are still many high profile people that raise doubts about these conclusions. There are some high profile people with degrees that have disputed this claim; however I have serious doubts about their credibility and I suspect the majority of academics that study the subject also do. 

That doesn’t mean the experts are in agreement about all the specifics of psychology. This clearly isn’t true but when it comes to the simple question, does violence lead to violence? The answer should be yes. When it comes to more specific conclusions about psychological conditions there seems to be a lot of disagreement about various psychoses like psychopaths, Schizophrenia, multi-personality disorder, road rage, roid rage and many other conditions; however if you read some of the material about most if not all these subjects they won’t contradict the conclusions I have stated above. This indicates that even though there is still further research that needs to be done about some of the specifics there is enough information available to know that by preventing child abuse and bullying there can be an enormous amount of progress made to reduce other violence that follow after small problems escalate to big ones. 

Ironically Dave Cullen provides some information that contradicts his claims that there is no evidence that bullying led to murder. This may involve looking at the work of some other sources other than the ones he cited though. Dave Cullen cited some work by Dr. Robert Hare that abusive upbringing doesn't create psychopaths but it does make it worse. Dr. Hare also indicated that Psychopaths never develop empathy in the first place. (p.241-2) If this is true then the violence from bullying could have also been a contributing factor and almost certainly was; however it may also indicate that a closer look at the early care that Eric Harris received as an infant and toddler may have some influence on the subject. There was insufficient information in his book to confirm or refute this but it is implied. Dave Cullen’s book has been portrayed as the most credible and comprehensive book on Columbine debunking many myths about Columbine. For the most part this is accurate he does a very good job debunking a lot of the false assumptions about Columbine; However this one exception is an important one. There have been a lot of stories about wide spread bullying at Columbine and there have also been a lot of stories about denial of this and Cullen is only making the denial worse. Cullen backs up the downplaying of bullying as a contributing cause by pointing out that in the tapes made by Klebold and Harris they don’t complain about being bullied quite the opposite they bragged about doing the bullying. This is not surprising but if he checked with better psychologists like Garbarino he might have found that denial of abuse isn’t uncommon. The victims of bullying prefer not to think of themselves as being victims therefore they deny it and resort to bullying other to prove something to themselves. In fact they do talk about being angry at the world, if they’re not angry about bullying then what are they angry about. The tapes do seem to state they are angry about a lot of trivial things but I suspect that is just because they can’t express themselves very well. This could result from denial and other emotional problems which they obviously had. The fact that Cullen does such a good job debunking many of the myths at Columbine is what makes him seem more credible and for this reason it is more important to correct the mistakes he made. In many cases first hand points of views tend to be more biased since the person may have a interest to protect but in this case I think Brooks Brown may have done a better job than Cullen. Perhaps it would be better to look at “No easy answers: The truth behind death at Columbine” as the comprehensive look at Columbine.  

I suspect that if I checked with other experts I might find that many believe that psychopaths are created more by nurture than nature. In fact I suspect many researchers will say that most of these disorders including Schizophrenia, multi-personality disorder are created partly as a result of abuse as a child and exasperated in many cases by bullying.  I suspect this is also true for road rage or roid rage. Road rage is just like any other kind of anger in a stressful situation and people who do a better job dealing with their anger are much less likely to succumb to road rage. Roid rage is the result of steroids. This means in order to have it you have to start by taking illegal drugs. This is almost certainly much more common among people who have to prove themselves perhaps in many cases because they are reacting to a history of child abuse and bullying. Then they respond by deciding they aren’t going to take it anymore and they start muscling up. Michael Kay Green may be a clear example of this. He had a troubled relationship with his father first and then he may have become a paranoid schizophrenic who used steroids before he became a rapist and killer. This is just one of many cases where the child abuse and bullying came first then came one psychosis or another.   

Declining to put more emphasis on this is like trying to teach calculus without going through basic arithmetic first; however that is what many people from the Mass Media do anyway. The Mass Media often portrays any one of these causes of violence as the one and only cause and often ignores the most important contributing causes. Many researchers may realize that child abuse and bullying are leading causes of violence later in life but when the subject is explained to the public it is rarely ever made as clear as it should be. In some cases it is actually refuted. In order to get this point through to the public it needs to be repeated on a regular basis the same way they now repeat the quest for justice by punishing people on a regular basis. In fact this is actually more important since it could do a lot more to prevent violence. If punishment as a deterrent worked half as good as the advocates of this solution claim it would have worked much better by now since they have been doing it for a long time. That doesn’t mean they have been doing it consistently for a long time that is also a problem that needs to be addressed. Punishment in the past has often been politically motivated. 

First posted on tripod 11/23/09

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