Re: Re(2): Small Town White Boys - Big Time Coverup

Carolyn E. Adams-Price (cea1@Ra.MsState.Edu)
Mon, 8 Jun 1998 11:52:41 -0500 (CDT)

On Sat, 6 Jun 1998, Marc Proudfoot wrote:

> I believe that is possible to look to any cultural context around the
> world to discover that leaders and dictators have been resonsible for mass
> killings. I acknowledge that these leaders are men so we do have a
> problem with the issues of masculinity, power, violence and control.
> These men, however, are leaders of nations of military movements and the
> small town white boys are just that-- SMALL TOWN WHITE BOYS who have been
> held responsible for the massacre like crimes in the schools.

> So, how do the issues of masculinity, power, violence and control factor
> into the acts of these young boys?

Very interesting and important questions! By the way, Luke Woodham is not
really a small town white boy. Pearl, Mississippi sounds rural, but it's
really less than 10 miles from Jackson, Mississippi, a town of 250,000,
with a crime and murder rate that's about as high as any urban center in
the country.

Let me take a crack at some answers. Like everything else in the world,
violent acts are multiply determined, but I believe that we have done a
terrible job at raising troubled boys.

Here are some scenarios that might produce very violent boys, but I don't
mean to suggest that I'm covering all the variables involved.

OK--you have boys, particularly boys who don't do well in school, and who
are disruptive in class. How are they dealt with? They're punished,
usually physically. If they misbehave more, they're beaten more. They're
told they're no good, that they'll never amount to anything.

And if they continue to be a problem, their parents might take them to a
clinical child psychologist. Most child clinicians are trained as radical
behaviorists. This means that treatment is focused on the control of
behavior, and that there is little discussion of the child's feelings,
and little attempt to make the child feel loved or worthwhile. I'm a
developmental psychology professor, and I've had a lot of contact with the
field of clinical child psychology, and I'm not very impressed. I've known
clinical child psychologists who didn't have a clue about dealing with
depression in their clients. And there's some reason to think that
depression is often expressed aggressively in young males.

The boy or boys might have minimal problems in the brain. They might have
low levels of serotonin, which are associated with lots of problems, such
as alcoholism and depression. They might have a learning disability that
makes school extremely frustrating (which could be caused by events that
occurred while they were fetuses), or low cortical arousal (common in
antisocial adults---these individuals are very easily bored).

Now imagine that this child is raised in a context where guns are
glorified. His grandpa (or other male figure) is the one person he cares
about, and grandpa has a huge gun collection, and thinks having lots of
guns makes you a real man. And grandpa likes to use the guns, too, to
shoot squirrels, birds, etc.

Maybe his family is very chaotic. People scream at each other, and blame
each other for their problems, and threaten to kill each other. Maybe the
men he's around usually blame women for their problems. Maybe they beat
women. Maybe they beat him, and mom doesn't protect him (so he comes to
think it's her fault that he's beaten by these big powerful men---hey,
isn't that the cultural myth--that it's mom's fault that dad beats you.)

When gender roles change, and we are more open to boys' feelings, when we
become less obsessed with beating the badness out of them, and when we
teach them that women are worthy of respect, this pattern of
aggressiveness in young males will disappear.

Carolyn Adams-Price, PhD
Associate professor of psychology
Mississippi State University

new message to this message