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Don't Blame Parents for Sins of the Child

By Mary Brophy Marcus
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 26 (HealthDay News) -- When the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings were identified as two brothers -- one of them a teenager -- many parents wondered, "Who raised these boys?"

Mental health experts say it's normal to want to blame parents or close relatives of young people whose violent acts lead to unfathomable tragedy, but in most cases, it's just not that simple.

Did something in their family life influence Boston Marathon suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar, 19? Could the parents of James Holmes -- the suspect in last summer's Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting -- or the mother of Sandy Hook Elementary School killer Adam Lanza have predicted and stopped such crimes?

The experts don't think so.

"I don't think it's right to point a finger at the parent and say, 'You caused a child to grow up and be a shooter,' " said psychologist Kenneth Dodge, director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University in Durham, N.C. "It's much more complex than that."

You can't predict violence, added Dr. Catherine Mogil, co-director of Child and Family Trauma Service at the Nathanson Family Resilience Center at the UCLA Medical Center, in Los Angeles.

"If we could do that accurately, we'd be able to avoid these incidents," Mogil said. "But we can look at people who have perpetrated violence and see what they have in common. And we can also look at the factors that help people grow up to lead happy, healthy lives."

Factors that parents can't control include genetic conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder, said Dr. Joanne Sotelo, division director of psychiatry at Scott & White Healthcare in Round Rock, Texas.

The earlier these issues are identified and treated, the better, Sotelo said.

"Most kids and adults have a normal range of anger and aggression," Sotelo said. "But when you

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