In The News
Are the Aurora perpetrator’s parents responsible for their adult son's actions?
The horrific tragedy that unfolded in Aurora, CO, which was allegedly committed by a 24 year old man who went into a movie theater as a terrorist with a premeditated plan of gunning people down is front and center in our collective consciousness as a country. As the victims’ families and the public at large try to make sense of this attack, this man's past is being dissected under a microscope as law enforcement tries to uncover what would possess a seemingly normal adult to perpetrate such unspeakable and heinous crimes.
Immediately as a parent, the thoughts that haunt me are these; were there signs that this adult was mentally unstable? If so, what did his parents do to help him and by the same token, when is that said individual held liable for the mistakes they’ve made, of their own volition, as an adult? And finally, can you really blame a parent for the transgressions of their adult child or are parents never truly absolved of their parental responsibilities?
I’ve been an outsider watching from the sidelines as several of my friends grappled with adult relatives who they were either constantly bailing out of jail or pleading with to get help for substance abuse. More often than not, their pleas fell on deaf ears and often times these adult relatives-I was informed- had been on this kind of downward spiral since their high school days. I guess my first thought is, who’s to blame?
Can you possibly place the blame on the parents; were they not instrumental enough in their child's earlier years of picking up cues and behaviors that may have foreshadowed his incredibly problematic adulthood? Were this relative’s parents in complete denial about the character of their child? Did they intervene enough when teachers complained about their child’s school work and just how instrumental were they in helping this relative find their mission in life? Is this person’s behavior a result of genetics or bad parenting? I've even found myself worrying about my own kids and whether or not I will be privy to the signs that either one of them is headed down a path of self destruction.
I've seen snippets of the perpetrator's father, who appears to be an average working man. And I wonder-- how could he not have been aware what his adult son was doing? I also think as parents we all have the greatest expectations for our kids. Yes it’s true we all make mistakes, we are not perfect, but I believe the majority of us do our best to provide our kids with their basic needs and then some. And we are careful to monitor their psyche, to teach them right from wrong, to help them manage their aggression and sadness and to help them grow into productive citizens of the world.
But when you are the parent of a child who commits this kind of crime-- you have to wonder at what point did you miss key signs of trouble? At what point did your child begin to harbor such evil thoughts? And what about those parents who did it all; took their kid to therapy, had him on medication, and attempted to be as vigilant as they could? Ultimately, once a child reaches a certain age... can a parent be absolved of their responsibility for this child, who is seemingly just a bad seed?