Dr. Gail Saltz
Jordan Brown, an 11-year old from Pennsylvania, is accused of planning and killing his father’s pregnant girlfriend while she slept. Months ago, an 8-year-old boy shot and killed his father and a tenant in their home.
The idea that a child could actually murder is terrifying and, thankfully, rare. However, children have intense emotions like jealousy and rage…just as adults do. What they don’t have is a fully-developed superego (a moral compass), nor the full understanding of the permanence of death and the consequences of murder.
What makes matters worse is that certain children grow up with access to guns. Some are even taught how to shoot. They do not have the same fear of weapons as children who have never been exposed to guns – and warned of their danger- often have.
It’s a frightening combination: comfort with a weapon, lack of a developed moral filter and intense emotions of jealousy.
Blended families are more common than ever now. Yet there are a lot of difficulties in the adjustment: rivalry with half-siblings, feelings of hurt that a parent now loves another and trying to accept that your own two parents will never get back together. These feelings are pretty par for the course, but they must be handled and discussed. Sometimes outside help is also necessary. Left to fester, these feelings can evolve into depression, deep anxiety and broiling anger.
It is not unusual for a child to wish that the new step-parent would disappear and the ‘old life’ would return. Most children hope for parents to reunite, but marriage to another seals the deal that this will not come to pass.
In Brown’s case, his father and stepmother were also expecting a new child. A new baby in the family can often lead to fears of being replaced. Children in these situations need help. They need to talk. They need adults to listen. They need to be understood.
Jealousy is a powerful emotion. Left unchecked, it has resulted in adults murdering other adults. What adults have to understand now is that kids have equally intense feelings, and they need even more help managing them. And, of course, kids should never have access to guns.
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