Dear Doctor,

As a parent of a teenage boy, you cannot help but notice the recent gun violence was carried out by young males. It is scary to think a child you love could ever do such things. Why?


Dear Scared,

We live in frightening times.

Young males are, as you might think, still developing in their capacity to think and control themselves. The neurology of the prefrontal lobes are developing. This is continuing until around age 25. These are the brain centers that offer behavioral control. This is why teens often do the darnedest things.

You, as a parent, play an important role in offering structure and control. Modeling and time spent together are critical. Clearly, you have not abandoned your son to his total independence. He needs you.

Adolescence is a time when values are forming. They tend to be all or nothing. Teens can be strongly idealistic with utter commitment to a point of view. Our species is capable of placing rage at the service of righteousness. Nothing is more dangerous.

As a society, we all have our responsibilities. The argument that says “the gun didn’t do it” is hollow. Guns designed to kill scores of human beings in an efficient and rapid manner do not strike me as suitable for a hunter or gun enthusiast. Common sense would dictate some regulation is in order.

Many other countries require gun owners to be older. Automatic assault weapons are not allowed. Background checks and waiting periods are required. Training in the use of weapons is provided. One wonders why we are so different.

Would these two young men have done what they did if they were 10 years older? We will never know.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at

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