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Violence can occur in any situation and any person can at any point become a victim or perpetrator of violence. Whatever the case may be, there are factors that have contributed to such violence. Some people are prone to become violent or have a high-risk of being violent due to their attachments with parents during childhood. Violence, in other words, is an action that causes physical harm. An explanation of the attachment theory is that early childhood experiences with parents can contribute to a child’s later development and human relationships that they may encounter (Hines & Morrison, 2005). In other words, individuals who had secure attachments with their caregivers are going to be individuals who see themselves and others in a positive manner while individuals with insecure attachments are going to view themselves and others negatively (Hines & Morrison, 2005). It is important to take into consideration factors such as parents’ attention to young children because this creates a sense of security and builds a young child’s self-esteem knowing that their loved ones care and love them. Unfortunately, young children who have been exposed to violence and whose parents have been inconsistent with their care and affection towards them will develop a sense of worthlessness and a long road of problems ranging from violence to hopeless relationships (Kesner & McKenry, 1998). According to Hines and Morrison (2005), attachment styles do and can influence violence, especially if a child has been a victim of abuse is a high indicator of a child who will most likely lead a life of violence and later aggression problems which in any case creates a society of violence that could have been prevented.
There are different kinds of violence. However, I will focus on domestic violence, childhood trauma and later violent offending and prisoners’ attachment styles and violent behaviors. In a research study by Kesner and McKenry (1998), the purpose was to identify possible attachment styles of men in predicting male-to-female relationship violence. Furthermore, this study included analyzing attachment factors that can lead or contribute to domestic violence. The researchers believe that every relationship is shaped by previous ones and this will help to identify the kinds of relationships that individuals will have and even the way that individuals think about and respond to others in relationships (Kesner & McKenry,1998). In addition, as the individual grows older, the model or attachment styles that they become accustomed to shapes their personality type which serves as an interpreter for the types of attachment relationships that they will have, which in any case, influences all kinds of behavior, particularly violence. Three attachment styles are identified as adult attachment styles that can be characteristic of individual’s behavior in existing and future intimate relationships (Kesner & McKenry, 1998). The attachment styles are secure, avoidant and anxious/ambivalent. Through the results gathered during the study, it was found that people who acquire a secure attachment style have long-lasting and happier intimate relationships. Whereas, individuals who acquire the avoidant attachment style have fear of intimacy and jealousy. The anxious/ambivalent individuals are identified as having emotional highs and lows, thinking obsessively of their partner and a strong desire to be with their partner ( Kesner & McKenry, 1998). In comparing how different attachment styles can create violence and aggression problems in individuals, the results for this study suggest that anger in a relationship has a function that helps to alert the partner that there is an unmet need in their intimate attachment. This violence can serve as an alert that there is unavailability and fear of separation from their partner (Kesner & McKenry, 1998). Moreover, the studies showed that violent men are more rejection-sensitive than nonviolent men. In their study of 121 men who were court mandated to get treatment for domestic violence their scores of fearful attachment styles were related to characteristics like jealousy, anger and verbal abuse which escalates into violence through the adult attachment style questionnaire.
According to Worley, Walsh and Lewis (2004), in interviews with men who have gone to jail for domestic violence all seem to describe their relationships with parents as not loving since they never felt affection or love from them and others were removed from their homes as young children never being able to fully experience a parent-child relationship. Many of the men described their mothers as being responsible for cleaning for them and feeding them but never felt an emotional attachment with them (Worley, et al., 2004). When asked how their relationships were affected by violence, all men said that it was difficult for them to control their anger and had no patience when they had an argument with their intimate partner and usually escalated to yelling and physical abuse (Worley, et al., 2004). These results suggest that many of these men had insecure avoidant or ambivalent relationships with their parents growing up and since they received little attention and love from them as kids, now as adults have had a hard time expressing their emotions without the use of violence (Worley, et al., 2004). Furthermore, the men said that since they were exposed to violence in their own families as kids they didn’t know any better than to solve every problem with violence (Worley, et al., 2004). It was also found that many of these men didn’t expect much from their parents and tried to avoid having to ask them for help or ask for money just to avoid the frustration and anger that they would receive (Worley, et al., 2004). Finally, the results suggest that the excessive lack of attention and love from their parents had created anger and frustration in them because they have had many unmet needs that as adults, these childhood problems were starting to affect their intimate relationships as they struggled to understand how a relationship works without having to use violence (Worley, et al., 2004).
According to Renn (2002), in a research study that he conducted in a probation setting with several men with a history of being violent, many had unresolved issues from when they were younger ranging from experiencing physical abuse to seeing their mothers being beaten. There was a connection between childhood trauma and later violent offending. In order to see if parenting styles could have an effect on anger and violent problems in these men, the attachment theory was analyzed in comparing attachment styles and later violence (Renn, 2002). Some of the results of the study suggest that indeed many of these men as children were separated from their attachment figure whether from lack of attention or absolute removal from the home. As these men got older using violence and aggression in their daily lives was due perhaps to distress and unresolved issues connected to childhood trauma (Renn, 2002). Evidently, many of these men spoke about feeling lonely, desperate and lack a of emotion towards many life circumstances since they were prevented from creating parent-child relationships and emotional connections with their parents (Renn, 2002). Furthermore, the men also suffered from separation anxiety, grief, mourning and defiance (Renn, 2002). Nonetheless, these men grew to express anger and violence in many life situations which would get them into trouble. Using violent behaviors was the way in which they could express their frustration and protest of a longing for bonding. These men didn’t know any better than to shut themselves down emotionally causing their bursts of violence to bring upon them even worse consequences like incarceration (Renn, 2002).
Ross and Pfafflin (2007) conducted a study in a prison in Germany through the Adult Attachment Prototype Rating which assesses behavioral styles in attachment situations, which focuses around the past and present interpersonal relationships and behavior. It consists of an interview, a prototype rating, and a self-report scale. Through this measure the researchers were able to find that many of the men had suffered from insecure attachment styles as children and this has, in the long run, created problems such as violent behaviors which has landed them in jail ( Ross & Pfafflin, 2007). Many of the men said that they never met their fathers or their fathers had left when they were young. Therefore, their mothers were left alone to care for them (Ross & Pfafflin, 2007). Furthermore, since their mothers had the responsibility to work they never spent quality time together and were always left in the care of a neighbor or relative (Ross & Pfafflin, 2007). In addition, the results showed the different types of attachment styles that suggest the possible causes of many of the men’s violent behaviors (Ross & Pfafflin, 2007). The two attachment styles found were insecure- ambivalent and insecure-dismissing. The insecure- ambivalent men had excessive dependency, borderline features, need for excessive care and were enmeshed and preoccupied (Ross & Pfafflin, 2007). The insecure-dismissing men had obsessive-compulsive behaviors, defensive separation and lack of interpersonal sensitivity (Ross & Pfafflin, 2007). Many of the men were in jail for domestic violence, robbery and a small percentage for murder suggesting that a lack of bonding with parents as children didn’t allow them to be able to form normal relationships with intimate partners as well as with society which undoubtedly caused them to act out before thinking and use violence to resolve their problems (Ross & Pfafflin, 2007). Some men told the researchers that they were constantly angry with the world and themselves because they felt that maybe it was something that they did wrong which did not allow them to have their mothers’ attention and everyone else around them always seemed to have had good relationships with their parents. Therefore, showing signs of jealousy because of the lack of attention and love they never received (Ross & Pfafflin, 2007).
Through the results gathered in the studies that I have talked about ,it appears that these men seem to have had long-term consequences in their behaviors due to their different attachment styles and they seem to be more affected than women. Having a secure parent-child relationship as a child seems to prove that in the long run, these children will have better relationships. They will be happier and not use violence as a means to solve their problems because they have been exposed to better and healthier ways of approaching life. Preventing children from suffering insecure attachment styles seems to be a solution to keeping violence from occurring and if violence stops, then there is a higher chance of living in a society where everyone can get along. Some ways to start this process can perhaps be by assigning children who have a higher chance of insecure attachments to therapists that can help them build confidence in themselves. Moreover, helping children find safe and loving relationships in which their emotional needs will be accepted and loved without judgment. Healing from insecure attachment styles may require taking chances with unmet needs and realizing that not everyone else will ignore them or fail to give them love because there are people that care for them and want them to be good people. An even better approach is to let parents know about the importance of having good relationships with their children because this in turn will help them to become adults with confidence and the security that their loved ones support them. Maybe, creating classes where individuals can be taught to be loving, understanding and caring parents even before they have children as a way to start fresh and with a sense of security that they will know how to attend to their children’s needs positively and with love.
A Positive Attachment style helps individuals to be confident in themselves and helps them to form happy and positive relationships in which they are able to bring out the best of themselves. It is the responsibility of parents to instill in their children love, respect and security because part of bringing them into the world is being able to give their kids everything from morals to positive attention. If parents are not willing to provide their children with the necessary love then why bring their kids into the world. A famous case that is related to what happens when a child has an insecure attachment style is Charles Manson. He is proof of what happens when there is a lack of bonding with parents. Charles Manson was born to a 15 year old girl who was involved in prostitution and who would always leave Charles in the care of somebody else, never being able to provide Charles with the necessary love and attention that he needed in order to be an individual who was confident and secure . Furthermore, Charles Manson spent the first twelve years of his life from home to home, always feeling rejected and unloved. When he was 12, his mother turned him over to the state and he was placed in foster care. In an interview with Manson, he said that he remembers spending a lot of time in jail since he was twelve years old. He used to be a thief and get into many fights which caused him to constantly be behind bars. Furthermore, he said he felt lonely and rejected most of his life because he felt that since he got into trouble all the time he gave everybody the wrong impression of him. Instead of listening to him he was always criticized and judged. It seemed that Manson’s constant need to steal came from his need to call something his own which would allow him to create an identity for himself since he had never been allowed to do so. As an adult, this resulted in many consequences which involved violence and murder. He was responsible for encouraging and abusing his followers to commit several killings that occurred in the Hollywood Hills in 1969 which displayed extreme anger and violent bursts from Charles Manson’s part. His entire life had been filled with anger, violence, rejection and criticism of not being understood or loved which is almost to say that he would risk killing and going to jail if that meant that he would receive attention even if it was negative. This may possibly be one of the worst cases of childhood trauma and insecure attachment which created a monster filled with a desire for revenge against the world which could have been prevented if he would have received the proper attention and care from his mother or caregivers. Manson was afraid of being left alone that when his followers tried to leave his violent cult he would threaten to kill them if they tried to. This extreme fear of loneliness and being rejected led Manson to think of cruel ways to manipulate his followers as long as he knew that he wouldn’t stay alone just as he had been all his life.
It is not hard to understand that when a child is treated improperly and is made to feel unloved and worthless that there will be long-term consequences for this child. It is very difficult to imagine the many endless consequences that a child can encounter when they are being ignored by their loved ones but it is very important and necessary to look at violent individuals’ childhood experiences in order to be able to see a little of where they come from and how these childhood experiences have shaped their present behaviors and the constant need to get into trouble. For a young child to have to venture out into the world alone without an authority figure or someone to look up to for support and love, life just becomes another burden to have to endure and Charles Manson is an exact example of someone who has been condemned to live a life of violence and anger due to the lack of rules or authority figures to instill in him the proper ways to live accordingly in society. From what I have learned from the research studies that I have mentioned, I can say that Charles Manson is an extreme case of insecure disorganized attachment. All his life he had been rejected, left alone and maltreated which is more than sufficient to make a young child traumatized for the rest of his life. Not having been able to create stable and secure attachments with others growing up has caused him as an adult to not be able to form loving intimate relationships causing him to act in the most violent ways in order to get attention even if it means being seen in a negative light. There was no way that Manson could have understood that being violent and encouraging others to kill was incorrect if he had never had anybody to tell him otherwise. I feel that Manson took out revenge on the people that he sought out to be killed because this was his way of expressing that these people couldn’t live a good life while he was suffering inside, being torn between anger and trauma of having to be alone without anybody to love him. As the studies showed, many of these men that had been convicted of violent crimes had suffered improper care and rejection. Many of the men grew up without fathers and their mothers had to work all the time which made it impossible for them to spend quality time together. This is exactly what happened to Manson since he grew up without his father and his mother would always leave him with neighbors in order to lead a life that consisted of drugs and prostitution. Manson was left alone to look after himself and figure out how he was to survive by breaking the law at any given moment. I would say that it is more than normal for Manson to have expressed so much violent behavior throughout his life because he was constantly being reminded of how lonely and unloved he felt. He didn’t know any better than to behave badly because whenever he did, he was given attention regardless if it was negative. This was perhaps the only way that he felt that he mattered. He never thought about his actions before he did it because he was so impulsive and just wanted to get things done quickly and in his own way. The insecure attachment that he experienced throughout his life perhaps made him suspicious and he wasn’t able to trust anybody because he didn’t know who could hurt him or turn their backs on him just as his mother had done to him . Manson could have grown up to be secure of himself and his relationships could have had great success but the neglect and worthlessness that he felt made it impossible for him to accomplish. Instead, he turned to banditry and murder in order to feel that he belonged and that he was important in some way when it could have all been prevented if only someone could have given him genuine love and proper care. The Attachment theory could be used to prevent violence if young children are given the proper love and care from the moment they are born. Then, they will grow up to be confident and secure in themselves and able to build strong and happy relationships in which they can bring out the best in themselves to be secure and confident individuals.
On April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado at Columbine High School, a deadly school shooting took place killing 13 people and leaving many more injured. The two boys who committed the violent crime and then killed themselves were Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. These boys came from hard working, middle class families who were just trying to live a normal life. It seems that the boys became addicted to playing a game called “Doom” which depicts violent slayings of cartoon characters. The violence that these boys displayed during the shooting was traced back to their homes, where police had found a shotgun barrel and bomb-making materials which the boys’ parents had never even noticed. Furthermore, new research suggests that neither boy had been bullied as it was found that in their diaries they bragged about picking on freshmen and “fags” . It seems that one was a psychopath and the other suffered depression. It seems that both boys’ psychological problems is what caused them to be ignored and in return made them angry at their peers believing that they were the ones causing them to feel left out and lonely. It could also be possible that the parents were not involved in the boys’ lives as much since they were constantly working which is obvious when the police went to the boys’ homes and found guns and bomb-making materials that the parents never even noticed. The parents should have been more aware of what their children were up to and more involved with them to be able to have seen the warning of what their children where planning to do. Obviously, these boys had a lot of anger in them and found their peers to be the targets of their suffering and loneliness. In relevance to attachment it seems that the boys could have had insecure attachments with their parents because it seems that the parents were not as involved with them as they should have been. If the parents would have talked to them and spent more quality time with them it is probable that they would have discovered their children’s evil plans and could have prevented it. The loneliness and rejection that the boys felt both from their parents and peers created in them a sense of revenge to get rid of the causes that had made them miserable driving them to the point of killing. The tragic shooting at Columbine High School shows that insecure attachments with peers and loved ones can create violence and anger in certain individuals resulting in terrible violent an deadly crimes.
In conclusion, different attachment styles which are created by parents and caregivers from the time children are born are connected to how they will develop as adults. Individuals with secure attachments will grow to become confident and secure in themselves being able to create healthy relationships. Individuals with insecure attachments will have more difficulty since they might not be able to trust anybody and form reckless relationships in which they will express a more aggressive and violent side of themselves. In all the studies that I have talked about and the incident of the Columbine High School shooting, it was evident that the constant lack of correct supervision and support led many of the individuals to build anger within themselves making them turn to lives of violence leaving many in jail and others dead. It is possible that when parents are there at every second of their child’s life that they will feel that they matter and go out into the world confident able to confront challenges properly rather than being violent and hostile creating a more violent society than what it already is.
Hines, D.A., & Malley-Morrison, K. (2005). Family Violence in the United States: Defining, Understanding, and Combating Abuse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Kesner, J., & McKenry, P. (1998). The role of childhood attachment factors in predicting male violence toward female intimates. Journal of Family Violence, 13 (4), 417-432.
Renn, P. (2002). The link between childhood trauma and later violent offending: The application of attachment theory in a probation setting. Attachment & Human Development, 4(3), 294-317
Ross, T., & Pfäfflin, F. (2007). Attachment and interpersonal problems in a prison environment. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 18(1), 90-98
Worley, K., Walsh, S. & Lewis, K. (2004). An examination of parenting experiences in male perpetrators of domestic violence: A qualitative study. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 77 (1), 35-54.
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