Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, are the Boston Bombing suspects. The death of the older brother and the hunt for the younger brother placed Boston on lock-down on Friday April 19,2013. Many have been asking of this and other events, “What type of person would commit such a heinous act.” What influenced them? Were they self-radicalized Muslims or were they influenced by the Muslim separatists/radicals in Chechnya? One report indicated that Dzhokhar allegedly said to one of his friends that terrorism was not a serious issue if you came from the place where he came from. Consequently, Dzhokhar may have been influenced by a terroristic ideology with the thinking that terrorism and loss of life and limb was okay. Dzhokhar had internet ties in Russia and could have been radicalized though these connections or self-radicalized. Tamerlan, reportedly, had become very religious in a way that may not have been very tolerant of other belief systems, reportedly saying, “I have no American friends. I don’t understand them.” He may also have been a subscriber to strict Muslim theology, including Jihad.
In general terms, cultural violence, as is seen in similar events related to Al Qaeda, may be a stage of the evolution of cultures when ethnic groups fight with each other to maintain control over limited resources. This was perhaps a necessary stage as cultures evolved over the centuries, but not necessary in modern times. This stage is followed by the cooperation of ethnic groups for the mutual benefit of both, which is followed by the integration of cultures in industrialized nations.
While the truth may come out in the coming weeks and months, there is another possible explanation for the violent behaviors of these two brothers. There appear to be two groups of young people that are violent. One group is the life-long, aggressive, ego-centric delinquent, with a prior trauma history, not successful in school, and that lacks skills to cope with the problems of the world (antisocial). This does not appear to apply to our two suspects since it appears that they were successful in school, well liked, and pro-social. The second group of violent youth includes the narcissistic, (often) psychotic, delusional, or obsessive, very intelligent youth that seems like a regular non-violent person who does well academically, but hits an ego destructive stressor with which he is unable to cope. His reaction to this stressor may become delusional.
In either event, it appears that the two suspected bombers elected to use violence to solve a problem. In industrialized nations, violence as a method to solve problems should be developmentally eliminated by the age of 5 or 6 by parents that teach children to find other ways to solve their problems. In summary, using violence to get one's needs met can a result of cultural, delusional, or antisocial influences. In the Boston Bombing case, it may be one of these or a combination of factors that triggered the horrific destruction of life, limb, property, and our sense of safety. We will have to await further details.
Kathryn Seifert, PhD, is Executive Director of Eastern Shore Psychological Services, a private practice that focuses on serving children, adolescents, and at-risk youth and their families. She is a psychotherapist, author, speaker, and researcher specializing in family violence and trauma. She has over 30 years of experience in mental health, addictions, and criminal justice work. She has published numerous articles on violence, risk, and trauma, and is the author of CARE (Child and Adolescent Risk for Evaluation: A Measure of the Risk for Violent Behavior), a manual and assessment tool kit that allows mental health professionals to understand the risk of potential violence in youth. The kit is widely used and trusted as a premier risk assessment test in the industry. Besides CARE, Dr. Seifert has authored and published a training DVD on disrupted attachment patterns and a book entitled How Children Become Violent. She has lectured nationally and internationally. Dr. Seifert is past President of the Maryland Psychological Association.