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Why troubled youths don’t ‘connect’

Vol. 4, No. 8 / August 2005

“Adolescent violence: What school shooters feel, and how psychiatrists can help” (Current Psychiatry, June 2005) is a good article but falls short. Youths do need “connection, connection, connection,” but this observation is too general.

I am a Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) coach and BFST emphasizes the family or system in which the patient finds himself. If a positive child/family relationship were as simple as just connecting, the family or system would already have done so. If it has not, it probably cannot for many reasons.

BFST explores family generational information, stressors within the family, and the anxieties these youngsters are being asked to lug around with them. All treatment, especially with children, needs to include looking at family patterns, helping “identified patients” see where they are in the system and to whom they are reacting, and helping them change their behavior so that they can differentiate themselves from others. The universal rule of change is that a person can only change himself. Working to change others is counterproductive and ineffective.

Armed with at least a preliminary understanding of these concepts, patients can march forward on their own. No one gets blamed and there is no polarization. Instead, the youth can stay neutral in the face of problems and stand for his or her beliefs. Kids with these skills need not resort to violence. They have many other choices.

M. Cybil Britton, APRN, BC
Omni House, Inc. (community mental health clinic)
Glen Burnie, MD

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