The Shooting in Marysville: Why?
We will be speculating about the motives and mental state of Jaylen Fryberg for many weeks to come. We will probably never know what he was thinking, feeling, or imagining when he brought a gun to school with the intention of shooting friends and relatives on Friday, October 24th. Investigators will try to put together whatever clues they can find and form a likely scenario. But I don’t think we will ever know for certain.
What we do know is very scant and superficial. He was popular. He was well liked. He was on the football team. He was chosen to be in the Homecoming court. He had many friends. He came from a well-known family in the Tulalip tribe. He was connected to his heritage and community.
He doesn’t fit the typical Columbine picture of a disaffected, alienated, isolated youth. So how could this happen? What are the possible causes of such a desperate act?
Revenge. A considerable amount of adolescent aggression and violence is motivated by the desire to punish someone who has caused injury to the teen. Adolescents, especially younger teens, can easily feel humiliated, shamed, or embarrassed. Kids can be very cruel. They can make fun of someone, call them names, start vicious rumors, or use social media to humiliate another teen. This has resulted in violence both towards self and others in the past.
Sexual Relationships. There is no doubt that younger and younger teenagers are having sexual relationships. Some studies have found that over 20% of 14 year olds are sexually active. But can they handle the intense emotions that can be ignited by these relationships?
Teenagers are frequently unable to cope with these strong emotions. Break ups can be painful even for adults who have more emotional and psychological resources. Youngsters will even a more difficult time. And, it is hard for them to talk to adults about their powerful emotions related to their sexual activity. They will talk to their friends. But their buddies have little perspective too.
Adolescent love is not “puppy love” and it’s no laughing matter. The intensity of first love can hit youngsters like a tsunami. Remember Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”.
Drugs. This is a no brainer. Many drugs can cause temporary psychotic symptoms, aggression, and impulsive behavior. This, combined with other factors, can be a lethal combination.
Mental Illness. There are a very small percentage of teenagers who will develop schizophrenia or a major affective illness which can result in hallucinations, paranoia, or delusional thinking. Frequently these kids will show signs and symptoms of abnormal thinking and behavior well before they have a complete break with reality. This is why it is so important for these youngsters to be evaluated as soon as they are appearing strange or unusual to others.
Impulsivity. Adolescents are impulsive. They act before they think. Their brains are still developing, and their ability to anticipate and consider the consequences of their actions is limited. They are guided by their emotions rather than their minds.
Lack of perspective. Teenagers are making the transition from childhood to adulthood. It is a stormy time, fueled by raging hormones, dramatic physical changes, and developmental changes in cognitive function. Adolescents have no experience on the adult stage, and have little or no perspective about the moment. Adults know, from long experience, those momentary painful states—disappointment, hurt, and anger will move across their psychological sky, like clouds on an autumn day. They will be here today and gone tomorrow. But teens don’t have this perspective. Maybe, what they feel today will last forever!
Peer relationships. There is no other time in a person’s life when friendship groups are so important. Teenagers rely on their friends in a way that can be all consuming. This can be both a positive and negative influence.
Access to weapons. This is last, but not least. Having easy or ready access to the implements of destruction is a common theme in school violence. Without the means, temporary intense feelings and impulses can change.
Do you have a theory about what happened?