Can Violent Tendencies Be Spotted Even before they are Committed?

Amy Taylor October 07, 2019

 12 people were shot dead while 58 were injured after a 24 year-old gunman showered firearms during the screening of Batman movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, in Aurora Colorado. That was a tragic story that has hit the world, and it posed questions to many of us. Is there any way that a gunman can be spotted even before committing the crime? Is there a profile? What could be the possible factors that make people act this way? And what can we do to prevent them?

Warning Signs of Violent Behaviours

Parents play a very big role in preventing violent behaviours among their children. Jack Levin, PhD, a professor of Sociology and Criminology at Northeastern University in Boston who has written numerous books on violence, pointed out the importance of determining possible signs and symptoms that show whether a child has a tendency to commit violent acts as he or she grows up. There are three instances that could lead to violent behaviour, Levin pointed out. They are: chronic depression for a long period of time, social isolation, blaming everyone else for one’s own difficulties.

During childhood, a tendency to commit violence in adulthood can be spotted. One sign is animal abuse. Not all kinds of animal abuse however demonstrate a tendency towards violent behaviours. But there’s a very rare sign, according to Levin. It’s inflicting pain and suffering on a dog or cat, with personal contact, such as mutilating, suffocating, and stabbing. Parents who see this sadistic approach in their children should take it seriously, because there’s a link between animal abuse and human violence, he explained.

Levin also suggest paying close attention to young adults – from 18 to 25. This is because it’s usually the time when major mental issues emerge. It’s when symptoms of schizophrenia develop, and when the rate of suicide is much higher.

Violent Video Games turning Gamers into Deadly Shooters

In a study published in Communication Research, published by SAGE, scientists demonstrated a link between violent video games and one’s tendency to shoot in real life. They found that shooting video games may improve firing accuracy and influence players to aim for the head when using real guns.

The study involved 151 college students who were asked to play various types of violent and non-violent video games. These include those that have human targets in which players were rewarded every time they target the head. After playing the game for 20 minutes, participants were then asked shoot a total of 16 bullets from a realistic gun to a life-size, human-shaped mannequin.

Those who played violent shooting games hit the mannequin 33% more than did the other participants. 99% of them hit the mannequin’s head.

According to study authors Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad J. Bushman, people who play violent video games are more likely to repeat the same behaviour in real life. Their findings remained consistent even when they add controls such as firearm experience, gun use and attitude towards it, amount of exposure to violent shooting games, and the participants’ level of aggressiveness.

Their results show a concrete indication of the potential effects of playing violent shooting games to individuals and how it influences or hones their shooting capabilities and accuracy. The pistol-shaped controller that was used by the participants during the game has served as a more realistic way of practising said skills, the researchers explained.

What Can We Do to Prevent Them?

The study tells us that playing violent video games, whether or not it involves shooting, could badly influence one’s tendency to commit violent behaviour. Thus, parents should discourage their children from playing them.

According to Levin, parents must be able to know whether their children are troubled long before they cause troubles to others. We should intervene when we see someone, a child or even an adult, who is in trouble, who feels powerless, who is crying out for our help as this is the right thing we need to do.