Tag Archives: Childhood Trauma And Anger

When Ten Year Olds Turn Killers – The Case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson

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The case of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson is well known, so it is not necessary to go into details about it here. Suffice it to say, they were both, at the age of ten, found guilty of abducting and murdering the two year old James Bulger.

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Above: Artist’s impression of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson in court with their legal representatives.

Surprisingly, there seems to have been little media interest in examining the early life experiences of either of the two boys who were prosecuted for the crime, so, in this article, I will look at the environments in which they grew up in order to establish if it is possible to find some clues as to what caused their deeply aberrant behaviour.

Clearly, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson had profoundly intense pent-up anger which they displaced, in a most shocking way, onto the toddler, James Bulger, whom they abducted. But from where did this anger originate? In order to answer this question, it seems common sense to look at their respective home backgrounds.

Robert Thompson had six siblings and it has been written that both he and they were neglected. Furthermore, Robert’s father left the family home when the young boy was just five years old; and this, it seemed, exacerbated his mother’s drinking problem. At one point, too, she attempted to commit suicide.

On top of this, Robert’s father was violent, and, before he left his family, had frequently behaved in a threatening and intimidating way towards Robert, and had also physically punished him on regular occasions.

It appears that due to this extremely stressful environment, all the children in the family became disturbed, taking out their anguish on one another – they would, for example, threaten one another with knives.

Indeed, the family was so disrupted, chaotic and unhappy that one child asked to be taken into care. When he later had to come back to the family home, such was his distress that he attempted suicide.

One point, in particular, I think, goes to show  the extreme extent to which Robert’s mother neglected him : she was rarely with him to provide emotional support on the many days that it was necessary for him to attend court.

Jon Venable’s family, too, was deeply unhappy and unstable – indeed, this state of affairs had led his parents to divorce. His mother, it seems, was something of a narcissist (click here to read my article on narcissism) and was, apparently, far more concerned about her love-life (she had a constant stream of boyfriends) than she was with looking after Jon. She also suffered from mental health problems (predominantly depression) and, like the mother of Robert, had attempted to commit suicide.

Jon was frightened of his mother as she could behave menacingly towards him – he would, for example, take refuge by hiding underneath chairs. More worrying still, he would cut himself with knives (click here to read my article on the relationship between childhood trauma and self-harming).

Together, Jon and Robert would be absent from school without permission. They would shop-lift and become involved in violent incidents. They had also displayed cruelty towards animals – shooting pigeons with air rifles and tying rabits to railway lines so that they were run over by the trains. Such cruelty towards animals is known to be one of the risk factors which predict the development of anti-social personality disorder (sometimes referred to as psychopathy) in adult life (click here to read my article on the link between childhood trauma and the development of anti-social personality disorder).

POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF ENVIRONMENT ON THE BRAIN DEVELOPMENT OF ROBERT THOMPSON AND JON VENABLES :

The healthy development of a region of the brain called the PREFRONTAL CORTEX depends, to a large degree, upon the child experiencing warm, loving, affectionate relationships as he grows up. Jon and Robert were deprived of this which, in turn, is likely to have damaged the development of these brain regions (essentially, without these positive relationships, the brain does not produce enough OPIATES which are needed for the proper development of the particular brain area).

The Prefrontal Cortex :

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The above diagram shows the position in the brain of the prefrontal cortex – it is this area which was possibly damaged in both Robert Thompson and Jon Venables

The prefrontal cortex is responsible for self-control, empathy and the regulation of strong emotions such as anger. If, then, Jon’s and Robert’s prefrontal cortexes were not properly developed, this would provide at least part of the explanation as to why they behaved as they did.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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High Conflict Personality (HCP) Link to Child Trauma

childhood trauma and aggression

High Conflict Personality

Individuals who suffer from the condition of High Conflict Personality (HCP) will often have an underlying personality disorder which falls into the CLUSTER B range (dramatic, emotional and erratic). I have already written a short article about personality disorder clusters – if you would like to read it, please click here. It is quite possible, therefore, that the individual may also suffer from anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder (BPD) or histrionic personality disorder.

Sometimes, however, the person with High Conflict Personality (HCP) may not obviously fall into any of these specific categories, in which case he or she may, instead, be diagnosed with what has been technically termed : ‘personality disorder not otherwise specified’.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HIGH CONFLICT PERSONALITY (HCP)?

These include :

– feeling easily threatened

– tendency to see things in ‘black and white’ (eg ‘good’ or ‘bad’)

– generally untrusting

– tends to view self as victim

– tends to be controlling

highly emotional

highly aggressive

– has marked difficulty accepting blame

– finds it hard to see things from others’ points of view/perspective

– reluctance to take responsibility

– frequently initiates/escalates conflict

– conflict tends to be a very prominent feature of their relationships

– marked tendency to blame others

Often, High Conflict Personality (HCP) is used as a descriptive term rather than as a formal diagnosis.

How Can High Conflict Personality (HCP) Be Treated?

At present, the main treatments are :

– cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) ; click here to read my article on this

– dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) ; click here to read my article on this

– neurofeedback

hypnotherapy

To download a hypnotherapy audio for ANGER CONTROL  click here.

Dvid Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Intermittent Explosive Disorder (I.E.M.) and Childhood Trauma.

childhood trauma and anger

This disorder, which is listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a manual which is used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose mental illness and provides the diagnostic criteria (ie relevant symptoms) by which diagnosis of the specific psychiatric condition is made, is, as the name implies, related to problems a person has with controlling his/her anger.

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According to the DSM, the symptoms of IED are as follows :

1) Several episodes of being unable to suppress impulses of intense anger which leads to serious aggressive acts such as assault and destruction of property

2) The high intensity of the aggression displayed during these episodes is clearly out of proportion to the precipitating event (ie the event that triggered the aggression)

3) The episodes of aggression are not better explained by other mental conditions such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) or anti-social personality disorder.

HOW COMMON IS IED IN THE GENERAL POPULATION?

Research into this area so far suggests that around 5% of the population may suffer from IED during some period of their life-span. Not infrequently, the disorder first appears during adolescence.

Often, too, the disorder will exist co-morbidly (ie together with/alongside) other mental health conditions.

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WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF IED?

IED can very adversely affect many crucial areas of the sufferer’s life, which include : relationships with family, relationships with friends, reputation, career prospects and even freedom (if the uncontrolled aggression results in an incident which leads to being sent to jail). Clearly, then, a person who suffers from IED urgently requires treatment in order to prevent him/her from potentially ruining his/her own life. But in order to treat it, of course, it is first necessary to understand what causes it. In relation to this quest, research has focused on childhood trauma.

WHAT HAS THIS RESEARCH SHOWN?

Research indicates that the experience of childhood trauma, particularly childhood trauma connected to problematic (ie dysfunctional) relationships with parents/carers is the strongest predictor of the development of IED in adulthood. It is thought that the reason for this is that, as a result of such trauma, the affected individual does not learn how to manage his/her emotions nor how to manage the intricacies of interpersonal relationships.

Neurological issues may also be related to IED ; however, I should point out that such issues may themselves have been caused by the childhood trauma – further research into this is necessary.

POSSIBLE THERAPIES FOR IED :

These include :

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). Click here for my article on this.

Trauma Focused CBT. Click here for my article on this.

RESOURCES:

ANGER MANAGEMENT MP3 – CLICK HERE

anger_management_ebook

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David Hosier BSc Hons ; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery

Anger Resulting from Childhood Trauma. Part 1.

child trauma and managing anger

Anger is not a bad thing, if it is APPROPRIATELY EXPRESSED. Expressing it inappropriately will usually get us nowhere and can badly back-fire. However, its appropriate expression is often most effective.

As we begin to realize that what was done to us as children was wrong, anger often emerges (especially when we start to understand all the ramifications of how we have subsequently been affected by it).

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Repressing anger (‘bottling it up’) is often painful and stressful. We can also get to the point when we can contain it no longer and this might result in it being MISDIRECTED (expressed against the wrong person) or in it being expressed in a DESTRUCTIVE and DAMAGING way (to both ourselves and those we interact with).

It is much better if anger is MANAGED and only expressed in a manner which is beneficial.

For some, expressing anger gives rise to a feeling of power, the power that was denied us in childhood, and can therefore feel that by expressing this anger we are in some way protecting ourselves or taking back ‘control’ (though, almost always, uncontrolled outbursts of anger backfire very unpleasantly). The adrenaline associated with such anger can sometimes lead to it being expressed in a very intense way. Whilst this may be understandable, then, such expressions of anger ULTIMATELY HARM THE PERSON EXPRESSING IT.

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THREE CATEGORIES OF ANGER:

1) PRIMARY ANGER.

This is anger which is REASONABLE given what has occurred – it is directly related to what has happened and is not influenced by extraneous factors.

2) SECONDARY ANGER.

The psychologist Aaron Beck, during the 1980s, defined this type of anger as RESULTING FROM FEAR or HURT. WE USE IT TO TRY TO PROTECT OURSELVES AGAINST FURTHER TRAUMA. This type of anger can be EXPLOSIVE and feel as if IT IS ‘TAKING US OVER’. It may occur in response to:

– perceived rejection

– a perceived slight

– a perceived threat

All of the above may trigger memories, consciously or unconsciously, of the original trauma; this can explain the (seemingly) disproportionate intensity of the reaction.

3) PAST ANGER.

This refers to anger we are currently feeling but which STEMS FROM THE PAST. When it is TRIGGERED BY CURRENT EVENTS, the anger we express, similar to the anger illustrated in 2 above, can be disproportionate (to the current event). For example, we may see a mother in the street screaming aggressively at her child which in turn triggers memories of how we ourselves were treated in childhood.

If you have found this post of interest, you may also wish to read my article on ‘Intermittent Explosive Disorder’ by clicking here.

 

RESOURCES :

Traumatic childhoodANGER MANAGEMENT MP3. Click here for details.

 

EBOOKS :

   

 

Above eBook now available for immediate download on Amazon. $4.99 each. CLICK HERE.

David Hosier BSc; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2013 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery