AOL, November 22, 2014
A new report asks whether the race and affluence of Adam Lanza’s family influenced decisions about how to care for his mental health problems in the years before he committed the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
Among the findings in the report, which was released Friday by the state office of Child Advocate, is that Lanza’s parents and educators contributed to his social isolation by accommodating–and not confronting–his difficulties engaging with the world.
The report said recommendations from Yale psychologists that he be medicated and undergo rigorous treatment as a child for anxiety and other conditions were rejected by his mother, who eventually took him out of school.
“Is the community more reluctant to intervene and more likely to provide deference to the parental judgment and decision-making of white, affluent parents than those caregivers who are poor or minority?” the report asks. “Would (Adam Lanza’s) caregivers’ reluctance to maintain him in school or a treatment program have gone under the radar if he were a child of color?”
Research has found that upper-middle-class parents are far more likely to be resistant, defensive and even litigious when presented with treatment options suggested by school service providers, said Suniya Luthar, a professor of Psychology at Arizona State University, who has written extensively on the topic of affluence and mental health.
Deferring to those parents can have grave consequences, allowing nascent problems to escalate to serious and sometimes dangerous levels, she said.
The report concluded that Lanza’s autism spectrum disorder and other psychiatric problems did not cause or lead directly to the massacre.
But it found that his “severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems” when combined with a preoccupation with violence, and access to deadly weapons, “proved a recipe for mass murder.”
Lanza killed his mother then shot his way into the Newtown school on Dec. 14, 2012, and gunned down 20 children and six educators before committing suicide.
Joseph Erardi Jr., who became superintendent of schools for Newtown this year, said the report will have great meaning if “there is one school leader, one district, one mental health provider or one set of parents who reads this work and can prevent such a heinous crime.”