Endless adolesence

Dateline: Fri 27 Jul 2012

"Until age 26, you're pretty much all gasoline and no brakes and no steering," said the psychologist/pundit on NPR this past week.

He was speaking of the suspect in the Colorado Batman killings, whose name is being blotted out by all sorts of media out of respect for those he killed and wounded.

The man accused of the crimes (12 dead, 59 wounded, innocence lost) is 24 years old.

So based on some theories of brain development -- the frontal cortex (the brain's CEO) does not mature until 25 years or so -- that guy apparently did not have the wits to make a wise decision and not murder human beings; he lacked impulse control.

You can read all about the frontal cortex and its maturity issues here:


With all due respect, tho, does it seem to anyone else that we are stretching out the length of adolescence to almost unreal proportions? What about all the people in their early 20s who don't kill others, and in fact become responsible members of society -- teachers, nurses, husbands and wives, parents -- the list is endless. How come some people can command their impulses, and others seemingly cannot?

And if brain development  is posited as an explanation for what happened in Colorado, how come no empathy was shown for a kid named Greg Ousley from Warsaw, Ind., who killed his parents at age 14 and was sentenced to adult prison?

"In early 1994, Greg, then 15, entered the Indiana penitentiary system to begin serving a 60-year sentence. He was one of the youngest adujlt inmates in the state's history," writes Scott Anderson, in the July 22 New York Times Magazine.


There seems to be, at the very least, a lack of continuity or understanding about age and maturity in this country, where we can vote at age 18, serve in the armed forces at 18, drink at age 21 and rent a car at age 25. 

Yet kids get sent to adult prison?

And the Batman killer gets what sounded like a pass from a shrink who knows his stuff?

Explain it to me, someone. 



Whitebeard [unverified] said:

What I've been hearing from psychiatrists analyzing this tragedy is schizophrenia. The symptoms of this mental illness can begin in childhood, as was the case with a little 7-year-old girl I saw in a TV documentary recently about the illness in children.

We, as a society, always seem to need to "make sense" in tragedies like this when often there is no sense to be made. A psychotic person has no capacity to make sense because they are inhabiting unreality. He/she has a severely broken brain.

Speaking of studies of the brain, I saw one documentary in which CAT scans showed the very dramatic and obvious differences between the brains of schizophrenics and the brains of "normal" humans.

If this is indeed the permanent diagnosis of the young man in question, energy expressed in outrage and anger by many needs to be converted into passion for early diagnosis and treatment of the severely mentally ill.

2012-07-27 15:05:33

ruthholl [Member] said:

I've just read a news report about his being treated by a psychiatrist while at college. So as much sense as we can make, this explanation does offer some valid perspective.
I do know a bit about schizophrenia: it tends to manifest in adolescence or young adulthood; it is hard to treat; and until medication is in place and working, the results can be devastating. If indeed it turns out that Mr. Holmes is seriously mentally ill, we can all stand to educate ourselves about schizophrenia, NAMI, etc.
Thanks WB.

2012-07-27 21:03:57

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