Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Father Factor in the Tucson Shooting

"The family was contemptuous. It wasn't the son. It was the father."

Those are the words of a female neighbor of alleged Tucson shooter, Jared Loughner. As details about the Loughner’s family begin to emerge, a not unexpected picture is coming into focus. Apparently, Loughner’s father, Randy, was far from a positive force in the life of his son and family.

Another individual who used to spend a lot of time with the Loughners said the family's home was "cold, dark and unpleasant" and that he always felt "unwelcomed."

Most importantly, this same former friend said he never observed “a particularly loving relationship between the Loughners.” Finally, and sadly, Loughner once told this friend that he loved his dog more than his parents. More details are here.

This is not entirely different than what we learned about the D.C. sniper after his shooting rampage in the fall of 2002. As details of Lee Malvo’s family life emerged, it became clear that he did not have a close relationship with his father – he was, in fact, desperately yearning for a close relationship with his father and tragically chose John Muhammad to replace him.

Decades of research show that boys who have fractured or nonexistent relationships with their fathers are more likely to act out violently than sons who are close to their fathers. Unfortunately, our nation’s prisons are filled with men who had poor relationships with their dads.

Clearly, there were a number of factors that led to Jared Loughner’s heinous act, but to ignore the “father factor” is to ignore an important root. We will continue to monitor this situation as more details of his family life emerge. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.


  1. While I sat in the ER the other night with one of my young sons, another young man 9 years old sat down beside us. His mother went outside and started a barrage of yelling obscenities at the other person on the end of a phone call. He looked over at me and asked, "Why can't my parents just get along, ma'am?" with tears in his eyes. He went on to say that his mother was always yelling as his father and his father had gone to jail because of one of his most recent fights with his mom. His questions were so poignant for a young man. The only advice I had for him was to 1. believe in his Heavenly Father, who didn't make up for his earthly father who he missed, 2. remember how this night was and treat whomever his wife and mother of his kids would be the way he wanted his mother to be treated, 3. always be there for his children no matter what, and 4. if he could hold onto the promise of these better things to come his heart could stay healthy and full of love for those who would need him when he was a grown man. His eyes brightened and he said thank you. My young son turned and looked at him and said, "My mom and dad didn't always get along but they do now - I hope your parents will soon." I was ashamed of what a short period of strife could cause such a memory for my young son but thankful for our family that we had the examples to keep trying and mend, heal, and strengthen our family. I was reminded it's never too late to move forward.
    Jenn - Norfolk, VA

  2. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the theory that father's are important to the development of children. Although the studies often highlight the differing parenting styles of mothers and fathers, there is little doubt that both are important.

    In many cases, both boys and girls have a biological drive to be connected to both mom and dad. Sadly, the two cases highlighted in the above column may reflect this idea. Lee Malvo may well have been looking for a father figure and unfortunately made a poor choice in taking John Muhammad as a father figure. We may never know how much of an influence a disconnected relationship between Jared and Randy Loughner had on his decisions of that terrible day in Arizona where he took human lives.

    Somehow, we need to find a way to let fathers know it is ok to show your kids love and affection, we do not have to simply be wage earners and disciplinarians.

    The comments of Jenn from Norfolk, VA are well said; however, I would point out one part of what she wrote. She indicates that she witnessed a mother hailing a "barrage of obscenities" at the person on the other end of the line. She also indicated that the young man she met stated that his father had recently been put in jail for an incident between the mother and father. One must consider the possibility that this father has been emotionally punished by this mother and his jailing was a result of a mother out who understand she can use a legal system to keep dad away from his children. It is possible that this father wants more than anything to be a dad to his kids, yet he is being kept away by a mother and a system that supports that.

    As an advocate of parents who are facing these situations, my organizations sees this all too often. In many of these cases, fathers are at a distinct disadvantage in that the mother can run to the authorities and in a quick fashon have the father picked up for harrassment. Jenn's advice to the young man was excellent in that he should " remember how this night was and treat whomever his wife and mother of his kids would be the way he wanted his mother to be treated". The question remains, will this young man's future wife and mother of his kids treat him in the way in which he would want his father to be treated.

    Mark J. Antinore, MSW

    President, Equal Parents for Children, Inc.
    P.O. Box 20356
    Rochester, NY 14602

  3. I wonder if the Loughner's ever believed their child could do something like this. It's sad to me that parents (including fathers) are so distant from their children that they don't even see the warning signs. I've always believed that in order to honor those who are the victims of tragedy that we should try to make sure some good comes from the tragedy. For me, I will make sure I talk to my kids about even the tough/sad/horrible things.

  4. Political Correctness and Radical Feminism try to negate traditional gender roles in the family context - they try to tell us that gender identities are irrelevant and 100% formed by society and environment. But much of the excellent information at this website (as well as practical counsel from the Bible) leads me to believe otherwise. After reading this blog I am more convinced than ever that stable family life and responsible fatherhood (along with faith in God)are what we desperately need in our nation.


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