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School Shootings: The Columbine Generation Copes

A Columbine survivor speaks out about shool shootings and their impact on youths.

Columbine Generation? continued...

"Columbine sent shock waves through every school in America," says Poland. "My daughter, Jill, was an eighth-grader in Houston at that time. She didn't want to get out of the car the next morning because she was afraid."

Researchers haven't yet studied the impact that the string of school shootings has had on the teens and young adults who have grown up with such crimes.

"I think if there's a cumulative effect, it's because we don't talk about things the way we should," says Poland.

"You can run a theory that says they'd be more fearful because they've had more of these incidents in their lives and so it seems that life is more unpredictable, and if you add 9/11 to that, it's even been a stronger part of their lives," Patrick Tolan, PhD, director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, tells WebMD.

"On the other hand," says Tolan, "these kinds of things have been in their lives in a such a way that it may not be as shocking as much as it is for people who grow up not hearing about these things."

Affected From Afar

School shootings are rare, and when they happen, they obviously deal the harshest blow to those on the scene and their loved ones. But they're not the only ones who are affected.

"There's something called vicarious traumatization," says Russell T. Jones, PhD, a professor of psychology at Virginia Tech University. "The phenomenon seems to suggest that being repeatedly exposed to other traumatic events can have a negative impact on a particular individual."

"There are at least some preliminary data that say that even though you weren't there, by witnessing it on television or knowing someone that was involved, you can in fact become traumatized at varying levels," says Jones, who has a secondary appointment at Yale University.

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