Now that the smoke is starting to settle, literally and figuratively, in the Boston area, experts and pundits are beginning to try and shed some light at the bizarre events of the past week. From geopolitical to law enforcement to national security issues there will be much to dissect for the next foreseeable future.
However, an important dimension to this tragic story receiving less attention which can help clarify some of the personal aspects of this event is the sibling relationship dynamics that produced this catastrophic outcome.
Apparently, older brother Tamerlan, 26, was the brains and heart behind this attack. Many have been asking how is it possible that the seemingly successful, intelligent, and well-mannered younger brother Dzokhar, 19, was willing to go along with his brother’s nefarious plan.
This question becomes even more pressing when considering what is known about Dzokhar. Almost all those being interviewed about him are painting a picture of a great kid. We have learned that he was a scholarship winner at Cambridge Latin School, a star athlete, enrolled in AP classes, had an impressive work ethic, and was just an all-around nice person.
However, when digging deeper about his overall family and sibling dynamics one part of the complex puzzle that is the mind of a killer may be unraveled.
Based on what is coming out of the stories about the family, the father of the siblings seems to be a difficult character, to say the least. Aside from being estranged from his brother in Maryland, the uncle of the bombers, Anzor Tsarnaev’s reaction to what his children allegedly did in Boston during a belligerent interview was to claim that his children were set up and blamed the FBI for all of this. Other stories indicate that he does not communicate much with his children.
Growing up with harsh parenting can often lead to what sibling researchers refer to as sibling compensation. Siblings often compensate for the lack of parental support by developing an intense bond with a sibling as a substitute for the negativity coming from the parents. I suggest that over the years, younger brother Dzokhar developed this type of relationship with his older brother Tamerlan.
Add to this sibling compensation dynamic the fact that over the past few years Dzokhar’s parents lived across the ocean while his older brother took on many responsibilities in caring for him. Tamerlan became somewhat of a father figure to Dzokhar amplifying the bond between them. With this vacuum of parental love, Dzokhar desperately relied on Tamerlan for support.
Older brothers are often looked up to by younger brothers. When added to this natural facet of families the sibling compensation dynamics and the absence of parents, Dzokhar following of Tamerlan may be clarified. It is no coincidence that older brother, Tamerlan, was a boxer while younger brother, Dzokhar, pursued wresting. Dzokhar wanted to be like his brother.
Unfortunately Dzokhar’s desire to be like his brother took on a tragic dimension as he slowly internalized violent messages from the big brother he so desperately depended on. The outcome of this demented sibling bond was the injury of 168 and the tragic death of three innocent individuals out to cheer on the runners of the Boston Marathon.
Once older brother Tamerlan was dead early Friday Dzokhar was alone. Without his brother, his mentor, his guide, he was left with nothing crawled up in a backyard in the fetal position waiting to be found.