This is continuing from my previous posts starting here - please read for context.
People often adjust their attitudes so as to hold views closer to those of others who they value and identify with - their reference groups. For example, Terry and Hogg (1996) found that the adoption of favourable attitudes toward wearing sunscreen depended on the extent to which the respondents identified with the group advocating this change. Thus, as a result of social comparison with others whom we value, new attitudes can be formed. Consider how this could affect the attitudes we form toward a new social group with whom you have personally had no contact. Imagine that you heard someone you like and respect expressing negative views about this group. Would this influence your attitudes? While it might be tempting to say "Absolutely not", research findings indicate otherwise. Hearing others whom we see as similar to ourselves state negative views about the group can lead us to adopt similar attitudes, without ever meeting any members of that group (eg, Maio, Esses, & Bell, 1994; Terry, Hogg, & Duck, 1999). In such cases, attitudes are being shaped by our own desire to be similar to people we like. Now imagine that you heard someone you dislike and see as dissimilar to yourself expressing negative views toward this group. In this case, you might indeed be unlikely to adopt this person's attitude position. People are not troubled by disagreement with people whom they categorize as different from themselves; in fact, they expect to hold different attitudes from them. It is, however, uncomfortable to differ on important attitudes from people whom we see as similar to ourselves and therefore with whom we expect to agree (Turner, 1991). - Social Psychology (Twelfth Edition) by Robert A Baron, Nylay R Branscombe, & Donn Byrne
As children are growing up they are taking in all of the information around them - they are learning what is socially acceptable by which groups, they are learning what kinds of foods are "good", they are learning what kind of values are given to which things (like education, fashion, animals, money, etc), and they are learning what value is given to the different life forms around them.
Obviously, when a child is young, he/she has a very strong bond with one or both parents - regardless of what the parent feels and shows toward the child. The child looks up at this role model with stars in their eyes, praising the ground the parent walks on. This means that the parent is the most important role model for a child's early formative years. Yes, the child will, in all likelihood, grow up hating their parents - but the foundation that the parent lays down in those early years is extremely difficult to dismantle and redesign.
Obviously this indicates a rather large problem in the area of parenting: parents are teaching their children how to be assholes - children copy their asshole parents and turn into assholes themselves (generally speaking).
Our entire social system is structured on the transferal of attitudes - people trying to be like the people they like and trying to not be like the people they don't like. Unfortunately, at the same time there is the dimension of influence coming in on a subconscious/unconscious level - where people are integrating all sorts of information into themselves without even knowing it, so that they end up being, at least in part, like the people they don't like as well.
And because there is no real integrity in our society, we have all kinds of whacked out people developing where they do crazy things - like shoot up toddlers and schools. In a way, they are not to blame - they had no control over the lives they were born into and all of this disturbing information that is floating around these days, as well as the fact that most people are never taught how to really be their own directors - they are just going along with all of this weird shit they see and hear. We are not taught how to look at the information and actions we come into contact with throughout our lives with clarity - we are simply overrun with it - it invades our senses and takes over our minds. We end up becoming puppets where you can pull this string to elicit that reaction.
Where is the line? At what point will we consider changing our society to stop all the whacky and abusive behaviours? At what point will we look at parents and require that they themselves are taught how to ensure that their children will not grow up to be crazy murderers?