David Bromley, for one, isn’t convinced that the younger generation is going to hell. But he is concerned about the adolescent obsession with violence and death.
Bromley, professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, also sees much in common between previous child scares—such as disappearing children, booby-trapped Halloween treats, hidden messages in rock lyrics—and the current concern over satanism.
“Here you have a whole series of movements that all have in common the idea that something dire is going to happen to children,” says Bromley, author of an upcoming book on the history of Satanism in the United States. One psychosocial explanation for all this worry, he suggests, is parental guilt, taken to the extreme in a time when parents have less and less time to spend with their children.
“These stories (of child-snatching and Halloween tampering) are being told to express fear,” Bromley says. “The fact is, these parents are desperately afraid of what’s happening to their families, and that’s very real.”
For this reason, Bromley urges authorities not to overreact to rumors of animal sacrifice. However, even though the stories may be exaggerated, Bromley also believes there is reason to take a closer look at the latest, and darkest, adolescent preoccupation.
“There is a level of alienation in the symbolism of this subculture that I don’t recall in decades of American youth,” he says. “The wearing of black, the symbols of violence. There’s a morose quality about it.”
A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 1989 edition of Teacher as A Word Of Caution