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If You Were Brian Laundrie's Parent, Would You Turn Him In? The Psychological Reason Why It's Complicated

Photo: YouTube 
Gabby Petito Brian Laudrie

One of the biggest news stories currently happening involves the disappearance of Gabby Petito.

In the public's opinion, her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, is currently the prime suspect despite not yet facing charges in connection to her death. 

The Internet is ablaze with accusations aimed at Laundrie’s parents. Many are theorizing that they’re sheltering him from the law, that they know what he did and they’re protecting him. 

What kind of parents must they be? Who would do something like that? 

Turns out, this is a question that many have debated for centuries, from Classical Chinese Philosophy to Western thinkers. The idea of protecting family from the law or respecting civil society by turning them in has always existed across cultures and eras. 

If you were Brian Laundrie's parents, would you turn in a family member?

This poll on Facebook showcases the current mood and how parents view their obligations to turn in their own children. 

Credit: Facebook

It’s truly difficult to know what lengths you might go to in order to protect those you love, until it happens to you.

If Laundrie’s parents truly are somehow shielding him from the law, the question is whether or not they should be blamed for it. Social media is divided on the subject.

RELATED: Where Brian Laundrie’s Parents May Have Taken Him In Their Camper After He Came Home Without Gabby Petito

Many are calling for punishment if it’s found that they’ve been aiding or abetting their son, while others are taking a more empathetic position and arguing that it’s simply impossible to know what one should do in their position unless you found yourself in their shoes. 

Like the Facebook poll above, it’s difficult to know how many people would give the same response in a vacuum.

The responders are all on a page dedicated to information about the Gabby Petito murder, and many of them have declared Laundrie guilty in their minds.

Not to say that he isn’t, but it’s going to be hard to gauge how those responders would treat their own children if they committed a crime. 

Most people who commit crimes or are involved in wronging someone else have their own version of what happened. It’s very likely that Laundrie would have told his parents his side of things, which may or may not be close to what really happened. 

Family and friends are going to believe what they want to believe when it comes to someone they love. It’s very difficult to look beyond your emotional connection with someone you’re close to.

And, even if you can look past your feelings, that’s no guarantee that you’re going to want to turn in your own family. 

Turning in a family member is an age-old question and ethical dilemma.

Mencius, a neo-Confucianist philosopher who lived during the 2nd century BC, believed that family was more important than civil duty.

Mencius told the story of the emperor Shun, a benevolent ruler and a sage. If Shun’s father had killed a man, he said, then Shun should give up the empire and go into hiding with his father. It was his duty as a son to walk away from power, ritches, and his people. 

RELATED: Another Woman Details Strange Interaction With Brian Laundrie While Driving Him To Where Gabby Petito’s Body Was Found

Now, filial piety is vitally important in the history of Chinese philosophy. But putting family first is not a uniquely Eastern idea.

You hear it every day in conversations about overwork, or social obligations. Expressions like “Family comes first” and “Blood is thicker than water” are as American as apple pie Oreos. 

In Western philosophy, the ethics of care (EoC) was developed to focus on the idea that interpersonal relationships are more important to moral living than objective legalism. The principles of EoC are a response to the cold and unfeeling ethics of justice that came before it.

Psychologist Carol Gilligan originated EoC as a means to insert more empathy into what she viewed as an overly masculine field of ethics. 

The law knows that family is important, too.

Certain states, Florida included, have special exemptions for family members who may be accessories to crimes. These are usually applied to lesser offenses or come with special circumstances, and proof has to be firmly established that the family knew there was a warrant for their loved one’s arrest, or other similar criteria.

RELATED: Black Tarp From Gabby Petito’s Van May Be Key Evidence In Linking Brian Laundrie To Her Death

But the law does understand the connection between ethics and family obligations. 

Of course, many offenders are turned in by a family member. David Kaczynski famously helped authorities pursue his brother Ted, the Unibomber. 

Did Laundrie’s parents create a monster?

Some of the debate revolves around the idea that Laundrie’s parents are responsible for his behavior in more concrete ways.

One idea expressed by some opinionated posters is that his parents simply raised him to behave poorly, and it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. They claim that Laundrie was a ticking time bomb. 

RELATED: Can We Protect Our Kids From Abusive Relationships? Gabby Petito's Death Makes Me Want To Try

Philosopher, Hugh LaFollette, has a proposed answer to the question of poor parenting. LaFollette has argued for examinations and licensure of parents before they’re allowed to have children in the first place. 

There have been tests that refute any genetic link between the morality of parents and children, though. Such as whether or not the children of serial killers become more likely to be killers themselves.

Melissa Moore, daughter of the “Happy Face Killer” underwent a brain scan on daytime television to look for signs of psychopathy, but none were found. 

Brian Laundrie is still on the run.

Despite the numerous false alarms and claims to the contrary, Laundrie is still on the run. There's a warrant out for his arrest based on fraud charges unrelated to Petito's death — though he's also been established as a person of interest in her murder. 

RELATED: 30 Important Domestic Violence Lessons We Can Learn From The Gabby Petito / Brian Laundrie Case

It's not known if Laundrie's parents have any contact with him at all, or whether or not they're providing him assistance in any way. 

But everyone certainly has an opinion about whether or not they should be, from modern philosophers to ancient advisors to Chinese Sage Kings. The Internet trolls are also very vocal, but how would they really behave if it was their own children who'd done something horribly wrong? 

What about you? Would you turn in a family member?

RELATED: Brian Laundrie Lookalike Spotted In Mexico After Federal Arrest Warrant Is Issued In Gabby Petito Investigation

Kevin Lankes, MFA, is the senior editor of expert content at YourTango. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Here Comes Everyone, Pigeon Pages, Owl Hollow Press, The Huffington Post, The Riverdale Press, and more.