Benoit's Young Fans May Be Affected

Young fans of the wrestling star may have trouble dealing with his tragic death.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 10:19 AM

June 26, 2007 — -- As a pro wrestler, Chris Benoit achieved hero status among young audiences with such moves as the "Crippler Crossface" and the "Sharpshooter."

But child psychology experts worry that the real-life violence that marked the end of his life -- in which he apparently slayed his family and killed himself in his Fayetteville, Ga., home -- may have a profound effect on his youngest fans.

"I think that this is going to be very disturbing for kids," says Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and a professor at Emory University's School of Medicine.

As with the loss of any hero, young fans may react with depression and disappointment.

"They've lost a hero in multiple ways," Kaslow says. "In one sense, you have the death of someone who was admired; that's a loss. But then you also have the loss of respect -- we hope -- for someone, because murder-suicide is such a severe form of domestic abuse."

Judith Myers-Walls, associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University, says that the situation may offer parents an opportunity to scrutinize their children's heroes, particularly if they followed Benoit's career.

"Overall, it is important for parents to help kids take a look at their media heroes, whether they be rock stars or athletes or other public figures, and figure out what is admirable about that person and what is not so admirable," she said. "So some of it is dealing with hero worship in general."

But Kaslow worries that the tragedy, if it's not placed in proper context, also has the potential to lead to further violence.

"There is going to be grieving, a loss of respect and confusion," she says. "But some will think, 'If he can do it, I can do it.'"

While media sensationalism around highly public murder-suicides may be nothing new, Kaslow says some children may have difficulty separating Benoit's violent end from his wrestling-ring alter ego.