Saturday, July 18, 2009

This is News?

According to a new study, "impulsive boys with inadequate supervision, poor families and deviant friends are more likely to commit criminal acts that land them in juvenile court."

Raise your hand if you're surprised. No one? I thought not.

As anyone with boys can tell you, poorly supervised boys + troublemaker friends = trouble. And the longer they're unsupervised and in the company of other boys who are not, uh, on the right track, the more likely it is that they will cause some real trouble.

This is not rocket science, people. This is common sense.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, does have a surprising conclusion, though. It turns out that boys who went through the juvenille justice system were MORE likely to commit adult crimes. SEVEN TIMES more likely.

The theory is that the juvenille justice system concentrates the troublemakers in one place. Surround boys with bad influences and, well, expect bad outcomes.

It's disturbing news, and news which should make us rethink our approach to juvenilles and crime. Millions of dollars are poured into the juvenille justice system each year -- to increase adult crime?

Dr. Richard Trembly, a co-author of the study, calls for action. "Two solutions exist for this problem," Dr Tremblay says. "The first is to implement prevention programs before adolescence when problem children are more responsive. The second is to minimize the concentration of problem youths in juvenile justice programs, thereby reducing the risk of peer contagion."

Let's go back to the beginning. Impulsive boys with inadequate supervision, poor families and deviant friends are more likely to commit criminal acts. So let's start there! "Programs" may be helpful, but programs will never replace a family. Let's re-emphasize the importance of the family, and let's provide support for families. When our current policies push single mothers out into the workforce, are we supporting families? Or are we contributing to a situation of inadequate supervision?

Let's talk about the importance of the family, the role of the family. If we must provide programs, let's provide positive parenting programs and support groups. Let's help our children -- our boys especially -- find meaningful activity. Let's support their hopes, dreams and desires and show them how to get there.

We can reform our juvenille justice sytem, but if we're going to get anywhere, we need to start in the community and in the home. We need to start with the family.


  1. You basically summarized my memoir. Our oldest on at 13, became defiant and started hanging out with the wrong girls. Had we not taken action as a family and moved to Belize, he might have ended up in the system you describe. Thanks for that article, I shall print and keep it for my records.