Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Prof: Stop explaining ’why’ when teens kill; Instead reach out

27.04.2005


The labels put on youths who commit violent crimes not only prevent society from understanding their behavior, but also act as a barrier to solving the problem, says a Purdue University sociologist.



"Children are supposed to be innocent and vulnerable, and it’s our job as adults to protect them," says J. William Spencer, associate professor of sociology. "But what happens when teen-agers become ’cold-hearted’ and terrorize, or even kill, their classmates and teachers? Then adults become fearful of teens and want to keep them at an arm’s length. "As a result, we’re trying to solve the problem by protecting them or punishing them without actually engaging with teen-agers because we are scared."

Spencer analyzed how teens who were involved in violent acts, such as murder and beatings, were described and profiled in the news media by politicians, experts and the general public during the 1990s. The result of Spencer’s analysis is published in the February issue of Symbolic Interaction. "How we understand the problem shapes our solution," Spencer says. "And I worry that ’Why?’ is being answered incorrectly.


"We know that the quality of the parent-child relationship is a good predictor of whether a teen-ager will participate in delinquent behavior. That’s why all the discussion following school shootings about installing metal detectors, or even banning backpacks because weapons can be hidden, is off the mark."

Instead, Spencer says more mentoring programs are needed to supplement adult relationships with children. "It’s clear that most parents want to connect with their children," he says. "Small things like reading to children or even watching television with them can pay big dividends later on. But some adults may not have the resources because they must work to put food on the table and pay bills. This is why programs like Big Brothers/Big Sisters and local community centers are so important."

Most recently, media coverage of youth violence has centered on school shootings. In the early 1990s, however, youth violence often was associated with drug dealings and inner-city gangs. In the middle of the decade, the coverage of youth violence focused on killings in middle-class suburbs, Spencer says.

The way school shootings - such as those at Jonesboro High School in Jonesboro, Ark., and Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. - were reported in the late 1990s, is what prompted Spencer to compare school shootings to other forms of youth violence.

"We had never seen anything like these school shootings before, partly because of the way the shootings were covered," Spencer says. "We could watch as spectators as children were escorted from schools holding hands and as parents agonized over the whereabouts of their children. It occurred to me as I read news stories about Columbine and Jonesboro that there were some commonalities with other youth violence in the early ’90s."

In the mid-1990s, violent youth were dubbed "superpredators," and eventually legislation called The Violent Youth Predator Act of 1996 was proposed.

Spencer’s analysis shows that even though violent youth are portrayed as evil predators, they also are profiled as innocent victims of gangs, drugs and abuse.

For example, the two shooters in the Littleton, Colo., school killings were profiled as victims of bullies as journalists and experts sought to understand why children would kill. As a result, policy-makers, the general public and news media called for new legislation to address issues such as bullying and teasing in schools. Other shootings spurred discussions about new laws to charge young attackers as adults.

In the early 1990s, people cited boot camps as the way to cure violent youth. These camps were popular because they were perceived as a way to provide discipline and punishment, as well as treatment through counseling, Spencer says.

"Not much has changed in how we understand and respond to these forms of violence," he says. "These kinds of labels are pushing us away from fixing the problem, but they persist because of the entertainment value the labels have."

Amy Patterson-Neubert | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.purdue.edu

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Positrons as a new tool for lithium ion battery research: Holes in the electrode

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

New insights into the information processing of motor neurons

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Healthy Hiking in Smart Socks

22.02.2017 | Innovative Products

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>