The post world-war II era saw an unprecedented rate of growth for America. The birth of Corporate America gave people an opportunity to move out of the cities and into kinder, more picturesque suburbs. Women were entering the workforce in greater numbers. With two income families, Americans had more money to spend on luxuries such as boats, vacations and hobbies as they never had before. This was the beginning of a time when living was good, the quality of life was high, and everyone seemed happy.
However, this idealistic lifestyle was not without its costs. Due to this mentality, the emphasis is now placed less on families and more on getting ahead by the quickest means available. We presently live in a get rich quick society and our youth is paying the price. The number of crimes involving children is epidemic.
According to the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse in Washington DC, “Twenty percent of serious violent crimes are committed by adolescents. Another eight percent are committed by adolescents in conjunction with older offenders” (Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse 427).
This number is only going to increase. The JJC continues by stating, “Experts predict that if the present trends continue, by the year 2010, the number of juvenile arrests for violent crime will more than double” (428). Lawmakers seem to be constantly playing catch-up in their efforts to bring the crime rate down.
The problem is that most efforts are ineffectual at best. For example, if a minor in the state of Utah commits four misdemeanors or one felony, then they are taken from their homes and placed in state correctional facilities or foster care. Taking them out of the main stream of society may seem like the logical thing to do, but many institutions provide only sterile environments for an offender to rehabilitate.
In state run reform schools, a majority of the kids is able to check themselves out when they turn eighteen and most of them leave without the tools necessary to correct their behavior on the outside. At least half of the school population is made up of kids that were released before eighteen but did something to land them back in the system; repeat offenders. When they do eventually leave, many leave angry at the institution and have even less respect for authority.
This lack of respect seems to be spawned from living in a dysfunctional home. Dysfunctional homes where parents are timid about asserting their authority over children seem to raise children who are more aggressive and disrespectful. Typical parents of this discipline style use little or no punishment, avoid asserting parental control, and make few demands on their children.
Parents with overly harsh parenting style obviously tend to bring up children who are even more aggressive. These parents are prone to physically abuse their children, verbally attack them, and take away basic privileges. Striking a child has much to do with meeting the parent’s emotional needs and nothing to do with concern for the child; parents often erroneously justify the abuse as “discipline” intended to “help” the child. Physically abusive parents can create an environment of terror for the child, particularly since violence is often random and unpredictable. Abused children often feel anger. Children of abusive parents have tremendous difficulties developing feelings of trust and safety even in their adult lives.
(Patterson and Stouthamer-Loeber 1299)
Other researchers in this field confirm these findings. J.D. Hawkins and R.F. Catalano compiled data showing that the familial relationship is a primary determinant of child behavior.
They found that in cases involving substance abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, school dropout, and violence, a dysfunctional family increased the risk of social deviancy. A family history of the problem behavior, family management problems, family conflict, and parental attitudes and involvement were the contributing factors to the above-mentioned social problems. With an increase in single parenthood or both parents in the workplace, the question has come up about who is there to raise the children. With fewer interactions with parents, and without some alternative, children are left to essentially raise themselves. The emotional bond between parents and children is weakening and the family unit is declining. As children get closer to adolescence, if that support isn’t there, they look .