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Why are so many children becoming violent and committing murder?

Mark-

My question is: Why are children so violent these days. We had a murder here (15-year-old killed a 17-year-old after school)... and now this threat in our small town school !

Why are so many children becoming violent …why are so many committing murder?

J.

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Hi J.,

The reasons for the rise in kids committing murder are multi-faceted. You can't blame it on the school, and you can't blame it on the family, the breakdown of religion or the availability of guns. It is not that simple. It is usually a combination of things. Behavior is multi-determined. There are a lot of different reasons for behavior. However, some aspects of gang-related violence suggest that some kids are very psychopathic. They are just criminally-minded kids. The way some kids solve conflict is with weapons. Some kids are young predators. Also, kids tend to murder in groups. Remember, teenagers tend to do everything together. For example, if one guy visits his girlfriend, he's got to bring five other people with him.

We know that most juvenile crime is committed between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., which highlights the importance of having more adult mentors and after-school safe havens. We know that better-educated youths are less likely to commit violent crimes, which stresses the need for better schools and more talented teachers. We know that the increase in violent juvenile crime has been driven by the easy availability of guns, which stresses the importance of urging our political leaders to pass legislation to make handguns less accessible to our kids (and as a side note: I am not an anti-gun person).

One key reason to why so many kids are committing murder stems from society's love and fascination with violence. Unfortunately, violence is a major theme in the American culture. Even the national anthem refers to violence as associated with the American flag ...and the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof to the night that our flag was still there. When we see kids murdered or murdering, we should realize that they are a reflection of us and the culture in which we live and accept. Our kids are modeling our values and cultural practices. The culture needs cleansing and a rebirth of values enriched with spirituality.

Violence portrayed in the media can also contribute to kids who commit murder. Kids and adolescents endure continual diet images of violence while being entertained by various media.

Today's kids are growing up too fast and do not have proper adult supervision. It's almost as if kids are expected or socialized or forced to grow up too soon. They become ‘early-age adults’ or ‘hurried kids,’ meaning they are exposed to and internalize adult forms of behavior. There's a lack of adult supervision because so many adults are working, or there's only one parent in the house. I am not denouncing single-parent families, because there are adults who are not supervising properly in two-parent homes as well. There are after-school hours where kids are not supervised. Kids in some instances are supervising themselves. You don't have people around saying, `No, that is not appropriate.'

The lack of extended family and a lack of community networking is also a factor. Grandmas and aunties are two hours away; they are not as intricately involved as they were years ago.

Drugs, gangs and the easy availability of guns also play a role in kids committing murder. Younger and younger kids are getting involved in drugs. They are also reacting to the premium society places on material goods, like expensive sneakers and other apparel. They may become obsessed about dressing a certain way or having something they can't afford. But we have to look at what kind of family circumstances exist for that child, what kind of school circumstances peer relationships exist for that child.

The perception is that crime in America is a Black problem. But the data does not support that. Whites kill Whites; Whites rob Whites. There's no doubt that things have been happening in their communities, but until now they have been seen as isolated events. This problem with our kids is happening everywhere, in heartland America, suburbia and rural communities.

Poverty and racism may contribute to the reasons that Black youths are killing one another. If you talk to one of these kids and ask him, ‘Why did you shoot him?’ … He'll say, ‘Because he dissed me.’ Disrespect has become rationale for taking someone's life.

People living under conditions of oppression have very little control over their lives. The issue of respect becomes tantamount. You can't control your income, you can't control whether you have a job or the money to support you and your family, but you can control the degree to which people show you respect. You can demand respect, particularly among other oppressed Black people.

Too many youths, particularly those in gangs, see how racism makes it difficult to succeed in society. The real question is, “What does it mean to grow up as a Black child in the United States in a society that has been steeped in racism?” They know as young Black men they are likely to have fewer opportunities to get a job, to be able to support themselves and be allowed to become respected members of society. The feeling of inequality leads to rage and the young men seem to be saying, ‘If you are not going to let me legitimately join society, I will, in effect, become your worst nightmare. I will become precisely what you don't want me to be: an angry young Black man with a gun.’

Violence is also about power. It is a means of establishing yourself in a society where you feel powerless. And if you are living in a society where the penalty is very high in expressing your rage toward the oppressors, the oppressed will express their rage and violence to one another.

If you take troubled kids and add guns and add a precipitating event in a society that glamorizes explosive responses to anger, you've got danger.

We need to look at the families themselves to see what kind of stresses the parents are putting on the kids. We have to look at the parents' parents to see if there is a pattern of violence that might explain why kids are killing kids. Kids are becoming more callous. They don't care if they die or if they live. They don't see a future for themselves. When you ask them, ‘Where do you see yourself?’ …They say, ‘I don't know.’ They don't see a future for themselves.

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