When a young person is involved in a crime starting at a very tender age, statistics and most studies show that the child has a big possibility that he/she will progress into more serious criminal acts during adulthood (Simon et al., 2004; Bernard, 1999). From petty thefts and small time brawls in isolated countryside places to the busy streets of big cities in this country, it has become commonplace that teenagers at 16 or even below, are already convicted of forcible rape and drug-related crimes (Bernard, 1999; Simon et al., 2004)..
Viewers of action films and primetime television programs usually depict Latino gangs or Black youths in a variety of seemingly “expected” acts of breaking the law such as breaking into and stealing or destroying property in a certain neighborhood. This sense of invincibility built in among youth offenders which is reinforced with belonging in a particular group is also exploited by older and more seasoned criminals.
Curfews, police visibility and other intervention and preventive methods have become the responses not only in the United States but in other countries as well. Much has been written about the factors contributing to the seemingly unabated crime rate by youth offenders which include, parental neglect and abandonment coupled with negative media exposure and running into the wring crowd, whether in one’s neighborhood or school; low socioeconomic status, and lack of education by parents as primary reasons (Simon et al., 2004;
Bernard, 1999). Singapore is one of the strictest countries in the world whose citizens and public servants (including its public leaders) alike cherish its freedom from fear concerning any form of offense against their residents. Possession of certain amount of drugs (or drug trafficking) is punishable by death by means of hanging (Jayasuriya, 1984). However, the question is whether steps such as the imposition of curfews to stiff punishments like what Singapore adopted can be deterrents to crime or minimize their activities.
This debate has been raging on in years, considering that there are arguments for and against each side. But Yochelson and Samenow’s (1993) findings in their studies show that criminality cannot be boxed into just by the aforementioned sociocultural factors but that the environment may serve as fuel that which was already brewing inside the individual. Alongside this is the study by Zimbardo (2008) which again shows what people can be up to when given the “right” opportunity to unleash their dark side, whatever their upbringing.
Though surely, some punishments are worth providing, and structure in a society which includes stiff penalties and monitoring must be imposed for some semblance of order, the ongoing criminality wherever in the world is a showcase of this reality: that inspite of the threats of punishment, young people will still find means to break the law (Simon et al., 2004; Bernard, 1999; Yochelson & Samenow, 1993).
Theoretical frameworkIt is believed that humans, like newborn birds and mammals in general, have the natural capacity to bond with their mothers. This natural capacity has since been called “imprinting,” the instinctual behavior of an infant where the child establishes a pattern based on the environment (Simon et al., 2004). The solemn responsibility of being parents to a child is grave, and the consequences are immense should they fail in any of the areas of parenthood. On the contrary, when it comes to deliberately hurting a child, or causing damage to their psyche’ as a person, the term “failure” would not be adequate or appropriate to describe its effects. Whether abusing or neglecting a small person, studies reveal that the results are almost the same: the destructive effects are colossal and prevailing for almost all of the rest of the child’s life (Simon et al., 2004).
Infants, in their earliest stage learn from the environment provided to them and respond/bond accordingly. This theory was taken from ethologist Konrad Lorenz and then expanded on by John Bowlby, a British research scientist who is considered to be the founder of attachment theory (Simon et al., 2004; Reebye et al, at www.attachmentacrosscultures.org). The relationship between the infant and the caregiver is particularly important and critical to the healthy emotional development of the child (Simon et al., 2004; (http://articles.syl.com/attachmentparentinggroupsisthissomethingnew.html).
The aforementioned styles are built on and support the attachment theory of Bowlby. Each parenting style affects the future of children (Simon et al., 2004). Studies confirm these conclusions, thereby showing a predictive pattern that parenting styles influence the children’s prospective adult life (Ainsworth and Berkeley studies in Reebye et al review at www.attachmentacrosscultures.org). Hence, it is safe to say that parenting styles and attachment are synonymous and both are predictors of child well-being especially on social competence, academic performance, psychosocial development and problem behavior.Implications
Though the framework is general in nature, there are important and significant implications that can be drawn from this theory. The absence alone of a parent tips the balance and the remaining parent (oftentimes the mother) is inundated with responsibilities difficult enough even with the presence of both parents (Simon et al., 2004). The abandoned wife or female partner fathered by the Black males had to divide her time with the physical care, earning money and other complications as protection on the family from day to day, and the general stress that assail her on a continued basis. Hence, attachment needs of the children are basically ignored, or hardly met because of these realities (Ainsworth and Berkeley studies in Reebye et al review at www.attachmentacrosscultures.org).
What is more startling is that another factor, the “biological factors” emphasized the impact of trauma (not just to mention the physical one) on the changes that a child undergoes in the neurobiological level (Simon et al., 2004). Absorbing the detailed description of the studies made mention by the author on what they call as “pruning of specific neurologic pathways” and that which specifically influence the affect or emotional bearing of the child. No wonder some children never can overcome these effects especially when they reach adulthood when stresses compound and those ‘pathways” may no longer be able to bear up the crisis that had arrived into their lives (Simon et al., 2004).
Neglectful parents who semi-abandon (as it is in single-parent households, a picture of modern African American women’s role) their children in the streets or to the care of people who just don’t care or may abuse them think that they have never hurt their children. Others think of their kids as properties or objects meant to be thrown, poked at, or do just about anything to them (Simon et al., 2004).
Physical and mental health problems. As a result of rough living and the constant exposure to stressful events, homeless children between the ages of 6 and 17 have the higher possibility of acquiring mental disorders/illnesses (Simon et al., 2004; http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts.html). Making their condition worse, often, their mental and health problems are left untreated; thus they grow up with the same chronic illness persisting. In this state, it is extremely difficult to provide for their basic needs themselves (Simon et al., 2004;
http://mentalhealth.samsha.gov/publications/allpubs/homelessness/default.asp#top). Physical and mental health problems compounded with hygiene problems connected to homelessness, the worsening condition is not difficult to see in the near future. There will be multiple untreated physical ailments, namely, respiratory tract infections, tuberculosis, skin diseases, and the high risk of exposure to HIV infection. The health prospect for the homeless is indeed bleak (Simon et al., 2004).
In many of the studies made children raised in an uninvolved parenting style, perform poorly in mostly all of the domains mentioned above (i.e. social competence etc.). The degree of attachment can best be seen in the result of either a poor or good performance in these specific areas.
Bernard, T. L. 1999. Juvenile crime and the transformation of juvenile justice: Is there a juvenile crime wave? Justice Quarterly, 16, 337À356.
Jayasuriya, D.C., “Penal Measures for Drug Offenses: Perspectives From Some Asian Countries”, Bulletin on Narcotics. Vol. 38, 1984, pp. 9-15.
Simon, Ronald, Leslie G. Simon & Lora E. Wallace, (2004); Families, Delinquency and Crime: Linking Society’s most Basic Institution to Antisocial Behavior, Roxbury Publishing ISBN: 1931719306.
Yochelson, S. & S. Samenow. 1993. The criminal personality – A profile for change. Chicago: Rowman & Littlefield.
Zimbardo, Philip. 2008. Retrieved May 24, 2009 at http://www.prisonexp.org/