Why the failure to pinpoint the primary cause of youth crime and violence Here is the critical solution to this soaring — and frightening — problem!
IF I were God, I would be an angry God, but I am only me... a mother, a woman — and afraid!" This terrorized citizen from southwest Los Angeles, California, wrote of her tragic experiences to the Los Angeles Times, one of the largest and most respected newspapers in the U.S. She is not alone in her fears.
A Worldwide Plague
In recent months, newspapers across the continent of Europe report similar fears. A growing army of aimless, often inarticulate and unemployable youth are spreading nihilistic revolt. They do not know what they want except self-gratification. "Self Not Society" proclaim their protest posters. They drift casually from riot to riot. Says Pirn Van den Berg, an Amsterdam social worker: "The impotence that many young people feel encourages them to live for the moment — the new sensation, the kick. They have no idea of what will happen to them in 10 or 20 years — and they no longer care." It is time we faced reality. Something is horribly wrong in cultures that produce purposeless, hopeless youth. These "no future people" (as they are known in West Germany) take over empty buildings, smoke marijuana and sally forth into violent street battles with police. Nations occidental and oriental report this alarming increase in crime and violence. There is a reason. Does God see and ignore? What will be His response? Whom does God hold responsible? The Bible — the source that precisely prophesies today's trend to worsening violence — also pinpoints the primary cause and what God will do about it! Here is the book that foretold cause and effect in our mounting social problems. "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful... without natural affection... fierce, despisers of those that are good..." (II Timothy 3:2-4). And the prophet Isaiah eloquently prophesied the present youth crime plague: "... The child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient... children are their oppressors..." (Isaiah 3:5, 12). "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it," commands scripture (Proverbs 22:6).
The Primary Cause
The chief cause of criminal behavior is not poverty. Criminal problems now plague rural and well-to-do suburban areas as well as inner-city ghettos. Ghettos merely concentrate and aggravate the social conditions that encourage criminal behavior. The vast majority of individuals in poverty areas are not criminals or violent. Only a minority are — though their numbers are growing for discernible reasons. We must answer why senseless crime, theft, dishonesty and violence are growing in middle and upper-class families, businesses and schools. What is wrong is clear. Most criminologists, sociologists and other officials are fighting crime at the wrong end of the problem. Many blame lack of police, the easy availability of guns, the overburdened and crippled criminal justice system, or drug abuse, underemployment, violent entertainment or poverty. These situations contribute to the crime problem, but they are not the fundamental cause. The cause of crime is the lack of right character! It is the failure of individuals to grasp right values and recognize and resist evil, whatever its source. The roots of juvenile crime develop when children — rich, poor or middle class — are allowed to think criminal thoughts or develop unsocial or criminal attitudes in their character. The Bible reveals a primary spiritual source of this criminal attitude and violence. That source is a great archangel that rebelled against God and His ways and is now known as Satan. Yet how many sociologists know of the existence of Satan? They reject the idea and, of course, cut themselves off from a solution to their problems. Satan's attitude is one of selfishness, lust and greed. He pumps that attitude into unwary human minds (Ephesians 2:2-3). He works on humans at early ages of life. Individuals pick up and develop Satan's attitudes in varying degree. How much they develop such attitudes depends on cultural values, on family life and personal character. Children who lack self-discipline miss out on right values. The result is obvious.
The First Failing
The foundation of human character is first formed in the family unit. Character development starts at an early age. Children must overcome ingrained emotional instability, destructiveness, defiance of authority or lying, in their character. Parents, how many of you train your children in right character? The personalities of some children, maybe yours, demand more attention, guidance and discipline than others. Parents fail their God-given responsibility if they don't set a right example in living and self-discipline. They are failing if they don't teach right and positive values, if they fail to discipline their children for indecent and inhumane attitudes. Why are so many parents distracted from this most important of human functions? Increasingly it is because parents are not there' Divorce, desertion or separation have intervened. More frequently parents are too busy with other interests, activities or pleasures. Some parents, misled by false child psychology, excuse their children's misbehavior lest discipline damage their child's "creative" abilities. What they often create is an obnoxious, undisciplined brat! Some parents don't care what their children do as long as they stay out of their hair. Others don't conceive it's their job to train their children; it's their mate's job to carry the responsibility! Often it's not that parents don't care about their children. Many parents don't know how to care, to train, teach and discipline their children in love. They feel embarrassed to show love or affection. They were not raised that way. Dr. David Abrahamsen, writer of volumes on the psychology of criminals (Psychology of Crime, 1960; and Our Violent Society, 1970) concludes: "A real answer to the problem of violence we have today must come from within the family and the way we raise our children. There is no mass solution — not in our schools, [or in] our jails..." Absolutely true! Two decades ago. Judge Rodney S. Eielson of Darien, Connecticut, also pinpointed the reason for criminal behavior: "I am sick and tired of spanking someone else's children in court. This has to be done at home. It's at home where the moral fiber of a young person is woven, and the process starts with the earliest ages. By the time a teenager gets to my court, he is often beyond help. His character has been formed.... "Until we place the responsibility where it lies, with the parents, our country will continue to see a rising incidence among teenagers of larceny and theft, reckless driving and intoxication, pregnancy among unwed high school girls, and other legal and moral crimes, including homosexual experimentation and the use of narcotics.... Inability to administer discipline with love is equally harmful... [Without that] you won't convince a youngster that you really love him or are interested in his welfare" (McCall's, January, 1965). Judge Eielson's "prophecy" of a worsening epidemic of youthful immorality, crime and drug abuse is more than fulfilled. It is now an international tragedy that touches all of our lives!
Sins of the Fathers
Vicious criminal behavior is mostly concentrated in inner-city ghettos of the United States and other nations where the family structure is most greatly fragmented. Many inner-city families are headed only by a mother. Divorce, desertion and illegitimacy are rife. Often there is no father whom young men and women can look up to and emulate. Street toughs are the only models of "success." The sins of the fathers do pass on to the next generation. Hordes of men have dropped their God-given responsibility of leadership in the home. Many mothers have neglected theirs also. Both parents are needed to effectively support each other and properly train their children. What happens if they don't? Each generation improperly loved and disciplined comprehends less and less of what decency, goodness and affection means, of what right relationships — especially a right marriage and family — are. Eventually, more youths have little or no compassion, no caring feelings for others but themselves. They feel they become somebody only if they dehumanize another human being. The cause of spiraling crime and violence is the failure of homes, schools, churches and government leaders to teach the law of "love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19). Compounding the problem is widespread violation of another important biblical principle: "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastics 8:11). Criminals need to know punishment for a crime will be sure and quick. But today it is not. Criminal youths are often caught for serious crimes only to be quickly spewed back onto the streets by juvenile justice systems never set up to handle large numbers of hardened vicious criminals. What deterrent is there for a young lawbreaker if he is considered a "hero" by peers for "beating the system"? Contrast this to the swift punishment of incorrigibles laid out in Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
If the Family Fails
In 1963, Herbert T. Jenkins, chief of police of Atlanta, clearly answered the question of why children become delinquents. Listen to his words: "In my 30 years of experience, I have come to the conclusion that the lack of discipline and self-discipline are the major roots of all crime. If the family fails to discipline a youngster, thereby instilling in him a sense of self-discipline, then it later becomes the almost hopeless job of the courts to try to do it. For that is where this type of youngster always ends up." If parents fail in their responsibility to show affection, guidance and proper discipline, it is unlikely any other institution will successfully pick up the reins. "We look for quick solutions, but family stability is the only long-term solution," says Judge Seymour Gelber, Juvenile Division judge in Dade County, Florida.
God Is Angry
God is angry! He is going to intervene and spank whole nations for forsaking their responsibility to properly train, guide and discipline their children. God is angry because so many — adults and youth — have turned freedom to obey God and His laws into license to forget God and commit whatever they think they can "get away with." National captivity and destruction are prophesied for many nations because of such sins. Sin, remember, is the transgression of God's law — I John 3:4. God is especially angry at religious leaders who should be forcefully teaching obedience to God's law but instead have watered down God's laws. Is it any wonder so many are not diligent to obey them? The punishment of these false shepherds is recorded in Jeremiah 23. Everyone will be held accountable for his or her actions and attitudes. God holds parents accountable for teaching decent and godly attitudes and values — and setting a right example. Children are free moral agents. They can choose to respect or rebel against right parental and godly values; but God will also bring each youth into an accounting (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10). Young people need to be told this early in their lives! Fortunately, growing numbers of parents who heed Plain Truth's warnings are willing to meet the great challenge of guiding, loving and rightly disciplining their children. They are beginning to fulfill the prophecy to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children" — that often must come first — "and the heart of the children [will be turned] to their fathers." Otherwise God would be forced to smite the earth with "total destruction" (Malachi 4:6, Moffatt translation). Are you going to be part of the reason why God will save humanity from total destruction — because you are willing to learn the right way to rear your children?
Sociologists Who Proved Juvenile Delinquency Can Be Predicted
In the 1940s and 1950s, Drs. Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, a husband-wife sociologist team at Harvard Law School, developed a delinquency prediction scale for young persons. It is based on five social factors: affection of the father for the child, discipline by the father, affection of the mother for the child, supervision and discipline by the mother and cohesiveness of the family. Some of their studies also considered traits of juvenile temperament and character. The Gluecks' rating method was developed from what they found in the family background and youthful temperament and character of delinquents and non-delinquents. They found delinquents far more than non-delinquents came from homes of little affection, stability, moral fiber or understanding of parent-child responsibilities. The delinquents temperamentally tended to be more restless, impulsive, aggressive and destructive, in attitude, more defiant, hostile, resentful and non-submissive to authority. The Gluecks' predictions of individual delinquency or non-delinquency among groups of youths they studied proved out to be remarkably accurate, they were often able to predict future criminal delinquency in children as young as ages 5 or 6 by looking at their family background and existing character. The Gluecks' research can be found in numerous books and papers authored by them. Unfortunately, the Gluecks' sound methodology is largely ignored by criminologists and sociologists today. In 1952, for example, the Gluecks studied 244 six-year-old boys of white, black and Puerto Rican origin in high delinquency areas for the New York City Youth Board. They predicted which would be criminal delinquents by age 17 and which would not. But since fathers of this group were so often missing, they made their predictions using only the three family factors on their scale not involving fathers. Still. 10 years later they found 85 percent of the boys they predicted to become delinquent actually did so. And 97 percent of those thought unlikely to become delinquents did not. Out of 19 boys predicted as having an even chance of delinquency or non-delinquency, nine became serious or persistent offenders and 10 did not. Other researchers using the Gluecks' methods in studies of juveniles often found that nine out of 10 persistent juvenile offenders could have been identified at age 6; if not then by age 10; and 90 percent of non-delinquents could also have been identified.
Juvenile delinquency is for the most part predictable. But many parents and other persons blind their eyes to the signs of delinquency in children and make excuses for them. In one interview, the Gluecks concluded, "Poverty, by itself, doesn't make a delinquent.... You cannot make good parents out of bad ones simply by raising their income or moving them into a new house." The Gluecks said after another study, "In Boston, our research investigators could often tell just as soon as a tenement door opened whether they were entering the home of a delinquent or a non-delinquent. All the families in the neighborhood would be poor, but there would be enormous variation in the under-the-roof atmosphere from one household to the next... In a suburban neighborhood or middle income, you could find similar variations." The primary roots of delinquency are basically the same in poor, middle class or upper class areas: parents fail to properly instill in their children respect, discipline and concern for others and their property. Often these parents themselves were raised by permissive parents, or were raised by parents that swung between extremes of laxness and harshness in discipline. Such parents don't know, and their children can't know, what discipline with love is. The things that count most in raising children to be law-abiding citizens do not depend so much on income as they do upon the parents' right values, affectionate attitudes and fair but firm discipline. Many parents try to express love or buy the love of their children through overindulgence or gifts to make up for their lack of parental guidance, affection and concern day by day. Parental love is not purchasable. True parental love is more than providing material comforts of life. It involves training children in right values and character!