James Garbarino, Ph.D. is Co-Director of the Family Life Development Center, and a Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. He has authored or coauthored over 15 books on children, worked with children from Palestine and Kuwait regarding the impact of war on their lives, and practiced in Chicago for 10 years. He has worked extensively over the last two years with boys from the Austin McCormick Correctional Facility, and used this experience to write this book.
Dr. Garbarino discusses the reasons for child violence in boys and teens, tracing factors from birth to adolescence, to show how the inner-city African American boy is not that much different from the small-town Caucasian boy from Arkansas.
How Extensive Is the Violence
In Chapter 1, Dr. Garbarino offers a few statistics:
84% of all counties in the US reported no youth homicides in 1995, but the 1997-1998 school year makes this statistic less comforting
23,000 homicides occur each year, according to the FBI, and 10% are committed by youth under age 18, 25% by youth under age 21 the average age of the assailant was 27 in 1993, down from 33 in 1965 the youth homicide rate may look like it is going down because 90% of all gunshot victims now survive the attack, but the rate of shootings is up
From 1986 to 1993, child abuse and neglect rose from 14 to 23 cases per 100,000 children, at risk children rose from 22 to 42 cases per 100,000 children during the same time. The FBI also reported that about 2,000 children were killed every year through parental abuse and neglect gang involvement is up 50% from 1989 to 1995
9% of teens have used cocaine, more than 50% used marijuana, and 37% report drinking five or more drinks once per month according to the CDC
27% of adolescents carried a weapon in 1997, according to the CDC arrests increased 50% from 1980 to 1994, and punishment does not always fit the crime. Shooting into a crowd of children leads to a heavy jail sentence only if someone was killed, regardless of the risk associated with the behavior there are a greater number of neurological problems in youth today; in the 1960’s, only 10% of premature babies under 2 pounds lived, but in the 1990’s the number has risen to 50%
Where Does the Violence Start
So, more teens get shot and live, more violence and neglect occurs at home and in the neighborhood, gangs and drugs have risen, and neurological problems are seen more often in teens today than 30 years ago. Garbarino offers that the inner-city population does not cause the epidemic of violence, but they can carry the infection and serve as a good host for the rest of the culture. He points out how teen pregnancy, “latchkey kids,” and school violence were strong in inner city populations but have slowly spread to middle class and the rest of American Society.
This makes sense in many ways, as the poor inner-city population faces the greatest number of risk factors, including limited access to health care, lower IQ (which is really access to quality education and not intelligence), crime, crowded and poorer living quarters, fatherless families… The list goes on and on. Garbarino does not make any statements about causes for the violence yet; he only points out how serious and complex a phenomenon it is.
In Chapter 2, Dr. Garbarino outlines some of the problems that lead to child violence.
Attachment Problems – the failure of the parent and child to attach can lead to an early experience of dissociation, or emotional disconnection. The child experiences intense anxiety or fear, and learns to disconnect from it. This prevents the child from feeling empathy with others, or from feeling a sense of fear or anxiety in dangerous situations.
Depression – 2% of American youth met criteria for a clinical diagnosis of depression in the 1960’s, but 25% met criteria in