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2009-06-04 digital edition

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2009-06-04 / Community News

Focus on the Family with Dr. James Dobson

Violent Kids Are Often Victims Of Poverty, Abuse

Violent Kids Are Often Victims Of
Poverty, Abuse

QUESTION: I keep hearing about children and teens being involved in shootings, stabbings and the like. What has caused many members of the younger generation to be so violent?

DR. DOBSON: Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in research to answer that question. The findings are startling. In addition to the violence children have seen on television and in the movies, and apart from the drug wars they have witnessed, the tendency toward violence is a function of the neglect and abuse so many have experienced. That is especially true of those raised in the inner city.

What has been learned is that millions of children, many of them born to drug- and alcoholdependent parents, have been subjected to unimaginable deprivation. They were left in cribs for days with dirty diapers burning their buttocks and legs. Some were hit repeatedly, or they were scalded or starved. Others simply had no one to love and hold them when they were frightened. Many were sexually exploited from their earliest days — some even in infancy. If they survived, they grew up on the streets with no adult guidance and care. At night, they slept in bathtubs to avoid bullets sprayed by drive-by shootings. If this description sounds exaggerated, talk to social workers or police officers who work every day in the slums of large cities.

What does it do to a child to experience intense pain, fear and deprivation at a very early age? The answers are beginning to come in. What has been learned is that kids who go through these traumas in the first year or two of life produce high levels of stress hormones — notably cortisol and adrenaline. Those substances put the body in an "alarm reaction state" in order to cope with the crisis at hand. But in a small child, the brain is a vacuum cleaner for stress-related hormones. The human neurological apparatus is bombarded with chemicals that shouldn't be there in a child that age. The result is impairment of the boy or girl's thinking apparatus and emotional development. Specifically, the "firing mechanism" of certain portions of the brain is rendered inoperable.

What I'm saying is that many of today's abused kids can kill and destroy without pangs of conscience because they are literally brain damaged. They don't feel what you and I feel. They can't empathize with helpless victims the way they should, because the emotion of compassion flows from cognitive functions that no longer operate. Some of them are, at that point, potential killers waiting for the time and place to shoot or stab or bludgeon.

I am not excusing their violent behavior, of course, and society can't afford to tolerate it. But this explains some of the mayhem occurring day after day in inner cities.

The bottom line is this: We are paying a terrible price for the disintegration of the family and for the victimization of children. Any society that doesn't protect the most vulnerable in their midst can expect to suffer at the hands of those abused individuals when they get old enough to strike back.

So lock your doors and avoid eye contact when you drive through certain sections of your city. There are kids there who would just as soon kill you as look at you.

QUESTION: My thirteen-yearold daughter is still built like a boy, but she is insisting that I buy her a bra. Believe me, she has no need for it and the only reason she wants one is because most of her friends do. Should I give in?

DR. DOBSON: Your straightand narrow daughter needs a bra to be like her friends, to compete, to avoid ridicule and to feel like a woman. Those are excellent reasons. I think you should buy her a bra today.

Dr. Dobson is founder and Chairman Emeritus of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 (www.family.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from "Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide" and "Bringing Up Boys," both published by Tyndale House.

COPYRIGHT 2009 JAMES DOBSON INC. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, Mo. 64106; (816) 581-7500

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