Unhappy Adolescents are Criminals in the Making

That’s an over-generalization of what the blog Youth Happiness Can Deter Crime, Drug Use, seems to be suggesting.  Of course the only thing “studies have shown” and “studies have proven” can confirm is that maybe, probably, plausibly something is true, although there are too many variables to be certain. Certainly I agree that “in general” happy adolescents and teens are less likely to become involved in crime and drugs. That seems reasonable to me but nothing is ever that un-complicated: situational depression may cause a youth to make temporarily unhealthy choices, but because the depression is co-dependent upon an underlying issue, the depression itself is not likely the cause or even contributor, toward criminal behaviour. What’s more, clinical depression can be triggered by environmental factors.

Overall, the hypothesis that a happy teenager is less likely to make poor choices sounds reasonable, but human behaviour is so much more complicated than that.  It’s one of the reasons why the results of “studies” are so ambiguous (at least to my way of thinking). Yes depression and anger can lead to making stupid mistakes. Mind you, where you have drug use, which came first? Happy, positive teenagers also experiment with drugs, and to a degree,  criminal behaviour (petty shoplifting, for instance). They also make unhealthy choices in the way of friends, not because they do not have healthy role models in their lives, but for reasons no one can fully understand, least of all teenagers themselves.

And teenagers who demonstrate rage are among the most perplexing since there are disorders such as ODD (oppositional defiance disorder) and CD (conduct disorder), that result in rage, and they have little to do with rational thinking or behaviour. In this case, trying to ensure your child is happy and has a positive self-image are pretty remote. It’s no one’s fault.  It’s just the way it is. That’s one issue I take with studies and their conclusions.  They cause a sense of failure in people whose children become juveniles, and make poor choices, and display problematic behaviour.  There are great families who raise difficult children and who knows why these things happen?

Put an adult in place of a youth in this study.  Are depressed adults more likely to commit crimes or use drugs?  I doubt the former is true. The jury is out concerning the latter. Do positive, happy adults never make unhealthy choices or display any type of criminal behaviour, no matter how mild? For instance, once I was shopping with a friend and I watched the cashier count back her change. When we left the store, I informed my friend that the cashier had given her $10 too much. She counted her money and realized this was true, but she kept it.  Her rationale was the store made so much money, it wouldn’t be hit by a mere $10.00.  Not only does that not excuse theft, but another issue was whether or not the cashier would have the money docked from her pay cheque.

I like the idea that positive, happy people are less likely to become criminals, but I don’t accept that it’s as simple as that.

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  • Peter Lounsbury (@lounsbury720)  On January 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Most people think I’m a hard @ss with my kids. The reason is that there is structure in our family unit and very little is overlooked when one of us (me too) break the rules. It’s not an accurate picture of who we are though and this article points out why.

    Years ago my daughter came to me with tears rolling down her face as she confessed to me something that I promised her that I would never repeat. I assured her that what she did was not the right thing to do, but that it was also something the young men and women do at that age. Still very nervous about what mom would say, I assured her that by confiding with me that it wasn’t necessary to tell mom and that we would deal with it privately and when we were done that it will be as if it never happened.

    That was about 10 years ago and mom never did know what she did, and she grew up to be a young lady with a strong sense of moral values and an appreciation for the privacy and feelings of others who were dealing with embarrassing issues that are quite normal for kids at age XX. She isn’t perfect and my wife gets most of the tear filled calls in the night )she’s in college now), but she knows with absolute certainty that dad, the guy everyone fears to cross, is actually extremely willing to put the mistakes we all make growing up aside, and as quick to keep promises and let bygones by bygone.

    My son is not like his sister and has made some horrible decisions that will haunt him his entire life, and although he didn’t call dad when he should have, I didn’t make or force him to talk to me about it either. His knowing exactly how I felt about what what he did (plural actually) was 100% correct. I disapproved then, now and will in the future. The things he did are not things that you can fix by making them the “new normal”, but the normal that took years but finally sunk in was that I was here the whole time and that I wanted to hug him and tell him that I love, not push him around and lay a guilt trip on him.

    We’re talking again now and although he still has a long way to go to undo what was done and even farther in finding himself and settling down like an adult, he listens to dad where all he did was argue and yell before all this happened. He has toned down most of the destructive behavior and is even acting responsible when responsible isn’t the easy thing to do.

    We can’t create copies of ourselves like a baker with a cookie cutter, human beings are too complicated for that. But we can follow the wisdom given by a religious man thousands of years ago he said “as for me and my family, we will follow the Lord”, focusing on the hard work it takes to get family right and embracing his role as someone that his children will look up to and see as a pillar of strength and the firm hand authority in his home not because he demands it, but because he receives it because he decided to be the man of the house.

    It’s not easy being a good man, and quite easy to be an over grown child who runs from manhood. If we pass on thing to our children it must be that our role in the family is crucial to it’s survival and that although everyone else’s is different, that we are family because it is what we are and not what a dictator dad or controlling mom forces it be.

  • gothrules  On January 6, 2013 at 3:04 am

    What a shame your son thought you were a “hard ass”. Clearly your daughter somehow knew better (women’s intuition?). Had your son gont to you before his misdeeds, there might have been a very different outcome….or not. Who knows. Knowing now that dad is there for him at least, means he has come a long way, and it must surely provide him with a great comfort in light of the acts he has to deal with. It may have been that your son argued and yelled because he wasn’t ready to accept your viewpoint – he was a teenager I assume, and they are truly little kids in bigger bodies sometimes. It may also have been that at that time you were more confrontational, in which case, he felt he wasn’t being heard. Who knows? Who cares? It’s water under the bridge in the sense that he cannot revisit those years and must go forward from here. And thank GOd I couldn’t use a cookie cutter to make my child into a Me. I am the most imperfect and rather oddball person I know (although I am a loving mother and probably have such a close, fun relationship with my daughter that it became more like two sisters than mother-daughter…..and that has its own flaws. Hey, no one’s perfect.)
    It’s interesting that an American would say (in another reply) that everyone has their own beliefs, ethics, morals, culture, etc. America tries to function as a “melting pot” to my knowledge (remember that old expression)? Anyone I have ever met from the States, when I ask about their background they shrug and say “I’m an American.” I think that’s a shame. I say hang onto who your ancestors and your parents were because that’s you too no matter when you grow up. I will admit however that trying to be a mosaic isn’t working in a number of institutes in Canada – although it does in others. Off. Okay that’s my rant for the day. Again, thank you very much for your thoughtful, reflective answers to my blog. It takes time and interest to contribute in that manner and I enjoy your viewpoints, whether they agree with mine or not.

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