Behavioral science research; Juvenile delinquency, part 1
The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant he made from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters juvenile delinquency. The first of two programs on this subject from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service with special assistance from the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan. These programs have been developed from interviews with men and women who have the too often unglamorous job of basic research. Research in medicine the physical sciences social sciences and the behavioral sciences. OK you will hear what may seem like strange or unfamiliar side. These are the sounds of the participants office laboratory or clinic where the interviews were conducted. The people you will hear today are Dr. Leon Eisenberg director of children psychiatric service
at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Dr. Benjamin boxer of New York City and Dr. Helen Whitmer of the Department of Health Education and Welfare in Washington D.C. And my name is Glenn Phillips. Due to delinquency frequently means different things to different people. The same youthful behavior may be considered abnormal when it occurs in a large metropolitan area like New York City or Los Angeles and quite normal and acceptable in a small rural community. It is difficult to achieve a clear definition of the term. Dr. Eisenberg had this to say. I think that's a good question with which to begin because the juvenile delinquency is defined so differently for legal psychiatric and social reasons and different communities that it becomes difficult at times to know what people are speaking about. The easiest way out although it leaves many contradictions is to juvenile delinquency that which is brought to court and considered
a violation of law and a youngster under the age of 16. Unfortunately however communities differ so much in what they consider a violation of law in some places smoking cursing and whatnot maybe called delinquent behavior. And while it may be undesirable behavior it's difficult to convey to include statistics on such behavior in the same terms with car stealing. Theft of other sorts and so on so that the legal definition is immediately beset by the problem that it's difficult to compare one community with another community because the laws differ. Now the psychiatrist would probably be less concerned with whether a legal adjudication has occurred and whether with whether or not the youngster shows a persistent pattern of anti-social behavior that is behavior which is definitely a violation of the norms or standards of acceptable behavior in the community from which he comes. Dr Bolter responded to the same question in this fashion.
I pretty much my definition of the words themselves delinquency is behavior that same time social. Perhaps with moral implications too. And juvenile applies to any age group or on a life period but somewhere as far as I'm concerned someone between the ages of about 12 an 18 or 12 and 21. Do different locations and socio economic levels produce different societal attitudes toward problems and juvenile delinquency. Dr. Eisenberg replied this way. Well it certainly does in a rural area particularly one where the population is fairly stable. The youngster who commits an adolescent prank or even a somewhat more serious crime is likely to be known to the police officer who will take him by the scruff of the neck and bring him home to his father for tanning and never bring it to the attention of the court. The very
same behavior in urban location with a child strange to the policeman will result in the child being taken to the Magistrates Court of the police court where it may be dealt with either by. Probation or warning or whatnot but in any event it's already become a police court appearance as opposed to the rule thing. Now the other question of socioeconomic group ing is certainly very important for the youngster whose parent is influential in the community is likely to escape having his name on the police blotter because his father will appeal to the judge or the judge will call his father and the youngster of let's say will be remanded to the custody of his father for psychiatric treatment or for being sent to a military school or whatnot whereas the poor child to whom such a resource is not available is going to immediately fall into the toils of the law. Now this isn't a matter of arguing which would be better but merely pointing out the difference in the way the law treats the two groups of kids. As a matter of fact some of the
anti-social behavior that is manifested by well-to-do youngsters. Who are socially prominent maybe regarded in the newspapers as sort of amusing. For example if you remember a few years ago when the night club set in England was doing things like swimming in the public pools at night and creating quite a ruckus in public places this was clever and amusing but I wonder if it's really very different from the adolescent in a gang who steals a car not really to take it away but to take its friends out for a wild ride and perhaps to show them that he's somebody important. Just as the man from the Social Register indicates his difference and importance by taking a dive and public found Dr Bolter answered the question regarding geographic location. Course you can have depending upon local laws for one thing but I think there's a broader understanding that's necessary namely the fact that the link when she asked such is a definition of behavior which is not
acceptable at least in my language. Behavior that's not acceptable in terms of a reality situation that is the individual who is a so-called elite one or is behaving in a week when Fashion is not respecting the rights of others and not contributing what is expected of him in his interrelationships. Of the world or life as it is in answering the question are we differing socio economic structure prone to accept the very behavior patterns as either acceptable or unacceptable. Dr Bolter replied I'm sure we are. I I'm sure you're aware as well as I am of the fact that in lower socio economic groups for example the business of getting away with minor infractions is something that's par for the course that is this is something that youngsters do expect to do and parents will overlook this rather easily
whereas you know other social economic or religious groups even there may be a great deal of restrictive knows to the point for example where any untoward statement action or what have you is taken as a delinquent act actually to be really specific about it let's take up a special religious group like the Amish in Germany. Pennsylvania there are concepts of behavior of right and wrong is certainly a more restrictive one would find in other groups certainly in religious groups such as one finds in New York City for example although I suppose there might be some flair that also might be very restrictive. Dr. Eisenberg is a man imminently qualified to answer the next question. Having conducted extensive studies on the effects of overcrowding do urban areas
have greater problems with delinquency than rural areas. Well the difficulty in trying to answer that question is the one that I posed at the beginning of the definition and that is because the crimes may be handled differently. Statistics are not really comparable from one city to another from city to county and certainly from the United States. When one tries to compare it with other countries in the world the fact remains that at least in terms of official statistics juvenile delinquency is a problem a far greater proportion overwhelmingly greater proportion in the United States but it is as a registered crime anywhere else in the world. And again the statistics show that juvenile crimes are more common in cities than they are in urban environments within cities. You can pretty well superimpose a map of slum housing upon a map of the areas in which most juvenile
crimes are and. Matter of fact most crimes are committed. This is not to say the juvenile delinquency does not occur in middle and upper income groups but that the greatest frequency of registered cases actually occurs in slum areas which suffer not only from poor housing but low standards of morality and a lack of sense of community belonging precisely what are the effects of overcrowding. Again Dr. Eisenberg Well you see the problem that we have to deal with and trying to want to Ravell the causes of delinquency when we use sociologic data and attempt to correlate crime with housing or crime with crowding or crime with hygiene. Is that of course you're looking at figures that make her a leech other but perhaps both of them in response to some further hidden cause that you don't know about and the actual apparent relationship may not be a causal one. For example you could probably make a map. In most cities which shows the juvenile
delinquency is highest in the areas with fewest bathtubs per person. In fact I think this has been done. One could then jump to the conclusion that the lack of a bath to cause a juvenile delinquency. Obviously no one would believe this. What is happening is that you're measuring juvenile delinquency which is correlated with low socio economic circumstances which is also correlated with lack of bathtubs. Well then when the question comes of evaluating a single element like overcrowding it's difficult to disentangle that from all of the other social problems that are combined with it. It seems reasonable to suppose that a child who is huddled into a crowded home with no space of his own to sit and think and be on his own who by virtue of crowding is constantly exposed to all of the life activities of the family who probably is exposed in many cases to witnessing sexual behavior in the home which would not be visible to him in a more spacious surrounding who sees the quarreling of the
parents you know the teeming tenement sort of affair at the same time this kid lives in an area which by and large has less adequate schools than do the more privileged areas of the city. Moreover he knows that his parents are likely to have had very little education. He knows that the prospect for him to go to college is not very great. And all of this lowers his level of aspiration to school as to achievement. Consequently he turns to other things for his sources of power and prestige. And here immediately he's greeted by organized gangs of children who set up as the standards by which one achieves a measure of importance in the group. The basis being that of antisocial or the kind of behavior the more solid citizens in the community strongly disapprove of what I'm calling attention. Here too is the difference in the standards of expected behavior that go with communities. It may not be
merely the poor economic circumstances but the moral loss of values. That is a loss of moral values that is associated with a deteriorating community where people feel isolated where they lose any conviction in their own capacity to raise themselves up to control their own fate and with a sense of being lost on a ship without a rudder in the midst of the storm. There comes a feeling of cynicism and disbelief and a readiness to engage in any activity which promises an immediate thrill. What I'm saying is that it's certainly a very complex psychological process that is associated with this pattern of economic disability. Now the number of people have called attention to the fact that it has to be accounted for that wow juvenile delinquency is high in frequency and these socially underprivileged areas many of the children are not delinquent.
So it can't just be social disadvantage. And they further point to the fact that the kids who are delinquent are far more likely to come from homes in which there are cruel and inhuman treatment by the parents neglectful parents missing parents promiscuity and whatnot. So that the way in which the economic circumstances become translated into personal impact on the child is through the medium of the family. And if a family is successful in maintaining its own integrity as many of the immigrant families in the past that lived in just such sections of the city where then the child may come out of this experience the stronger for it for having resisted temptation so to speak. Whereas if the family collapses then the child has no anchor for his own behavior and becomes immediately victimized by all of the opportunities for criminal behavior that surround him on all sides. Much has been discussed concerning lower economic groups I asked Dr. Eisenberg what
problems confronted the children parents and juvenile officials when dealing with the higher economic groups. Perhaps we want to consider at least briefly some aspects of delinquency in the higher socio economic groups. Since this matter tends to be neglected in the ordinary thinking about the problem statistically as I said it's far less common. But the question one would raise is whether or not it's far less common because it isn't registered in court or because it occurs less frequently. I think it's probably both since as I suggested earlier the child from more affluent circumstances has other avenues to express his difficulties rather than car theft and so on. Most of the studies that have been done on juvenile delinquency in the higher socioeconomic groups have come up with a finding that the delinquent behavior of the child seems to be acting out by the child of
the feelings of the parents that have been inadequately dealt with. That is to say it's a gap in the morality of the home which the parents have unwittingly conveyed to the child. And then the child becomes the one who manifests this behavior. As difficult as this may be to believe there are a number of case reports which I'm sure would be quite convincing if you read them in which the parents came to the psychiatrist for help because of their dismay at the child's anti-social behavior. And then as one took a careful history from the parents and got to know the parents much better it became perfectly evident that the parents had actually been proud of this anti-social behavior on the part of the child and had covertly encouraged it. Once Of course it had reached the point of law breaking then they became very dismayed by what had happened. But all along the way they had failed to support the child in terms of honor and decency as they should have earlier. The link when see in the children
in the upper socio economic groups seems to be related to what Mills has referred to as white collar crime. That is the kind of. Immoral behavior that many of those in the professional and higher economic groupings carry out without much thought of its essential immorality. And that may escape detection but really is theft. For example cheating on income taxes fraudulent expense accounts varieties of payola and so on which we don't get alarmed about because people like us so to speak do this all the time. But isn't this really stealing property no less than they recorded theft of a man who goes in the jewelry store. It's just that it escapes detection much more often. And if one has so little respect for decency and honesty this is very apt to communicate itself to children who will then at their own level appropriate to their
own age. Show the same manifestations which may lead to something detectable as delinquency. Like the rising bug that added this to his last remark. Well I think it's just this sort of if you like schizophrenia and family life where the parents say you must be faithful you must be honest you must obey the religious doctrines that I impress upon you. And then at the same time cheat on those doctrines. It's this tendency that may produce stress and tension an adolescent who feels loyalty and honesty and a very keen sense. And he was saying his parents violating the tenants that he would like to believe then and they feel despondent and they get himself into difficulties because there's really nothing any longer that he feels he can believe in. Nothing is really worthwhile. Now I don't want to paint too black a picture. Obviously putting a more elastic construction on
income tax returns and with the tax inspector so long as it's written down. Honest form is not really the same thing as burglarizing in a jewelry store. But I would like to make you want to dance a little bit uncomfortable enough to examine their own behavior because usually those of us who are comfortably off or at least making a satisfactory living in life find it convenient to look at crime as a social manifestation that occurs only among other people and particularly the poor or the underprivileged. And I think it would repay us all to recognize that we too should examine the mote in our own eyes and see what can be done about correcting our own behavior in the light of the standards that we say we believe in. In Washington Dr. Helen Whitman of the Office of Health Education and Welfare has played a key role in a sweeping study on juvenile delinquency. I asked
her if there is more juvenile delinquency today than there has been in the past. I don't know whether it's entirely So this is a very debatable question whether there actually is more delinquency nowadays and there used to be. And since the name Quincy is so undefinable except. AS. Judged by the police arrests and court appearances we can only make a comparison in those terms in those terms there is more of it than there was. I'm struck however by the fact that the period that was much like our present period the period of the 1920s was also a period of great so-called increase in delinquency. Now in the bureau are. Quite convinced that there has been an increase but rather
it's as much as the figures would imply. Is anybody's guess. But there are those 20 is the thing that I'm interested in about the 20s is in the parallels where you have high prosperity post rule or disillusionment. Of great stress on material possessions and getting ahead. What should we say. Well those are the main things. Nowadays we have a lot of other factors in but there really is a lot that the two periods have in common. You might feel interested to know in addition that there are a couple studies that show that delinquency goes up in prosperity and down in depression. Adult crime does the opposite. Adult
crime goes up in the Depression and down in periods of prosperity. The juvenile delinquency has the opposite. Result. It seems to me that it probably means. In the kind of society that we have. That when. People have a lot of money. And are buying more and more. Things with the money. That in part for youngsters who don't have the money. Feel even more out of place and out of style than they did in a time when everybody Flavell was cut down considerably. For as long as most of us can remember this question has been asked. Where
does the fault lie. Is it the parent or the child to blame. Dr. Eisenberg said this. Well it's obvious to you I'm sure that just the very fact that no one has been able to do anything much about the problem indicates that the answer to it isn't no. There are people who argue vehemently for one or another factor since they're intelligent people it must be evident the evidence is not clear cut. Now part of the reason I think is that delinquent behavior while it may show certain common and other aspects is not a single pattern of behavior but probably divides itself into at least three major groups. One of them with a delinquent behavior on the basis of a brain injury in the child. This is probably numerically the
smallest group. This is the kind of child who at birth or in the process of an accident or infection develops some injury to some parts of the brain which result in an alteration of his emotional behavior. And some people think in a change in his capacity to accept and be guided by conventional moral standards. Such children are likely to show abnormal brainwaves when they're given an electroencephalogram and may show certain neurological patterns with which it's not appropriate to concern ourselves here except to say that there are clinical methods by which this syndrome can be detected. These children then constitute one group. And if one wants to carry this a step further in thinking of prevention all of those measures which would maintain health or if you like a void the likelihood of brain injury would be in a sense contributing to the prevention of juvenile delinquency. Although as I stress this
is the smallest group. The second group size would be that in which the juvenile delinquency is a reflection of what we might call personal family issues. This applies mostly to the upper class pattern of delinquency where it's not social circumstance as much as it is the neurotic patterns of interaction in the family poor relationship between parent and child between the parents between the parents and the community and so on that are expressed in the antisocial behavior of the youngster. The third and largest group is delinquency on a social basis. This is the delinquency that we've mentioned before that's highly associated with economic circumstance. As I indicated previously even the delinquency on a social basis must have its final mode of transmission between the social factors and the personal life of the child through its impact on destruction of the family
and intact family. Even under difficult circumstances it is likely to result in an intact child. If the family collapses in the midst a community collapse then the child is almost destined in these areas to become delinquent. If the family collapses but there are other resources in the community that is if a good schoolteacher. If a recreation worker if someone else is available to the child on whom he can model himself whom he can feel he can trust whose values he wants to share and benefit with. Then the child may still survive but the combination of family failure and community failure is devastating in terms of the opportunity for salvage of this youngsters life as a citizen. It should be noted that my broken home or family collapse in this context I'm referring to parents who are inadequate to this meet the needs of the child. This is not a matter of divorce. Parents who separate because they cannot get along together but continue to maintain amicable relations on behalf of the
child and who each show interest in the child and visit with the child and remain concerned for his welfare continue to provide models with which the child can identify and feel secure and comfortable. The problem that has to concern the psychiatrist and the people in the community is the child who is in a family where not only are the parents unavailable but by and large we would not want the child to identify with those parents because the patterns of behavior they show are the very things that are leading the child into a life of crime. Next week he will again hear Dr. Eisenberg Dr. ball's surgeon Dr. Whitmer as they discuss juvenile delinquency on the second program on this subject from the series human behavior social and medical research consultant for this program was Dr. Stuart Finch of the University of Michigan's medical school. And we extend our special thanks to the Mental Health Research Institute of the University of Michigan. We would like to take this opportunity to call to your attention forthcoming programs of this series
which will soon be heard during the next weeks two programs dealing with religion. Religion and science and religion and mental health. Appearing on this program will be Dr. C. Leslie Glenn Reverend George C. Anderson and Dr. Earl Loomis. In other programs one on creativity with Dr. Morris Stein of the University of Chicago and how behavior influences our economy. Appearing on this program will be Dr. Max F. Milliken of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Jacob Marshak of Yale University and Kenneth J erro of Stanford University. In a five part segment. On the behavioral sciences and the law. Later on in the series we will hear a program on the ethics of human manipulation. And then to conclude the series we will hear two programs dealing with the future developments of behavioral science. We invite you to listen to these programs and others in
- Behavioral science research
- Juvenile delinquency, part 1
- Producing Organization
- University of Michigan
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- This program, the first of two parts, focuses on juvenile delinquency and how behavioral science can help assess and improve it. Guest are: Benjamin Harris Balser, MD; Leon Eisenberg, MD, Johns Hopkins Hospital; and Helen Witmer, Ph.D., Office of Health, Education and Welfare.
- A documentary series on behavioral science and its role in understanding human health.
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Host: Cowlin, Bert
Interviewee: Balser, Benjamin Harris, 1905-
Interviewee: Eisenberg, Leon, 1922-2009
Interviewee: Witmer, Helen Leland
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-36-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- APA: Behavioral science research; Juvenile delinquency, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-d21rkj0x