Every now and then (well quite a lot actually) I notice these stories appearing in the papers which detail often horrifying stories not of adults who have committed the usual, sad offences (rape, murder, and so on), but teenagers and children. Today was no exception. Two boys aged just ten and 11 were found guilty of attempting to rape an 8-year-old girl. The Metro article was scarce of any great detail about their attempt but the outcome seemed decisive. Apparently the boys were ordered to be registered as sex offenders but, in the words of the article, “the judge said he was ‘not quite sure’ how this applied to children of their age.”
Not quite sure. I’ll say! Was the judge simply an old man confused in a moment of senility? No. Was he picking apart pieces of the law to try to work out the answer to his problem? No – his problem was not of that nature. The problem is how on earth two boys of primary school age can be asked to register as sex offenders.
This is one of many stories that I can think of just off the top of my head recently. The case of Jamie Bulger stands out as one of the greatest atrocities of child crime of the last couple of decades. I was sickened to read of another recent crime committed by two boys equally as young which was matched in some senses to the Bulger case, although there were two victims in this case older than Jamie Bulger but obviuosly vulnerable, and they were not killed. But the reports of what was done to them and what they were made to do made horrific reading.
I remember when reading of this particular case that when the boys were asked why they committed such atrocities to two fellow school children, they responded that they were bored and there was nothing else to do.
We might wonder what on earth has got into these children that they are even having it in their minds to get up to such things. Yet the cause to me is obvious. These boys – and other children and young people in the news of course, including especially girls apparently as young as 8 carrying about drugs for gangs – are imitating the older generations. They simply see it about them in so much of society. Children and young people are clearly impressionable, and I have known it said on more than one occasion that every child just wants to be an adult. That’s often why it’s better to treat them like one in the good sense. But it’s also why they are in some of these cases heading into such trouble.
I and probably everyone who reads this is plenty aware of children who are being shown films with ratings of 15 and 18. EVERYBODY knows things like that are happening. Maybe it’s a stupid, obvious question, but aren’t those ratings in place for a reason? I have heard of definite cases where young boys have got into serious crime and trouble, and it has been shown that they have just been allowed to sit around at home while their irresponsible parents put on some violent or in some way adult film without sending them out of the room. Clearly such material can have a huge influence on their mind and almost think that what they’re seeing is normal, or at least, more acceptable than it actually is.
This is one example of the many problems that need to be addressed in society. One significant issue that I think needs even more attention today is parenting. Ultimately I would estimate that in most cases the responsibility lies with the parent. In many court cases over child crimes this is of course taken up and the parents are required to take some measure of responsibility.
But it’s too late then! It’s not as if that’s really going to send out a message to all other parents everywhere to make sure their kids are brought up without these bad influences. It’s so obvious to me but, we need to be helping the parents from day one, from the moment mum realises she’s pregnant! It’s the whole case of turning from retribution to prevention.
I still have much to find out about it, but I am aware of some research coming out of Iain Duncan-Smith’s setup, the Centre for Social Justice, and I am very impressed by their range of Publications which address all sorts of these issues that I’m touching on. There is obviously still a long way to go – people need to hear the statistics, the research, and be able to use it to better society. One piece of research there I would strongly refer to especially in the case of this article is found here and contains what I consider to be findings of unbelievable importance, detailed especially on pages 60ff. Page 63 for example demonstrates scientifically the importance of love, care and attention for a child between the ages of 0-3. One brain scan of a well-cared-for child shows a healthy brain, while a brain scan of a neglected child shows a different story: it is 20-30% smaller, with ‘decreased cell growth, synaptic and dendrite density’ – in short, less well-developed, with poorer connections across the brain, making for an all-round more difficult upbringing, I gather.
It’s amazing, but love, care and attention for every person on this planet between the ages of 0-3 really would help at least quite a few of our problems. Certainly neglect has caused a lot. That is why I believe parenting should be a target. We shouldn’t be straightaway just condemning parents – they need help learning the ropes as it’s a big task! But especially some in harder conditions can find it all too easy to neglect their children.
One last paper of theirs to point to would be “Fathers Not Included“, a response to the recent human fertilisation and embryology bill which, among other things, would have stated that there would no longer be the need for a natural father to be named on birth certificates for children born to same-sex couples through donor sperm. The paper importantly, and again of course through valuable research, points out the value of raising children in homes with a father AND a mother, among other things.
I could go on. But I think it crazy that we don’t seem to have really GOT it yet – that there is something fundamentally wrong with our society at its roots, and this needs addressing NOW, not just at some point when we might be able to manage it.