"There is only so much government can do." There is also a need, he said, "for a change in attitude."I attended a training in the development of the adolescent brain recently. And the trainer discussed just this issue.
The senator talked about the young men and boys who have gone down "the wrong path." And he said one of the main reasons they are wreaking havoc and shooting one another is that they had not received enough attention while growing up from responsible adults.
When young men grow up with strong men in their community and family, they have a confidence that the community is a relatively safe place. No matter the poverty or crime level or danger, these young men know that there are older men who will defend the community. It is not up to the young men to lead in this defense, although they are willing to join in. This is illustrated beautifully in the TV show "Everybody Hates Chris." Chris's father is one of only three fathers living with their children in the neighborhood, but the presence of these three men, as well as the shop owners and other responsible men serves to keep the violence at bay, although there is certainly enough crime.
When there are no protective older men around, the young men know that it is up to them to be the defenders, and they do not have the maturity or experience to handle it correctly. This premature responsibility that has no decent role models to fall back on results in extreme violence. The young men become hypervigilant and defensive. They tend to see threats where none exist, to over react to the beginnings of a threat that more experienced men would be able to negotiate, to take as their pattern the idea that the best defense is a very violent offense.
The adolescent brain matures from back to front, with the sensory and then the action centers becoming proficient early in adolescence, and the pre-frontal cortex, center of mature judgment, not attaining full development until the early to mid-twenties. The tendency is to concentrate on the part which has most recently matured and which can now be used efficiently and effectively. Which explains why most teens are more interested in computer games and skate boards than in politics. It also explains why young men without the influence of older men around tend to become aggressive.*
This is why some armies recruit young child soldiers -- they will be very violent. This is why neighborhoods without fathers become gang battle grounds. This is why 32 children have been murdered in Chicago in the last school year.
* It was when the presenter reached this point that I
"A possible scenario," says elephant behaviourist Robert Slotow, "is that it's the older males disciplining the younger ones."But that had never felt like a satisfactory explanation to me. Why, I wondered, would adult male elephants care what happened to the rhinos? It's not like they had a treaty.
How much more satisfying to look at it from the violent boys model. The original attacks had happened because first people and then rhinos had approached the young males too closely. The attacks on people stopped, because we communicate with each other and the word went out that these elephants were dangerous to approach. However, rhinos don't communicate at a distance, and so they continued to cross the hypervigilant boundaries that set off the adolescents. Since elephants live in herds of females and young males, introducing adult females would not affect the aggression -- neither would expect that the females would protect males old enough to be living outside the herd. When the males were introduced, the young males were surely aware of them and uncertain of their safety from them. Once each adolescent had met all of the adult males, they knew that they were in no danger from them, and also that these elephants knew what to do about rhinos. They knew they were no longer the defenders.