Youth Violence Myth

Essay by SafyreUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, July 2004

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Youth Violence Myth

With the media focusing so much attention on cases of juvenile crime, you might think that youth today are more violent and dangerous than ever. There is no such thing as "youth violence." The levels of, and cycles in, violent crime and homicide among poorer, mostly minority young men occur because, for every race/ethnic group, poverty rates among the young are twice those of adults. Factor out poverty differences, and murder and violent crime rates are higher among adults in their 20s and 30s than among teenagers. Adult violent crime rates would be higher still if the chances of being arrested for committing domestic violence approached those for street violence. Family violence is the chief danger to children and women, murdering three times more kids than all "youth violence" combined.

Nor are rare, public crimes such as school shootings a "youth" phenomenon. These are individual pathologies amply shared with adults, as more common mass shootings by grownups show.

There is, in short, nothing in the behavior of young people as distinct from adults that merits tagging their generation with the pejorative term, "youth violence." In fact, such labeling rightly would be seen as bigoted if applied to racial or ethnic groups. Why, then, is it acceptable to single out young people for negative stereotyping?

The reason illuminates America's paralyzing institutional biases. Rather than attacking the conditions that underlie social problems, as leadership in other Western nations more often do, American leaders blame the personal flaws and misbehaviors of disfavored demographic groups: Asian and Eastern and Southern European immigrants in the early century, Japanese-Americans during World War II, Mexican migrants in various cycles, African Americans throughout. Negative stereotypes applied in the past to scapegoat racial/ethnic groups (innately violent, biologically flawed, impulsive, menacing peaceful society in growing numbers) are...