Violent Crimes Committed by Children Are Rising. But Why?
According to ABC News, “nobody knows” how a 6-year-old from Newport News, Virginia, obtained possession of his mom’s gun and shot his first-grade teacher. This occurred in January, but court documents released in August brought this case back to the surface. Reportedly, the child “had extreme emotional issues for some time” that were passed over by the school leading up to the shooting.
The report continued, “Millions of [children] live in poverty. Most do not have full-time parental supervision at home guiding their development. … [T]hese children will not remain young and impressionable for long. … As a result, we likely face a future wave of youth violence that will be even worse than that of the past ten years.”
Some of the more shocking examples include an 11-year-old in Apopka, Florida, who allegedly shot two of his 13-year-old teammates during a dispute over a bag of chips. In another instance, a 15-year-old student in Flint, Michigan threw a chair at her teacher, knocking her unconscious.
For former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, much of this increase in youth criminal behavior can be attributed to a “societal shift away from family, community, and a removal of the disincentives traditionally used to restrain for bad behavior,” he told The Epoch Times. He explained how a lot of youth violence is from children exposed to violence themselves from family members in gangs or unlawful actions taken by parents, including various links to single-parent homes. Craig emphasized how the trend of relaxing prosecutions in big cities “has contributed to the crisis” since many kids “see a lot of these young people engaging in retail theft at a large scale … [and] they know that in the unlikely circumstance that they get caught, it will just be a slap in the wrist.”
While there are many factors, experts have begun highlighting the connections to spirituality and the breakdown of family. Meg Kilgannon, senior fellow for Education Studies at Family Research Council, commented to The Washington Stand, “Societal breakdown in the form of child violence is happening because of the breakdown of the family.” She explained how high divorce rates and couples having children without getting married are examples of this deterioration.
“This is the mournful wail of a culture crying out for God,” she added, even though the culture seemingly has a “stubborn determination to reject God and the reality of objective truth.” However, for Kilgannon, the rejection of God and objective truth reflects the shift we have seen in “adult priorities,” and this shift is leading children to commit “acts of depravity.” But she emphasized, “[I]n seeking justice for these kinds of crimes, we must not lose sight of their childhood.”
Adding to the breakdown of the family is the breakdown of masculinity and lack of fathers, according to Owen Strachan, a senior fellow at the Center for Biblical Worldview at FRC. “The absence of fathers in many homes is a major factor in this societal chaos,” he told TWS. Young men are particularly vulnerable to bad behavior when there is no dad in the home, he added. These boys often have anger that “skyrockets out of control, and they lash out at the world around them.”
Strachan emphasized there is no excuse for this behavior, “But it is a reality in our world.” To navigate between child perpetrators and child victims is not a simple task, Kilgannon noted. “Part of recovering from this is trying to rehabilitate the child perpetrator in the hope that his or her adult life will be a moral and just one. This doesn’t mean we fail to protect others from being victimized — we must do both at once.”
Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.