THE EPIDEMIC OF YOUTH VIOLENCE
PROLOGUE: CHICAGO, JANUARY 1994
I lived and worked in Chicago for almost ten years, from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. My children grew up there. Throughout 1993, the Chicago Tribune published in-depth profiles of every kid who was killed in Chicago that year. As an expert on violence and trauma, I spent a lot of time talking with reporters in an attempt to help them make sense of what they had found during their investigation of each case. The reporters worked on the project all through 1993, and in a single issue at the beginning of 1994 the Tribune published the photo and name of every single child and teenager who had been murdered during the previous twelve months. It was a chilling and haunting sight to see the rows and rows of names and faces -- sixty-one in all.
The same night the Tribune published the death toll from 1993, my seventeen-year-old son Josh was heading out for an evening on the town with his friends. "Be careful," I said. "It's dangerous out there, and I worry about you." He turned to me, with the Tribune in hand, and said, "Don't worry, Dad. Just how many white faces and names like mine do you see in the newspaper?" The reality was that in 1994 he could reassure me by this simple reference to the facts of the matter; you had to look long and hard at those rows of photos in the Tribune to find a white teenage face with a non-Hispanic surname. Even though we lived in the city, within walking distance of some of the most violent streets in America, Josh felt safe.
When my son's observation forced me to confront this reality, I recalled a meeting I had attended just weeks before. I was the lone white person on a panel of African American and Hispanic professionals for a community forum on violence. During the coffee break we panel members began chatting among ourselves, and it turned out that all of us had teenage sons. As we talked about being parents of teenagers in the city, it became clear to me that while I worried when my son went out at night, my African American and Hispanic colleagues felt dread, because they thought of their boys as part of an endangered species, even though the actual number of children killed that year was less than one hundred in a city of three million. But that number is a compelling feature of the violence problem; even a relatively small number of deaths can stimulate a profound sense of threat and insecurity in a community. Homicide is the leading cause of death for minority male youth, and each new death creates tremendous psychological reverberations. The feeling of extreme apprehension my colleagues experienced was neither paranoid nor far-fetched.
That was 1994. Fast-forward to 1998. By May of that year, I was living and working in Ithaca, a small university town located in the rolling hills of central New York State. Ithaca is a lovely place, mostly known for being the home of Cornell University. For many years and for most of its citizens, Ithaca has been a kind of idyllic paradise where the big news is likely to be the awarding of a prize to a member of Cornell's faculty or a local school board meeting (among vegetarians it is famous as the home of the Moosewood Restaurant, which inspired a popular cookbook).
On May 22, 1998, my fifteen-year-old daughter Joanna and my fourteen-year-old stepson Eric sat at the kitchen table reading the newspaper, which that morning was filled with accounts of the shooting of twenty-four students in Springfield, Oregon, by fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel. Looking up from the front-page story, Joanna, shaking her head, said, "I wonder who it's going to be at our school."
NO ONE IS IMMUNE
The 1997-1998 school year will go down in American history as the turning point in our country's experience and understanding of lethal youth violence. October 1, 1997, Pearl, Mississippi: after killing his mother, sixteen-year-old Luke Woodham opens fire at his high school, killing three and wounding seven. December 1, 1997, West Paducah, Kentucky: fourteen-year-old Michael Carneal kills three students at a high school prayer meeting. March 24, 1998, Jonesboro, Arkansas: thirteen-year-old Mitchell Johnson and eleven-year-old Andrew Golden open fire on their schoolmates, killing four of them and a teacher. April 24, 1998, Edinboro, Pennsylvania: fourteen-year-old Andrew Wurst kills a teacher at a school dance. May 21, 1998, Springfield, Oregon: after killing his parents, fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel walks into the school cafeteria and shoots twenty-four classmates, two fatally.
These cases made the national and international news. All the assailants were middle-class, white teenagers from small towns or the suburbs. But these headline-grabbing shooting sprees reminded some families and victims of youth violence of crimes that, although similar, did not seem to merit the attention of the national and international media. Standing just offscreen, beyond our gaze, were hundreds of other kids who had committed acts of lethal violence. Most of us never heard about the adolescents who shot and killed other kids in the inner-city neighborhoods of Houston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Detroit during that same school year. They remained mostly anonymous.
What about the fourteen-year-old African American kid who shot an eighteen-year-old convenience store clerk? The fifteen-year-old Hispanic kid who opened fire with an assault rifle on a street full of kids? The sixteen-year-old African American who gunned down three teens outside his apartment building? The fifteen-year-old Asian boy who executed a sixteen-year-old with a single shot to the head? Rarely do cases like these make the national news, and when they do, the perpetrators are usually described in dehumanized terms ("cold-blooded," "remorseless," "vicious") that lead us to speculate on whether or not these kids are even human. Rarely do we hear of inquiries into their emotional lives or of efforts to make sense of their acts. Why is that?
Is it because the high-visibility cases all involved white kids from the small towns and suburbs of the American heartland while the anonymous killers were poor kids, predominantly African American and Hispanic, living in inner-city neighborhoods? Is it easier for the media and the general public to forget or demonize the low-income minority kids who kill? Some informed observers of the role of race and class in our society have said publicly that they think the answer is yes.
Given our society's history of institutional and interpersonal racism, it would be naive to think that poor minority kids automatically get the same attention and concern as white and middle-class kids do. A number of respected African American psychiatrists, psychologists, lawyers, and community leaders addressed this point in interviews conducted by journalist Zachary Dowdy in 1998. Harvard psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint said, "When white middle-class kids kill, there is always a public outcry of why and a search for what went wrong, but when inner-city minority kids kill, the public is warned of demons and superpredators." Bill Talley, a public defender who has spent years representing inner-city kids in court, put it this way, "No one's calling these white youths 'maggots or animals.'" Judge Milton Wright noted that when Kip Kinkel committed his murders in Springfield, Oregon, Newsweek began its coverage this way: "With his shy smile and slight build, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel has an innocent look that is part Huck Finn and part Alfred E. Neuman -- boyish and quintessentially American." Wright went on to say, "Quintessentially American? That always means white."
I have seen firsthand verification of this class and race bias. When I began working on issues of lethal violence and violent trauma in the lives of inner-city kids more than a decade ago, it was hard to get the attention of most Americans, beyond the professionals and parents who lived or worked in inner-city minority communities. The rest of America could afford to ignore the violence when it seemed to be "them," not "us." Perhaps the worst example of this came when a staff member from a congressional committee visited me in my office in Chicago to discuss the issue of lethal youth violence. He found out the problem was mainly confined to inner-city minority populations, and when he communicated this fact to the legislators he represented, they decided it wasn't worth holding hearings on the matter. Nasty, indeed, but brutally honest as an expression of politics as usual.
But the lack of interest among mainstream white America has its origins in more than racism and class bias. Until recently, most American parents could count on the fact that random youth violence was not their problem but a problem for others. After all, 84 percent of the counties in the entire country recorded no youth homicides at all in 1995, and parents and children in most places must have felt a kind of immunity -- if they thought about it at all -- because they, like my son in 1994, didn't see themselves in the pictures of the killers and the killed. But that was before Jonesboro and Paducah and Springfield, before the cast of characters expanded, and young middle-class Americans, like my daughter, came to see that this could happen to them and their schoolmates.
Now new voices of concern are heard, new faces appear in the newspaper, and new people show up for my lectures and my workshops on violence, trauma, and kids who kill. The killings in the small towns and suburbs during the 1997-1998 school year have served as a kind of wake-up call for America. But this is also an opportunity for Americans to wake up to the fact that the terrible phenomenon of youth violence has been commonplace for the past twenty years and to learn from the experiences of those who have lived with this problem for the last two decades.
In June of 1998, I was speaking at a meeting of mothers who had buried murdered sons. There were more than a dozen mothers in the audience, mostly African American and Hispanic women, bearing the black-draped photos of their dead sons and wearing the commemorative ribbons as testimony to an epidemic of lethal youth violence that is all too familiar to them. But they are no longer alone. The old faces and voices have not disappeared or grown silent but, rather, have been added to as every parent in the country now wonders, Where next? Is my child safe? Could it happen here? What can we do?
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE PAST?
What do the large number of anonymous killings have to do with the highly publicized killings in Jonesboro and Paducah and Springfield? What do they have in common? In this book we will find answers by moving beyond the surface differences between the two groups of violent boys -- principally class and race -- to see the profound emotional and psychological similarities that link them together. By getting to know the circumstances under which the epidemic of youth violence first took hold, among low-income minority youth in inner-city areas, we can begin to gain some insight into the lives of the boys in places like Jonesboro, Paducah, and Springfield.
My goal is to understand why kids kill and to help other parents and professionals understand so that they can do something to prevent it in the future. Certainly, there are individuals and cases that defy explanation; some youth violence is committed by kids who have totally lost touch with reality. But these truly are the exceptions. I believe we can make some sense of youth violence from the inside out, that is, by looking deeply into the lives of kids who kill and by listening closely to their own stories. In doing so we can see how problems accumulate and recognize the sequence of events in the life of a child that leads from childhood play to lethal violence, whether these events occur in urban war zones or in the small towns and suburbs of the heartland.
For the past twenty-five years I have studied children and youth in many different settings. My research fills books. Hardly a week goes by that I don't talk with a journalist or get on an airplane to go lecture to professionals or concerned citizens about murder, child abuse, war, and other violent trauma. How do I know what to say to people? Where do I find clues to understand how an innocent infant grows up to be a killer? In my work I always try to combine two sources of information: First, I listen to children who have killed to hear their individual stories. Second, I examine systematic research on the causes of violence in the lives of children and youth. In the pages and chapters that follow, I blend these two sources, drawing upon one to illuminate and make sense of the other, always with the intent to show how what we have learned about the epidemic of killing among inner-city boys can shed light on the boys of the American heartland who are the new casualties of that epidemic.
HOW MUCH KILLING IS THERE?
The FBI reports that there are about twenty-three thousand homicides each year in the United States. In about 10 percent of these cases, the perpetrator is under eighteen years of age. If we extend the age cutoff to include youth up to the age of twenty-one, the figure is about 25 percent. But while the homicide data, which are used widely for comparative purposes, may be reliable, their meanings are not transparent or unambiguous. There are many complexities and subtleties to be considered in making sense of the numbers.
For one thing, improved medical trauma technology has meant that an injury that would have been fatal just twenty years ago is today much less likely to result in death. Children survive gunshot wounds and stabbings that once were fatal, just as a 90 percent cure rate saves them from certain childhood cancers that forty years ago promised a nearly certain early death. An example of the change with respect to homicide is seen in Chicago, where from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s the number of serious assaults (attacks that could lead to the death of the victim) increased 400 percent while the homicide rate remained about the same. This factor is particularly important when we try to look at long-term historical trends, such as when we compare the homicide rate of the nineteenth century with that of the twentieth century or when we compare data from the first half of this century with data from the last ten or twenty years.
Furthermore, any consideration of the overall homicide rate should be tempered by an appreciation of the role of age and gender in this crime. For instance, it is well known that young men are about ten times as likely as young women to commit murder. Thus, historical comparisons may be skewed by changes in the population's age and gender profile. For example, if a society with an average age of fifteen has the same total homicide rate as a society with an average age of thirty, it probably means that the first society has much less lethal youth violence than the second one.
American homicide data are subject to distorted analysis if one fails to consider two important facts: First, the average age of perpetrators of homicide decreased in the United States from thirty-three years of age in 1965 to twenty-seven years of age in 1993. Second, while the overall homicide rate has been relatively constant over the last thirty years, the youth homicide rate has risen. The period of greatest growth was from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, when the youth homicide rate increased by 168 percent. In other words, the problem of youth homicide is obscured when one looks at the total national picture, because the increased numbers of older Americans dilute the effect of rising youth homicide rates on the overall rate for the country as a whole.
Much has been made in the press and in city halls around the country of the welcome news that the total national homicide rate took a dip from 1991 to 1997. Similarly, after more than a decade of steady increase, homicides by juveniles dropped 17 percent between 1994 and 1995 (which still leaves the rate more than 50 percent higher than it was in 1980). Does this mean the problem is under control? Not necessarily, according to criminologist James Fox of Northeastern University's College of Criminal Justice. For one thing, homicide rates in general and our juvenile homicide in particular remain much higher in the United States than they are in other industrialized societies, such as the countries of Europe. Closer to home, Canada is reporting a youth homicide rate about one tenth as high as the United States.
What is more, criminologists expect fluctuations because of the many influences on the number of murders there are each year. For example, higher rates of incarceration for lesser offenses take some likely killers out of circulation. The lethal violence associated with the highly competitive nature of illegal drug dealing has been associated with the extraordinary levels of youth homicide reported for some inner-city neighborhoods. But since the mid-1990s, the drug business in some cities has settled down and become better organized, resulting in a decrease in the youth homicide rate. And several communities have been undertaking major campaigns to curtail violence in their inner-city areas. In the mid-1990s Boston was able to cut its youth homicide rate to zero for a period of two years. As we shall see in Chapter Seven, these city programs have a great deal to teach suburban and rural communities.
To reach a true understanding of why children kill, we need to look beyond short-term trends. Certainly, the long-term trends are very disturbing. According to the FBI, juvenile arrests for possession of weapons, aggravated assault, robbery, and murder rose more than 50 percent from 1987 to 1996. Looking back still further, we can see a sevenfold increase in serious assault by juveniles in the United States since World War II. But perhaps the most disturbing trend is that while the overall youth homicide rate dropped in 1997, the rate among small town and rural youth increased by 38 percent. And that last statistic highlights my conviction that no longer can any of us believe that we and our children are immune to lethal youth violence, because today almost every teenager in American goes to school with a kid who is troubled enough to become the next killer -- and chances are that kid has access to the weapons necessary to do so.
KIDS WHO KILL THEMSELVES
Throughout this book we will be looking closely at children who lash out at other children or adults. But we shouldn't lose sight of the young people who turn their violence inward, the kids who kill themselves. Suicide among juveniles is a serious problem. According to recent statistics, each murder committed by an adolescent is matched by a suicide -- about twenty-three hundred each year. And just as youth homicide rates have risen dramatically in recent decades, so too have youth suicide rates sky-rocketed -- 400 percent since 1950.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey of youth, 15 percent of high school boys seriously considered suicide in 1997. About 12 percent of boys made a suicide plan, and 5 percent actually attempted suicide. Two percent of the boys attempted suicide in ways that required medical attention. The CDC study also shows that while girls are more likely to contemplate, plan, and attempt suicide, more boys than girls complete the act, reflecting the more lethal methods chosen by boys. Boys use guns while girls tend to use pills.
Harvard University psychiatrist James Gilligan points out in his in-depth look at the world of incarcerated violent men that acts of self-destruction and the destruction of others often have a similar source in the psychology of men involved in lethal violence, namely, the sense that life is intolerable. Thus, the links between suicide and homicide for boys are an important part of the problem facing anyone who cares about kids. Sometimes only at the last minute does a boy choose between killing himself and killing others; sometimes he does both.
In some cases, the act of killing others is itself intended as a suicide attempt. The phrase "suicide by cop" has been used by journalists and police to denote the act of provoking a confrontation with the intent to be killed by police. The first words spoken by fifteen-year-old Kip Kinkel when he was wrestled to the ground by fellow students after his shooting spree in Springfield, Oregon, were reportedly, "Kill me! Kill me!" Understanding the frequent self-destructive impulses in kids who kill is a necessary element of the overall task before us.
WHERE DID THE EPIDEMIC OF YOUTH VIOLENCE START?
As I noted earlier, the federal government's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reports that 84 percent of all counties in the United states had no juvenile homicides in 1995 and 10 percent reported only one; in fact, 25 percent of all known juvenile homicides that year were committed in five cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Houston. Together these cities contain about 10 percent of the nation's population. Why was there such a concentration of youth violence in these cities?
Think about the characteristics that increase a teenager's risk of joining the ranks of boys who kill. As a result of their research, Chicago-based psychologists Robert Zagar and his colleagues published a paper in 1991 that offers a picture of this risk. These researchers found that a boy's chances of committing murder are twice as high if he has the following risk factors:
* He comes from a family with a history of criminal violence.
* He has a history of being abused.
* He belongs to a gang.
* He abuses alcohol or drugs.
The odds triple when in addition to the aforementioned risk factors the following also apply:
* He uses a weapon.
* He has been arrested.
* He has a neurological problem that impairs thinking and feeling.
* He has difficulties at school and has a poor attendance record.
The odds increase as the number of risk factors increases. This is a general principle in understanding human development. Rarely, if ever, does one single risk factor tell the whole story or determine a person's future. Rather, it is the buildup of negative influences and experiences that accounts for differences in how youth turn out. This is one of the most important things to remember in understanding boys who kill. If we try to find the cause of youth violence, we will be frustrated and confused; we may even decide it is completely unpredictable and incomprehensible. It is important to recognize the central importance of risk accumulation. Understanding comes from seeing the whole picture of a boy's life, whether he is a troubled middle-class boy in a town like Springfield, Oregon, or a troubled poor child in inner-city Los Angeles.
Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Houston have in common large and numerous inner-city "war zone" neighborhoods where many children experience a buildup of the risks identified by Zagar's group. These neighborhoods have the highest rates of adult criminality, child maltreatment, gang activity, illicit drug sales, possession of illegal hand guns by kids, health problems in newborns, and school failure. In addition, most of the children in such neighborhoods have experienced the ravages of racism. Sociologists have long recognized that the experience of racial discrimination provokes feelings of rage and shame, which play a potent role in stimulating violence.
Interestingly, the U.S. populations most affected by the epidemic of youth violence are the ones that have been disproportionately influenced by the particular historical and cultural patterns found in the South. Social analyst and journalist Fox Butterfield, who explored this Southern effect, reported that the highest homicide rates in the United States are found among those who have roots in the Old South. For example, in 1996 all of the states that constituted the Confederacy during the Civil War were on the list of the twenty states with the highest homicide rates. The ten states with the lowest rates were located in New England and the northern Midwest. Thus, for example, in 1996 Louisiana's homicide rate was twelve times that of South Dakota. This pattern was as true in the nineteenth century as it is today.
In his book Murder in America, historian Roger Lane of Haverford College points out that until the 1960s America's big cities had murder rates lower than the national average because Southern states had the highest rates and were predominantly rural. What is the reason for this connection between Southern culture and violence? Historian Samuel Hyde at Southeastern Louisiana University has explored this phenomenon and has concluded that it reflects the special cultural and political history of the South, notably the system of Slavery and the violence associated with the prosecution and aftermath of the Civil War.
Institutionalized violence plays a role in breeding a cycle of violence across generations. But religious tradition is important as well. Sociologist Christopher Ellison at Duke University found that the public religious culture of the South plays an important role in legitimizing violence by making revenge a moral requirement. Those who transgress against one's honor or kin must be punished.
Psychologist Richard Nisbett and his colleagues at the University of Michigan have also studied this phenomenon and confirm that it is the code of honor that is passed on from generation to generation through childrearing that accounts for this cultural susceptibility to homicide. Nisbett's research has found that when a young man from the South encounters an insult (e.g., being bumped and called a jerk by a fellow student in a school hallway), his pattern of response differs from that of a young man from the Northeast. Southerners tend to react with anger, and their bodies show an increase in stress-related hormones. Northeastern young men are more likely to respond with laughter and without any detectable rise in hormone levels. Whereas Fox Butterfield has detailed these issues in his work, it is beyond the scope of this book to further explore the cultural and social forces in Southern history. Yet these forces do play a role in lethal youth violence. How?
One place to look for answers is in the fact that the African Americans who constitute the bulk of the population in inner-city neighborhoods have their origins in the Old South. This is not simply a matter of long-ago generations making the trip from the South to the cities of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit; it is common for younger generations to spend time in their family's ancestral homes in the Old South. When I interview boys in prison, I often hear them speak about summer trips to Alabama or Mississippi or being sent back to Louisiana or South Carolina when they get in trouble "up North."
It is not race per se but, rather, the role of race in the situation created by all the other influences that makes the difference in homicide rates. In 1994 the African American youth homicide rate was eight times the rate for white youth. Butterfield's analysis makes clear that this disparity has much more to do with the Southern origins of black youth than with their African heritage. Speaking to this point, psychiatrist James Gilligan reports that the homicide rates of blacks living in Africa are generally no higher than the homicide rates in other countries. And in the United States, the rate for African Americans outside inner-city neighborhoods is no higher than that of the rest of the population. The combination of racism and cultural values that promote violence as a response to perceived insult exerts a devastating influence on children wherever it is geographically concentrated and coupled with economic deprivation, such as is the case with blacks in South Africa, who have been shaped by apartheid, and the aboriginal peoples of Australia, who suffered through generations of cultural genocide. In fact, these two groups have homicide rates that are among the highest in the world.
What I have attempted to show is that the origins of lethal youth violence lie in a complex set of influences. The Southern culture in the United States as a single influence does not explain everything, of course. A code of honor by itself, no matter its origins, does not explain everything. Indeed, no single factor -- neither racism nor economic deprivation nor child abuse -- can provide the answer to the question of why kids kill. But this does not mean we are powerless to make sense of what is happening. Quite the contrary. We have at our disposal concepts that can take us far in our efforts to understand why our sons turn violent and how we can save them. Most important, these ideas shed light on the influences at work that are spreading the epidemic of youth violence.
The risk factors that Robert Zagar and his colleagues identified in 1991 as correlated with a boy's chances of committing murder continue to increase:
* Child abuse: According to the best study we have on the rate of child maltreatment, from 1986 to 1993 child abuse and neglect rose from 14 per 100,000 to 23 per 100,000. These statistics refer to children who have already experienced harm. If the standard used in defining maltreatment includes Children who are at risk for imminent harm -- what the study calls "endangerment" -- the increase is even larger, with the rate nearly doubling, from 22 per 100,000 in 1986 to 42 per 100,000 in 1993.
* Gangs: According to research compiled by the federal government, more and more communities are facing the problem of youth gangs. Surveys find that more and more children and youth report that there are gangs active in their schools and community -- up 50 percent from 1989 to 1995.
* Substance abuse: Hard drugs have spread throughout the United States; virtually every community in the country has a drug subculture. For 1997 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported, in the annual "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance," that 9 percent of all high-school-age males had used cocaine. Moreover, 50 percent of adolescent boys reported having used marijuana, and 30 percent had used it in the previous month. After a decline in overall drug use among teenagers, which started in 1976 (when 45 percent admitted to some drug use) and continued to 1994, the reported overall rate is on the increase again and now stands at 36 percent. What is more, heavy alcohol use among teenage boys is common: 37 percent of the boys reported that they drank five or more drinks on one occasion at least once in the previous month.
* Weapons: Surveys attest to an extraordinary increase in the likelihood that kids will carry weapons. They do so primarily because they feel threatened and can't count on adults to protect them. The most recent data, from the 1997 CDC survey, reveal that 28 percent of adolescent boys carried a weapon -- a gun, a knife, or a club -- in the previous month, with 13 percent carrying a weapon to school in the previous month. Fascination with guns often begins at a very young age. Eleven-year-old Andrew Golden of Jonesboro, Arkansas, and Kip Kinkel of Springfield, Oregon, were among them; both spent much of their time immersed in the gun culture.
* Arrests: Arrests of youth under age eighteen have incr
Why our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them
Why our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them
After more than a decade of relentless increase in the urban war zones of large cities, violence by young boys and adolescents is on the rise in our suburbs, small towns, and rural communities. Twenty-five years as a psychologist working in the trenches with such children has convinced James Garbarino that boys everywhere really are angrier and more violent than ever before. In light of the recent school-based shootings, it's now clear that no matter where we live or how hard we try as parents, chances are our children are going to school with troubled boys capable of getting guns and pulling triggers. Beyond the deaths and debilitating injuries that result from this phenomenon are the staggering psychological costs -- children who are afraid to go to school, teachers who are afraid of their students, and parents who fear for their children's lives.
Building on his pioneering work, Garbarino shows why young men and boys have become increasingly vulnerable to violent crime and how lack of adult supervision and support poses a real and growing threat to our children's basic safety. For these vulnerable boys, violence can become normal, the "right thing to do." Terry, one of the boys Garbarino interviews, says "I just wasn't gonna take it anymore. I knew I would have to pay the price for what I did, but I didn't care." We've seen how the deadly combination of ignoring excessively bad behavior and allowing easy access to guns has destroyed families in Pennsylvania, Oregon, New York, Washington, Kentucky, and Arkansas. Fortunately, parents can spot troubled boys and take steps to protect their families from violence if they know what signs to look for -- lack of connection, masking emotions, withdrawal, silence, rage, trouble with friends, hypervigilance, cruelty toward other children and even animals -- all warning signs that every parent and peer can recognize and report.
Dr. Garbarino, whom Dr. Stanley Greenspan of the National Institute of Mental Health hails as "one of the true pioneers in our understanding of the inner life of our youth," addresses the wide range of issues that boys of every temperament and from every background may have to confront as they grow and develop. By outlining the steps parents, teachers, and public officials can take to keep all children safer, Dr. Garbarino holds out hope and solutions for turning our kids away from violence, before it is too late. This is one of the most important and original books ever written about boys.