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Study Finds Delinquent Behavior Among Boys Is "Contagious" 245

According to a new study, if everyone else was committing a crime, you would too, at least if you are a boy. The 20-year study showed what every grandmother could tell you; children from poor families, with inadequate supervision and bad friends were more likely to end up in juvenile court. What was more surprising is that exposure to the juvenile justice system seemed to increase the chance that the boy would engage in criminal activity as a young adult. "For boys who had been through the juvenile justice system, compared to boys with similar histories without judicial involvement, the odds of adult judicial interventions increased almost seven-fold," says study co-author Richard E. Tremblay.


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Study Finds Delinquent Behavior Among Boys Is "Contagious"

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  • System (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:53PM (#28733275)

    There's money in prisons, pointless drug laws etc. It's not an accident things work out this way.

  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:55PM (#28733287) Homepage

    "Boys more likely to do what the other boys in their peer group are doing. Juvenile delinquents teach juveniles to be delinquents."

    Another amazing result by the Maximegallion Institute for Slowly and Painfully Working Out the Surprisingly Obvious.

  • warning! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:57PM (#28733323) Homepage

    This may be true: sticking the bad kids in with the good kids may improve the behavior of the bad kids. BUT BE WARNED! I was part of an educational experiment in which honors students (such as myself) were placed in an 6th-grade English class with, well, the criminal class.

    I LEARNED NOTHING IN THAT CLASS! The teacher spent the whole time playing cop to stop the delinquents. Furthermore, sticking us in with them actually encouraged the good students to out-bad the bad students. It was a complete disaster.

    For the good of this country, we need to concentrate on making sure our best students get the best education. This should be a higher priority than trying to make scientists out of juvenile criminals and bullies. Society doesn't need, and will never get 100% genius-status for all students, anyway. Attempts to make this happen will likely drag us all down.

  • "No boys at all" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thirty-seven ( 568076 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @02:59PM (#28733339)
    My grandfather used to say that "One boy is a boy, two boys are half a boy, and three boys are no boy at all." Meaning that when boys get together they have less good sense than one boy by himself does.
  • Re:warning! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:06PM (#28733407)

    Exactly. The bad kids need to be identified as early as possible, and shunted off into a different program where they're prepared for careers as janitors and burger-flippers, and society doesn't waste any more time or money on them than necessary. Educational resources need to be saved for the kids where it'll do the most good.

  • by Tangential ( 266113 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:08PM (#28733437) Homepage
    I've always maintained that the IQ of a group of boys is calculated by taking the lowest IQ in the group and dividing it by the number of boys in the group. When my son was growing up, he and his friends demonstrated this over and over. My parents maintain that when I was growing up that my friends and I did too. (They are still a little pissed about me and my friends building and testing a very, very small thermite bomb in the basement.)
  • by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:10PM (#28733463)
    I love the correlationisnotcausation tag every single time an article on any study is posted. Correlation means nothing! Nothing causes anything! There is no order in the universe! It's all chaos! :)
  • Re:warning! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by locofungus ( 179280 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:19PM (#28733585)

    but if you write kids off early and treat them as though they're useless criminals, then don't be surprised when they grow up to be useless criminals.

    It's worse than that. They might start of as useless criminals, but if they're going to go into a life of crime, three years at university^Wprison is about the best education they can get.


  • House Arrest (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sp1n3rGy ( 69101 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:19PM (#28733599) Homepage

    So does this mean we should be putting more juveniles on house arrest? It seems like the juvenile detention centers breed more crime than they prevent.


  • by Anna Merikin ( 529843 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:20PM (#28733611) Journal

    Find young criminals who *have not* been caught and find out over twenty years how many crimes they committed well enough not to be caught at. Perhaps, the data might suggest, the groups studied were taught by incompetent leaders. We might be better served by studying successful criminals, who might behave differently. Or who might have been taught better work habits and techniques.

    Or mebbe the youths in the study got caught "in a game" at first, but found dealing with the police, courts, other inmates, and the jail system itself emotionally satisfying in some way. This is called "institutionalisation."

    Every year we pay for more and more police, and we get more and more crime.

    Let's try something else. But, please, not another study like this one.

  • Except vey often, the 'Obvious' isn't.

    It's obvious that if you turn off the TV and get your kids to go outsize they'll get more exercise, right? turns out that's not true.
    Thre is a ong line of 'obvious' things that have fallen by the wayside when actually studied.

  • by thetoadwarrior ( 1268702 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:31PM (#28733753) Homepage
    If you mix kids with too much variety in intelligence then you either teach at a level for the smart kids and leave the stupid kids behind because they can't possibly keep up or you teach at a level for the stupid kids and the smart kids get bored and quit learning.

    It's much better to split kids up into classes that are suited to their strengths and weaknesses rather than be PC and stick 'em all together.
  • Re:warning! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:32PM (#28733765)
    I've seen the same thing from the other side, as a probationary teacher. Class settles down, trouble-maker walks in late and then continues being disruptive, and the rest of the class period is shot. Try telling the football or basketball coach that you're going to "mainstream" the team by including below-average members, rather than selecting the most talented for the appropriate sport. Then explain why we disrupt the intellectual side of the school instead.
  • by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:35PM (#28733809)

    Most important is the comment that the kids exposed to the legal system, were more likely to come back to it.

    Exposing children to the ugliness, simplicity, and experience of a system engenders them to it by removing the mystery, stigma, and fear associated with it. These feelings are replaced by familiarity. This is particularly true of technology as well.

  • Re:warning! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:35PM (#28733811)

    I agree. And I also feel it's time parents started being held accountable for what their kids are doing. Too many parents just don't care and that needs to change.

    I went to what most would consider inner city schools. I noticed, fairly consistently, that those kids who's parents actually paid attention to what their kids were doing tended to do well. The ones where the parents were virtually non-existent were the biggest troublemakers, troublemaker being a huge understatement. And the ones who truly excelled were the ones who's parents were demanding and didn't tolerate nonsense. It certainly wasn't a guarantee at all, but doubtless it improved the odds.

    Income seems to not make a difference, except for the obvious fact that if a kid grows up around successful chances are they will learn from them and do well themselves. Although I know quite a few people who grew up fairly well off and are quite messed up. So again, parenting is important. I think race is irrelevant but cultural background is very important. Virtually all of my Asian friends in the US are successful and excelled in school. It wasn't because of any sort of inherent ability but because their parents were extremely demanding and would never tolerate poor grades. Some parents see it as a source of pride that their kids end up in ivy league schools, almost to the point of being vain, like owning a BMW or something from Burberry.

    A problem I find with a lot of Americans is that they segregate children from adults. I'll go to a party and see the kids all sent off to the children's table and told to to interrupt adults. Growing up, whenever we had get together kids were sitting around with adults, learning from them. Sometimes the topics were mature and the kids didn't get it, but that was irrelevant. The problem with keeping them separate is that kids are stupid. So what are they going to learn from each other? Nothing but more stupidity. Certainly it's perfectly fine for kids to interact and play together, but American culture has taken it to an extreme. To the point where even kids think it's uncool to be around adults. Look at kid's television, this nonsense is constantly perpetuated. So how are they supposed to have any respect for anything and learn? Another problem is this importance a lot of parents place on their kids being sociable; the more friends they have, the more activities they engage in, the better. That's all well and good, but again, from what I've seen it causes too many problems. The moment kids get too fixated on their friends their grades suffer, among other things.

    Honestly, I don't know how parents are held accountable for their children, especially in cases where guys just knock up a girl and dump her. Not that these girls are victims themselves. I've had a few classmates who got pregnant as teenagers, but kept living the single lifestyle, going to clubs and whatnot and got pregnant with second and third children, often each by a different father. How the hell do you address that? Especially when some people don't even see the problem or don't care.

  • Re:warning! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:39PM (#28733853) Homepage
    And what happens to the 'good kids' who are misidentified as 'bad kids' and stigmatized for life and ignored by the "good parts" of the system and put into a peer group which has won't recognize anything valuable about them save for delinquency?

    Sure, we can do more to avoid "wast[ing] time or money" on the bad kids, but a system of pigeonholing them in the manner you describe is going to be fraught with trouble before politics / political correctness / all that mess start manipulating the system to further their own agendas.

  • Re:warning! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ian Alexander ( 997430 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:48PM (#28733955)
    I don't think what happens in the classroom is by any stretch of the imagination the decisive formative influence on young people. Putting honors students in with the delinquents won't help because the delinquents have an entire life outside the classroom that propels them towards delinquency. Messed-up situations at home, living in a bad neighborhood, having a social network full of other people who are on the same track as them... having a good education is a component to getting out of that situation but it's by no means enough.
  • Re:warning! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:49PM (#28733975)

    You do realize that many cooks in restaurants are people with criminal records, right? It's one of the few jobs that'll take them when they're actually trying to get out of a life of crime.

  • by radtea ( 464814 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @03:58PM (#28734109)


    Indeed, which is why the vast majority of studies that get tagged by the moronic "correlationisnotcausation" involve some application of Mill's Methods and/or statistical and theoretical inference to demonstrate causation based on the observed correlations.

    What gets reported is the correlation, because reporters are even dumber than /. taggers, but the researchers generally have thought a little bit about elementary logical errors somewhere along the path of their experiment design.

    The tag is particularly idiotic when you consider that every correlation is caused by something, so the OP here is absolutely correct: if you really believe that there is no relationship whatsoever between correlation and causation, such that you can reflexively dismiss every reported correlation with this little snippet of nonsense, then you're pretty much committed to nothing being caused by anything.

    Tagging stories this way is completely vacuous. All it tells us is that you haven't read the study or considered whether the usual methods have been employed to properly infer causation from correlation. It would be as useful and relevant to tag all stories with "theskyisblue", which is true in one sense (although the sky happens to be overcast where I am right now) but is only true in a way that is a) known by everyone and b) adds nothing of value to the discussion.

  • by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @04:10PM (#28734267) Homepage

    They know but they rationalize it.

    "I know beating up people is wrong, but he was a huge jerk and deserved it"
    "I know stealing is wrong, but Walmart has a huge amount of money and can afford the loss"
    "People of $nationality/$ethnicity are really intrinsically inferior, so it's ok to treat them like crap"
    "I know I committed a crime, but the harm done wasn't that great, so I shouldn't have been punished so harshly"

    People rarely admit outright that they did something wrong, with no ifs or buts. There's nearly always some reason they feel that justifies it, or at least makes it not so bad.

  • by Alzheimers ( 467217 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @04:13PM (#28734337)

    Everything you need to know about young boys, you can learn by reading Lord of the Flies. [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:warning! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @04:19PM (#28734397)

    For the good of this country, we need to concentrate on making sure our best students get the best education. This should be a higher priority than trying to make scientists out of juvenile criminals and bullies. Society doesn't need, and will never get 100% genius-status for all students, anyway. Attempts to make this happen will likely drag us all down.

    Whereas society definitely does need smart people. Trying to drag them down by putting them in the same class as the stupid kids only results in endless frustration for them. Worse, as their school days will likely be filled with frustration and bullying, you risk them dropping out of school (or at least, never reaching their potential) as well.

    But do you have a plan for those juvenile criminals and bullies? Or are you just going to let them grow into adult criminals and get stacked into the already-overpopulated prisons?

    Yes, we can preventively stick them in already-overpopulated prisons before they ever reach adulthood.

    Hah, you hadn't thought of -that- now had you?

  • Common Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by omb ( 759389 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @04:20PM (#28734425)
    First, the parent is correct,

    Second, education should be about equality of opportunity, not equal achievement for all, that means that the BAD and the STUPID need to be controlled, to enable that equality to the brightest and hard working.

    You in the US are caught up in an orgy of political correctness and confusion which helps nobody and disadvantages all, and MUCH WORSE, it is second time around as Ms. Shirley Williams did exactly that in the UK in the late 60s and 70s (so the Educational Elite and teachers unions can not claim they dont know). And as Obama said "lipstick on a pig" is exactly like assuming you can make all children academic, which is the assumption (WRONG) of the academic elites.

    In Switzerland, education is streamed, and bad behavior is punished quickly, firmly and effectively, which is very likely to get the delinquent child punished physically by their own parents. The result is that we have very little crime and antisocial behavior, well educated kids who are employable, and very low taxes because people take pride in being a "Good Swiss".

    People laugh at the rediculous hi-junks in the US, where the parents (are allowed to) oppose the authorities correcting children, and except for incomers from some parts of Europe, who stand to be expelled, the native Swiss would not think of it.

    The result of this is that 4 year olds can walk to kindergarten safely, and all adults expect to stand in "loco parentis" of any child in need without phobia about paedophilia, as was the case in the rural US 40 years ago.

    Put very simply, you have very arrogantly lost your own way, and the rest of the world is now FULLY wised up to you.

    Your court system, and law, is in a complete mess vide the games SCOX have played for so many years.
  • Re:warning! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 17, 2009 @04:26PM (#28734515)

    I transferred schools once early in high school and at my new school I accidentally got placed in a class with the...ahem...non-honors students. For a brief time (before the school realized the mistake and pulled me out of there) I felt like a small guy showing up to his first day in prison wearing a dress and lipstick. Basically it taught me that various forms of segregation (not just racial, but by class and ability too) existed for a REASON. As politically-incorrect as it is to say it, no WAY do I want my kid going to school with the trailer park and ghetto crowd. I want my kid to have the private school education that I always dreamed of, cries of elitism and segregation be damned. Sorry if that offends, but someone should be honest here.

    Mixing the smart kids and the dumb kids doesn't lift the dumb kids up, it just gets the smart kids' asses kicked.

  • Re:warning! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Friday July 17, 2009 @05:25PM (#28735229) Homepage

    Well obviously it's a joke.

    But still, I find some of these attitudes strange and probably counter-productive. They talk like blue collar work shouldn't be respected, doesn't take any kind of intelligence or work ethic, etc. Then they want to decide which kids are good and which are bad, and then try to forbid the "bad kids" from growing up to be anything but a blue collar worker. And while they're at it, they want to humiliate all the "bad kids" to make sure they know they'll never be anything but a fry cook. Does all that really sound like a good idea?

    And to what end? Sometimes I think it's just kids that got picked on trying to punish their ex-bullies rather then imagine an education system or societal order that will work. Blue collar work shouldn't be shameful. It's honest work that needs to be done. It still takes skill, attention, and hard work to do a good job.

    Look, the people you are trying to punish are the people you depend on. They cook your meals, they haul your trash, they connect your calls, they drive your ambulances. They guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with them.

  • Re:warning! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Omestes ( 471991 ) <omestesNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 17, 2009 @05:40PM (#28735369) Homepage Journal

    When I was young, me and my friend both were having problems in grade school. Both of our grades were failing, and both of us had behavioral issues. He got withdrawn, and I started trying to create my own stimulus. Eventually they decided he was gifted, and that I was mentally ill (ADHD). He went into the advanced programs, and I into "special ed". This is despite the fact that I could, at the time, read at a high school level, and won every writing contest in grade-school.

    I ended up in classes telling me about "self-esteem" instead of teaching me basic math, he ended up skipping grades eventually. This is in spite of me helping him with his homework, and in spite of tests showing me to have a pretty high IQ. Basically I didn't get any education what-so-ever from 4th grade until my freshman year of high school. This led to bad grades in high school because I was un-prepared for the work due to lack of education (and being a drug zombie for years thanks to the misdiagnosis of having ADHD). This also allowed me to network with some of the "bad kids" who actually were bad seeds, both due to familiarity, and due to my labeling of myself as such. My old friend went to college after accelerated schooling, while it took me 5 extra post-high-school years to finally get there.

    This is how this idea actually works. It sounds very nice, but the fact remains that we can't pick "bad kids" from "good kids", and when we artificially do, we end up harming potentially bright kids. If you find a solution to this problem, then let me know.

    Personally I think by mixing the groups we water down the influence of the bad ones, as long as we're careful not to teach only to the lowest common denominator. Remember, for every brilliant kid there is one bad one, and for every bad one there is 98 completely average ones. We are not talking about 99 bad kids and one good one in a class, that is a fallacy.

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Friday July 17, 2009 @06:54PM (#28736039) Journal

    It's been said before, jails are places to learn to become a criminal. The "get tough on crime" approach has just clogged the justice system and created a huge criminal under class by helping people learn how to become criminals. Drug decriminalization a alternatives to prison for lesser crimes would be better in the long run. Esp. when you consider it costs more to imprison someone than to send them to MIT.

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