Juvenile Delinquency
Acting Out The Secrets

...From "No Safe Place:...The Legacy of Family Violence"....By Christina Crawford:

...Station Hill Press

"The most violent place in our country is the American family. If we could stop the violence in our homes, we could reduce the diagnostic book of psychiatric disorders to a pamphlet and empty three-fourths of our prisons...This book embodies Ms Crawford's sharp insight into the roots of violence and how to stop it." States John Broashaw, Author of "Healing The Shame That Binds You" and "Homecoming."


If there is no hope that tomorrow will be any different from today, and if today is intolerable, there is nothing to stop you from taking what you want and doing as you please.. In children, adolescents, and the underclass, that behavior is called delinquency. In adults in the top echelons of society and business, that behavior is called being successful. Their motivation

may differ, but the "delinquents" and the "successful" adults are intent on taking what they want and doing as they please without regard for the rights of others. And the "successful" adults are rewarded for it, while the "delinquents" are punish.


Delinquent behavior, whether in children, adolescents, or adults, is childish and anti-social behavior and usually not in the long-term best interests of its perpetrators.

Most adolescent delinquents are extremely dependent upon their peer groups, primarily because they have no functioning families, effective parenting, nurturing, or positive adult role models to rely on. These young people come from all ethnic backgrounds and live in middle- and upper-class neighborhoods as well as in ghettos. We hear most about black and hispanic gangs running drugs, stealing, and mugging; but there are also white gangs, such as neo-nazis and skin-heads, that for adults may take on the functions of survivalist or para-military groups, political parties or lobbying organizations, while still maintaining their essential character and intent.

Membership in a gang provides a sense of power or belonging. It takes the place of kinship. The gang is the post-modern "family," complete with codes of protection and loyalty for its members. That they are substitutes for families is what gives the groups their psychological power and makes it so difficult for them to break up or dissolve.

The shared desire for money, power, and violence joins people together both at the top and at the bottom of our social structure. At the top are the "good old boy" network and the military-industrial complex that General Eisenhower cautioned us against a generation ago, of which the powerful gun lobby and the defense contractors are striking examples.

At the other end of the social spectrum, there are the gangs in our inner cities, whose territories have come to resemble war zones. Fire, police, and ambulance services often will not venture into such ares on weekends or at the height of violent sprees, from fear for their lives. A kind of barbarism now prevails in many cities that nobody wants to talk about.

Police alone cannot solve these problems because crime is not their real cause and because police under increasing stress or frustration may contribute to crime with racism and excessive violence.

The real cause of inner city turmoil is the violent, abusive family, or, more accurately, the disintegration of the family as a positive social unit. This root cause is reflected in other factors contributing to the decline of our cities, including the lack of adequate prenatal care, education, jobs, affordable housing, and self-esteem, and the predominance of drugs, drugs, and more drugs. Drugs are both the fuel and the fire.

Most delinquents who show up in juvenile courts had initial contact with the system years earlier, as innocent victims in divorce, custody, or support payment hearings, or as abused children appearing before dependency courts for protection and intervention, which they probably never received.

Many of these young people have been in and out of the social services system since birth. They have been abused, abandoned, and neglected, placed in dozens of foster and group homes, eventually to find themselves in juvenile court and detention camps.


Very little is yet known about biological causes of delinquent behavior, such as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). How many young people currently in detention camps, being processed through juvenile courts, or serving time for crimes of violence are actually suffering the results of fetal alcohol syndrome? No one knows. But FAS may be one explanation for the high incidence of seemingly "senseless" delinquent behavior in affluent neighborhoods; for a pregnant woman in a wealthy suburb can be just as addicted to alcohol as her sister in the slums or working in an office.

Truancy (staying out of school without permission) is another form of delinquent behavior in children and adolescents with many different causes: boredom, inability to read, learning/attention span problems, brain damage as a result of the mother's use of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, and a lack of legitimate job prospects. Many truants' parents never finished school and may not be much more than children themselves.

High school counselors know that many, many communities simply have nothing better to offer the young person than the money and prestige of selling drugs. The job market offers limited, usually only minimum-wage, possibilities to high school students or graduates, and everyone knows you can't live on the minimum wage. There is little incentive for young people to give up their gangs and lucrative drug dealing.

Drugs and/or alcohol use is also another form of delinquency, in this case turned against oneself rather than others.

Generalized rebellious behavior has always been associated with adolescence, the time when young people define themselves as separate from their parents and learn to make choices in the world. When the onset of adolescence is coupled with a childhood of abuse in an aggressively authoritarian house, delinquent behavior (getting into fights, getting drunk, bullying others, getting into trouble at school) is likely and understandable.

For many years, some states had laws concerning "recalcitrant" children, children who resisted authority or were otherwise difficult. Until the latter part of this century, a parent could take whatever measures he or she deemed necessary with such a child, including taking the child's life.

Even after slavery in the United States was abolished, women and children of both sexes were still legally in bondage to the male head of the household. Adult females and children had no civil rights but were considered the "chattel," or personal property of the male. There are some still alive today who were also alive when the law described women and children as a separate class with few or no rights of their own.

When I was growing up, a parent could have police remove the child from the home simply by labeling him/her "incorrigible." It was the word of the parent against the word of the child, without an impartial hearing or influence. When parents no longer wanted to cope with their children, this was a quick solution


Today, it's the insurance companies and medical community that are assisting upper-income parents in removing children from the home. An Utne Reader survey article on youth reveals that since 1980, adolescent psychiatric admissions have risen between 250% and 400%. The Children's Defense Fund claims that 40% of the adolescent psychiatric admissions are inappropriate; other sources estimate the number to be as high as 75%. The number of hospitals treating adolescents psychiatrically had risen from 220 in 1984 to 341 in 1988. Why? Because insurance companies pay 80 to 100% for inpatient care and the hospitals make between $500 to $1,000 per day during the first 30 to 75 days. Hospitalizing "difficult" children has become a relatively easy-and inexpensive, at least for the parent recourse for getting them out of the way.

Of course, the young person's admission to the hospital is usually not voluntary, and he or she cannot get out without permission from someone else's conditions which could be considered in violation of Civil rights.

The diagnoses under which many of these middle- and upper-class children are hospitalized include "conduct disorder" and "oppositional deficit disorder," which others simply call classic teenage behavior. Many girls but not boys-are hospitalized for sexual promiscuity, a behavior often found in children who have been inappropriately sexualized at a young age or who are hungry for the affection and recognition their parents deny them.

Parents who institutionalize their children whenever their behavior needs attention, and the insurance companies that support them in doing so, are perpetuating a subtle form of violence over the civil rights of children instead of providing healthy parenting and nurturing. The implication of this form of violence is that people are disposable unless they behave in a way that is convenient and comfortable to those in authority.

Running away from home is sometimes considered delinquent behavior in children, but "throwing away" children (not permitting them to live at home while they're still underage) is not considered delinquent behavior in parent adults. No reparation to the children is required from the parents and no shelter is provided for them by authorities unless they resort to committing crimes in order to support themselves.

Children who are runaways almost always have been physically or sexually abused over time. Most runaways and throwaways end up in large cities. Many use drugs and/or alcohol. Many contact AIDS. Most will not live past the age of thirty-five, which is about the same life expectancy of people in the Middle Ages, nearly one thousand years ago.

Today, many teenagers escaping homes of abuse and violence are recruited to work in pornography and prostitution. Add to them the "throwaways," and a large group of young people is formed, many of whom are under sixteen and so too young to obtain a legal work permit. Without a work permit, they can't get legitimate work, even at minimum wage. Or if they can get a permit, teenagers are often paid less than minimum wage in the belief that they have families who support them.

Although statistics are suspiciously few and difficult to obtain, there are an estimated two million teenage runaways and throwaways.

When I was Commissioner for Children's Services in Los Angeles in the 1980s, our county of eight million had only eighteen bed spaces for non-delinquent teenagers whose families refused to provide for them.

Americans almost worship the idea of youth, but as a society we give little real thought or concern to our young people. A shocking number of adults actively dislike or claim to hate their children and cannot wait to get rid of them. We are quick to blame these children for their misdeeds, yet very slow to consider the true causes of their delinquency.

Meanwhile, delinquent behavior is carried into adulthood to take such forms as carrying a gun without a permit, accumulating and not paying parking tickets, and shirking financial and other obligations so that one is always "looking over one's shoulder" and feeling oneself "just one step ahead of the law."

Recently, some 355 of a total 432 members of the House of Representatives were discovered to have written many thousands of checks without sufficient funds. this is a perfect example of adult delinquent behavior on a massive scale. The privileges of high public office were arrogantly abused, resulting in financial delinquency and the violation of public trust.

When the Congressmen were threatened with exposure by the media for the bounced checks, the government attempted to protect them and "keep the secret" about the extent of the misconduct. This situation closely parallels that in an abusive family when the authorities (parents) attempt to deny or cover up their own dysfunctional and/or abusive behaviors at the expense of their children (the public)

Each kind of delinquent behavior has its own place in Complex Survivor Syndrome and as a separate spoke on the Survivor's Wheel, as well as within other survivor behaviors.

And Always Keep In Mind The Most Important Factor

  "What we live with we learn,
and what we learn
we practice, and what we
practice, we become...
and what we become
has consequences"...
AND almost always, I have
found, who we become
has little to do with who
we were meant to be.

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(Est. 4.15.96)

DISCLAMER: Before you start to look at the material that I have assembled for you I want to make clear that I claim very little original authorship here. Even where I don't give credit I probably should because there are very few original words of wisdom left in recovery. I want to especially thank Terry Kellogg, whom I do believe has a lot of original stuff, John Bradshaw whom I believe has the ability to synthesize others material better that anyone I know, and I guess if we wanted to be completely accurate we should not quote the serenity prayer out of content nor without giving credit to the author. I also want to give permission to anyone to use anything on this site for the benefit of recovery as long as they do not make any more money off of it. This offer only extends to what I have the right to give.

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