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Essay/Term paper: Juvenile+violence

Essay, term paper, research paper:  High School Essays

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Emanuel Mullins

Enwr 106


Juvenile Violence-The latest craze?

Two boys at an Arkansas middle school killed four girls and one teacher in what police called a carefully planned ambush on the afternoon of Tuesday March 25, 1998. Nine other girls and one other teacher were also wounded in the attack at the Westside Middle School, located in a quiet rural area just west of Jonesboro, Arkansas. In a similar incident in Littleton, Colorado, two students, cloaked in black trench coats and armed with guns and bombs, opened fire on the morning of Tuesday April 21, 1999 at Columbine High School, killing 15 people and wounding 28 others in the worst school shooting in U.S. history. What do both of these real-life scenarios have in common? All of these crimes were committed by juveniles or young adults. What is it that ignites such violence in troubled juveniles such as the ones mentioned? Many different factors cause violent behavior. In this paper I will explore the roots of juvenile violence in order to understand why the atrocious acts in Jonesboro, Arkansas and Littleton, Colorado were committed.

Violence is not committed without a reason. Violence is the act of intentionally hurting someone. A number of reasons could lead to a violent outbreak. Individually, the more factors present in one's life, the more likely that person is to commit an act of violence. Some factors that contribute to violent behavior include:

· homes where parents are abusive or absent

· Need for attention or respect

· Feeling constantly disrespected

· Access to or fascination with guns

Each of the characteristics above can be summed up into two major categories, family problems, and social problems.

Social problems were present in both the Westside Middle School and the Columbine High School murders. One thing that was associated with all of the murders was bullying. Bullying is where a child or group of children keep taking advantage of the power they have to hurt or reject someone else. Some young people are bullied for many reasons, but mainly because they will not stand up for themselves. Having been victims of bullying, Harris and Klebold were constantly disrespected. "He [Harris] was going after jocks. He hated them with a passion, because they always made fun of him and they always threatened him. They did it especially his sophomore year, and he just hated them." Why do some children bully? The main reason children bully is to get attention or make other people afraid of them. In 13-year-old Mitchell's case, he was a bully and was reported to have been upset because of girl problems (rejection). Another thing in common with both murder cases is that the victimizers had easy access to guns. "…Access to guns is the biggest predictor for people committing homicides. If kids don't have guns, these kind of situations don't escalate as fast…" Eleven-year-old Andrew Golden learned to shoot from his father. Prior to the Columbine High School murders Eric Harris would talk of buying guns in class. "Harris talked constantly in philosophy class of buying a gun, especially since he recently turned 18-years-old."

Family problems, the second major category of juvenile violence are perhaps the most prevalent cause of juvenile violence. "To oversimplify it grossly, parents are not doing the jobs they used to do in terms of transmitting values to kids. The slack is being picked up by the entertainment world, whether it's television or movies or rap music or video games." On the same note, a staff psychologist referring to the Columbine High School murders states, "Violent children live in homes where parents are abusive and absent. A lot of times, an absent father is a predictor for violent aggressive males." As was the case with both 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson of the Westside Middle School murders and 18-year-old Eric Harris of the Columbine High School murders. Research indicates that the one person being the most capable of changing the antisocial aggression of a boy is his biological father. Johnson's parents were divorced and Johnson rarely saw his father. In a similar situation Harris's father was immersed in the Marines up until the time he retired and settled down in Littleton, Colorado, in 1993. In both situations, Johnson and Harris lacked the need for attention and respect, something that is needed most by children at the earlier stages of their life.

So what causes someone to punch, kick, stab, or fire a gun at someone or even him/herself? Why did the treacherous murders of Westside Middle School and Columbine High School occur? Violence can be used as a means to control others or get something the victimizer wants. In both cases, the murderers used violence as a way to release their feelings of anger and frustration. They resorted to violence to retaliate against people who had mistreated them. If all fathers (married and divorced) invested their time more in their children, male and female, then juvenile violence could be reduced significantly. Also, if schools focused more on the students rather than monitoring and detaining them, then the rate of juvenile violence at schools could be reduced. Furthermore, if access to guns for juveniles were reduced, then the overall occurrence for juvenile violence could be reduced. We all need to come to grips with the frightening reality of juvenile violence. Because of a lack of attention and respect at home and school, the price that we are paying as a society is the de-moralization of our American culture by at-risk adolescents. These children and young adults have nowhere to turn to but violence. Why should we continue to focus on building a better and brighter future without having focused on the real future, today's youth?


American Psychological Association Help Center. Warning Signs. Jan 1999. American

Psychological Association. <http://helping.apa.org/warningsigns/index.html>.

Eddy, Mark. "Shooter Told Friend: Get Out of Here." Denver Post 20 April 1999


Kastor, Elizabeth. "What Makes Children Kill." Washington Post 27 March 1998: C1.

Lowe, Peggy. "Alike and Different." Denver Post 2 May 1999


Martin, Claire. "Warning Signs to Watch For." Denver Post 21 April 1999



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