Studies show the teen criminals of tomorrow are "literally being manufactured, programmed, hardwired to behave in a certain way." Young lawbreakers are at high risk of turning into what conservatives like to call the "superpredators" of tomorrow. By getting arrested at 6 or 7, some say, these kids are sounding an alarm on the teen thugs they may become.
An estimated 110,000 children under 13 [were] arrested in 1994 for acts considered felonies…including 39 murders, federal statistics show. New research shows that children arrested before the age of 12 are likely to have had histories of abuse and neglect and are more likely to go on to commit more numerous and more serious crimes than children first arrested as teenagers. Physical abuse is indeed a risk factor for later aggressive behavior even when the other ecological and biological factors are known. Abused children tend to acquire deviant patterns of processing social information, and these may mediate the development of aggressive behavior.
In her 1992 work, "The Cycle of Violence," Cathy Spatz Widom compared children born in the same hospitals and living in the same communities and found that those who were abused or neglected were significantly more likely to be arrested for violent crimes than their better raised peers. "The new data is so hard to ignore," said Widom, a professor of criminal justice and psychology at the University of Albany in New York. "We now know that abused and neglected kids are at demonstrably increased risk for these problems. And we need to intervene."
Many of the children who are brutalized and battered in this country never come to the attention of protection agencies at all. Many people are reluctant to report maltreatment of adolescents to child protective services. Adolescents are also frequently perceived as being responsible for their own abuse. Reported abuse is more likely to involve adolescent girls than adolescent boys, especially cases of sexual abuse.
[More than 25% of US children are sexually abused, and fewer than 10% of cases are reported to authorities.] Juveniles who commit sex crimes on other children are often victims themselves. Experts say children who have been sexually abused for years accept it as "normal," and often will repeat the behavior in situations other than the home.
Teenagers who kill are often social outcasts who believe murder will give them the superiority they haven't achieved at home or in school, a noted criminologist said. "A lot of the kids who are the most dangerous are marginal youngsters, not doing well with their families and not doing well in school," [Jack] Levin, [director of the Program for the Study of Violence at Northeastern University in Boston,] said.
"Really, the problem here is adults have to get back into the business of raising teenagers, of caring about teens," Levin said. "We need to find some healthy alternatives for our children."
 Lori Montgomery, "Young lawbreakers likely to become older criminals," Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, 10 April 1996.
 K. A. Dodge, J. E. Bates, & G. S. Pettit, "Mechanisms in the cycle of violence," Science, 1990, 250(4988), 21.
 Montgomery, "Young lawbreakers."
 Juliet Wittman, "Children are everyone's business," Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, 5 April 1996.
 Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association, "Adolescents as victims of family violence," Journal of the American Medical Association, 20 Oct 1993, 270(15), p. 1850(7).
 Craig Horowitz, "Kids who prey on kids; juveniles who commit sex crimes," Good Housekeeping, Oct 1996, 223(4), p. 94(4).
 Marla Williams & Dee Norton, "The unraveling of a monstrous secret; sex abuse scandal has Wenatchee reeling," (Part 1 of 2), The Seattle Times, 8 June 1995, p. A1.
 Nancy Roberts Trott, "Youths who kill may need to feel superior, says top criminologist," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 17 Jan 1997, 134(15), p. A12.
See alsoMind Control
DSHS, CPS and the O.K. Boy's Ranch
Child Sexual Abuse