Adolescent males and the risk of mental illness in crime

Commitment to a particular teenage archetype image
Though there are exceptions, there is no denying that a number of violent tragedies in the news in recent years have had young male suspects as the perpetrators. The question is why may this gender and age group be especially prone to violent acts? Perhaps a better understanding can lead to a better sense of prevention of senseless acts. Though at the same time, it is important not to stigmatize and to realize that any person may be susceptible to criminal activity for any number of reasons.

Possible causes

One factor that mental health professionals may point to is that the significant indicators of serious mental illness often begin in the teenage years or young adulthood. Women are often not diagnosed until they are a few years older. Of course, the brain is still undergoing many changes neurologically at this time as well. However, it is critical to note that the most of those suffering from mental illness do not commit violent acts or are a risk to others. The fact that those who do often gain prevalent media exposure may create the illusion that this is more commonplace than it is in reality.

It is also worth noting that regardless of factors such as mental disorders, this age group tends to have the highest propensity for violence nonetheless. Also, there seems to be a much stronger relationship between substance abuse and the occurrence of violence. For example, one University of Michigan study found that young men who were hospitalized for assault injuries are more likely to own a gun. This demographic is also more likely to display belligerent behavior and be engaging in drug abuse. Also, drug using teens are also more likely to steal or participate in gang activity.

Another similar study was carried out in Denver, Colorado. The state already has faced notorious incidents in the past, such as the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton or at a midnight movie theater screening in Aurora. This study found that teenage violence is more likely in combination with a number of other contributors. These include disruptive family troubles, early violent experiences and substances abuse. On the other hand, having significant involvement in religious events was shown to be the most effective method of prevention for those in the study.

One study has also shown a relationship between teen bullying and substance abuse. This research accounted for a number of different types of abuse, such as physical violence such as hitting and kicking. In addition, the effects of threatening language and name calling were also considered. Increased use of substances such as cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana were the result, regardless of traits such as gender or ethnicity. The study drew the conclusion that instances of teen violence have actually decreased in recent years, while also stating that it is indeed often related to substance abuse. Because of this, making efforts to educate young people about the dangers of drugs may also help deter their use and violence in the process.


What preventive measures can parents, teachers and others take to ensure that adolescent boys do not make decisions that may lead to criminal behavior? It is worth noting that a number of teens spend the hours after a school day unsupervised. Therefore, it may be beneficial to encourage young people to participate in volunteer work or other structured activities. Schools, churches and other community organizations may offer a number of such options to choose from. Students will have the opportunity to combat the sense of boredom and feel like they are doing something positive and constructive as well.

Naturally, parents also play an important role in being a deterrent for their teen’s drug use. By having a more stringent attitude about recreational substance abuse, he or she will be more likely to use them at the risk of disappointing their parents. Both parents and local organizations may also prove helpful in teaching adolescents about different means of conflict resolution besides resorting to violence. By providing young people with other alternatives, adults can leave a powerful impression on teens that hopefully will stick with them throughout their future.

White River Academy is an adolescent therapeutic boarding school for males. If you would like to learn more about how White River can help treat behavioral health concerns, contact 866-520-0905.

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