Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Delinquency Research

This is another of those "Duh!" moments in scientific research, along the lines of the studies that showed us that men and women are not the same. LifeSite News reported yesterday on a study linking early sex with delinquency.

Teens who start having sex significantly earlier than their peers also show higher rates of delinquency in later years, new research shows. A national study of more than 7,000 youth found that adolescents who had sex early showed a 20 percent increase in delinquent acts one year later compared to those whose first sexual experience occurred at the average age for their school.

In contrast, those teens who waited longer than average to have sex had delinquency rates 50 percent lower a year later compared to average teens. And those trends continued up to six years.

This doesn't surprise me. Kids who get into trouble will get into trouble in all sorts of ways. Of course, those on the left in the sex-for-all camp probably don't think of sex as "trouble," but for a twelve-year old, sex is Trouble.

There's a family not too far down the street from me with an older daughter and two younger sons. The daughter (who I haven't seen in a while), at about 13 or 14, was a pretty blonde who walked with a swagger that said, "Don't mess with me." She'd hang out with the older goth-style kids in the neighborhood. Her brothers, about 8 and 10, would play with the kids next door to me. The youngest was still pretty nice, but the older boy was a potty-mouthed little punk of a kid who was always yelling and bossing the other kids around.

One afternoon, I saw their dad hauling the older boy by one hand, with the younger boy tagging along, while the dad explained to someone on his cell phone about a medical emergency they'd had and how it wasn't his fault, and the dad looked wasted by hard living and hard drinking or hard drugging.

That's it, really. I have impressions of a family based on snippets of observation and the experience of half a lifetime, and those impressions say this family is trouble. The girl, who has either run away or gone to live with her mom, will have sex early and get into trouble. The older son will definitely get into trouble, whether that includes sex or not, and the younger son will have a lot to overcome in order to stay out of trouble himself. It doesn't take a research study to see the signs.

And at the same time, the study showed that kids who behave themselves will find all kinds of ways to behave.

This study is a correlational study. It shows a link between two factors: the age of first sexual experience and the degree of delinquency. Like the link between ice cream consumption and sunburn rates, neither one causes the other. Instead, both are caused by a third factor (which the study was not set up to identify). In my opinion, the factor that causes both juvenile problems is a troubled child. And most of the time, troubled children don't show up in a vacuum. Troubled children come from troubled (abusive, belittling, divorced...) parents.

By strengthening the family, we strengthen our children to avoid these problems, and our nation is improved as a result. But it isn't easy--or simple (I have no idea how to help the family down the street), and while we may hope the researchers can find a solution rather than just stating the obvious, I'm not going to be holding my breath.


Malott said...

It might be interesting to see the results of a study that explored possible links between familial signs of righteousness - church attendance and participation, tithing, acts of Christian service - and juvenile delinquency.


janice said...

I couldn't agree more. I When I divorced Christophers father (at 4) and moved back with my parents, one of the first things I did was start attending church regularly. We went every Sunday. A year later worked tons of overtime to pay tuition so he could received the discipline I knew he needed, absent a father in the home.

Don't get me wrong, I'm eternially grateful to my dad, brother and his Godfather who stepped in to fill the void until Nick came into our life 4 years later.

Looking back, Chris could have turned out much different than the God fearing, fine young man he's become.

Raising good children is hard work. You have to be everywhere and know when to say no. Keeping them on a schedule, such as regular meals together as a family, bedtime, homework (after an hour outside running around, he's a boy and boys need to run) and church. These regularities keep them feeling safe and let them know what's expected from them and you, the parent.

Great post Skye.