American Morning

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December 17th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Walk in My Shoes: Inside the teen brain

Editor's Note: This week, American Morning is examining the causes of youth-on-youth violence across the country. Yesterday, in part three of the series, "Walk in My Shoes," we walked to school with two students and witnessed the dangers they face every day. Today, we examine the teenage brain to look for an explanation for some of their behavior.

By T.J. Holmes, CNN

Mix the constant presence of violence kids on Chicago's west side face with the developing teen brain, and researchers say you've got a recipe for danger.

“The frontal lobe right here [points to image], is very late to mature. Not to about age 25,” and so teens are prone to act more impulsively, says Dr. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the National Institutes of Health.

“Whenever there's high emotion then this part of the brain is really taxed. It really has to work extra hard to sort it all out.”

That's true even for teens living in the best of circumstances, but add a constant barrage of violence to a kid's life and that risky behavior can become magnified.

“They misinterpret signs of danger. They overreact to it all the time and they have trouble calming themselves down and seeing the world the way other people see it," says Gene Griffin, assistant professor at Northwestern Medical School.

Dr. Giedd says the brain can actually get used to the violence, taking even more violence to shock it.

“If the world of the teen is violent and that people need to be aggressive in order to survive in that environment the biology will make the brain change and adapt to whatever demands there are.”

The teens we spoke with say they've seen so much violence that they've grown used to it.

“In front of the store from my house, there was a boy with his brains blew out. So really seeing dead people and stuff, it don't even scare me no more,” says student Starr.

But experts say as much as the teen brain can be transformed by excessive exposure to violence or danger, it has the ability to change also, responding to a nurturing environment.

“How is it that we have forgotten that we need to raise children and that they're children? You've got children who are all gasoline, no brakes. It's for parents and society, schools, communities to provide the brakes,” says psychologist Carl Bell.

One such program is Umoja. It partners with Chicago's Manley High School to help teens cope by surrounding them with support, teaching leadership skills, and encouraging students to see a future for themselves.

“There is not a magic thing we say to kids that makes them stop, that will make them stop killing each other. That's not how it works. We connect and we have relationships or none of this ever changes,” says Lila Leff, the founder of Umoja.

When the program started 12 years ago, 10% of the students went onto college. Today, that number has grown to 60%.

Filed under: Crime • Walk in My Shoes
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Pete

    Thank you T.J. Holmes for sharing this information with the broader public and stirring discussion. These are the kinds of things that need to be talked about.

    For those that claim that adolescent brains are no different than anyone else's, that is just incorrect. You can believe it all you want, but it's just not reality. Their lack of fully developed brains leaves them with an inability to fully see consequences, future outcomes, and all sides of issues in the same ways adults can. Additionally, it causes them to be ruled much more by their emotions–fear, sadness, anger, loneliness.

    And for those who wish to hold on to the glory days of the mid-20th century, things were very different then. The 60s-90s saw a significant shift in both adult culture and adolescent culture. Our society shifted from nurturing adolescents and walking alongside them into adulthood, to leaving them alone and letting them grow up on their own. Youth lost faith in adults and have never gained it back. Youth have taken to themselves to find company, encouragement, safety, affirmation, understanding, and are doing so in a culture separate from the adult world.

    Before you criticize youth, reflect on how you have helped, are helping, or can help adolescents in your community become the positive, successful, intelligent people your community needs. If it really takes a village to raise a child, what are the ways our society is raising children? Youth are watching. Youth are learning. When adults learn to take responsibility for their actions, accept and respect differences, resolve conflicts peacefully, and put aside greed, so will youth.

    We are indeed products of our nature. I am a product of your nature. What nature are you creating for those around you?

    December 29, 2009 at 12:21 pm |
  2. Corman

    What brains ?

    December 29, 2009 at 10:16 am |
  3. Jeff

    A. Smith in Oregon: Cheap heroin would only affect usage rates if there is a high demand for heroin. You could make heroin free in my neighborhood and usage would not go up, because there is no demand. Perhaps there are heroin bargain-hunters in Chicago holding out for clearance rates, but not in most of the nation. Also, doesn't heroin make one mellow instead of agressive?

    December 29, 2009 at 1:39 am |
  4. lasparky11

    Teenager – brain? does not compute!!!!!

    December 28, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  5. Gina

    I think that alot of people misunderstood this video. The youths are use to it like they said, why because our Government has allowed these things to happen within the urban communities of America and we let them. From politics to media to the music, videos and games that are allowed to surface here the United States, no one seems to be paying attention because we are to busy worrying about being rich or poor, what school our children will attend, what college the kids will attend. Some of children are bred for violence and the parents are to distracted to figure that out. The news broadcaster said that teens are teens, its evident that he does not have any children.

    December 28, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  6. Deborah

    How many times has a parent said to a teen, "what the heck were you thinking?" And how many times has the teen replied, "I don't know." This is not a new phenomenon; teens have made stupid and impulsive choices since Cain killed Abel. To paraphrase Bill Cosby, "kids have brain damage." Now there is science to back him up!

    December 28, 2009 at 11:46 am |
  7. Larry

    I grew up with discipline. Now days you spank a kid and its abuse. You know thats garbage because when that kid hurts someone their parents are being blamed. What has happened to our society?

    December 27, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  8. Larry

    I am 24 and blaming games and movies well thats ridiculous. I grew up watching robocop and terminator. My parents explained to me its just a movie its not real. How can you blame parents if they raised their kids as best as they could?

    December 27, 2009 at 10:18 pm |
  9. yoldas

    these people got in the brain take off your shoes next time please

    December 27, 2009 at 9:01 pm |
  10. Mac

    In the 1950s when I was a teen the media got on this kick about teen violence. Everywhere adults responded by becoming more aggressive toward youngsters. They also became more fearful. The even caused difficulties just waiting on people in my dad's store. My high school (2500 kids) had only two kids who were arrested for anything in the whole four years I attended. One got his arm stuck while trying to steal from a mail box out on a street corner. The other was an early marijuana arrest. Both had problems at home. However the attitude of the administration there seemed to us as they thought we were all criminals. Remember that over 1% of US adults are in jail at this very moment.

    Please careful with this stuff about kids. The kids are having a hard time as it is.

    December 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm |
  11. sfrgr

    A. Smith in Oregon, on what facts do you base your tired, stale implication of our nation's "protection of opium fields in Afghanistan"? Personal experience? You've been there, seen American or ISAF or UN officials turn a blind eye to poppy field cultivation?
    I doubt it.
    Your ill-informed accusation renders a stain on the sacrifices of countless Americans (DEA, FBI, US MIL) who have, and will continue to sacrifice family and self in the name of Democracy and individual freedom in yet another remote area of the world. Are their efforts flawless? Probably not, but they are definitley NOT part of some right-wing conspiracy to pollute the innocent youth in inner cities. That is a pathetic idea, given sustenance by spastic individuals such as yourself.
    Unfortunately, you likely bought into some "progressive" idealogue's rant on a third-rate blog, yet another Obama-bot eager to toss the hot potato of responsibility to someone else. Much akin to the very un-Presidential Executive Branch we've got now... Much akin to the target audience of the program in the above article...
    "It's not my fault, must be someone else's responsibility, give me my handout now..."

    December 27, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  12. mary

    Sorry, It's just another scientific study that will go by the way side in another few years.
    The violence we are exposed to numbs us all..
    You could say the same for surgeons , or pathologists. They are numb to the act of cutting into a human body.
    Doesn't make them turn into "Jack the Ripper" ~!
    Acting on violence has nothing to do with being numb to seeing and hearing about it.. Knowing right from wrong has nothing to do with it.
    It is a choice kids make based on their belief that they are under age and not going to pay for it like they would if they were an "adult".
    We need to stop finding excuse after excuse.
    It's "cool" to be a "gangsta"....The numbing effect is self imposed.They decide to be that way and deal with consequences later.. "If" there are any consequences.

    December 27, 2009 at 3:03 am |
  13. paltonis

    Thank you, Lila Leff, and all your colleagues as well. You are amazing. And thank you, T.J. for a great report.

    December 26, 2009 at 9:47 pm |
  14. Tom Sullivan

    What role does genetically modified food play? Why is autism at an all-time high? Our kids KNOW we torture prisoners. So what's wrong with a little violence? Our kids know we are engaged in wars of choice. Our kids know that corporations control our politics and make money at the expense of taxpayers and the environment while adding zilch to the real needs of our communities. Our kids know we are allowing the Earth to be destroyed on OUR (adult) watch. Our religions focus all their energy and resources on a set of narrow issues like opposing abortion and same-sex marriage. What's in it for teens not to be violent? Their generation will be the LAST to have a viable planet. Why not then party, do drugs and commit mayhem?

    December 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  15. Dale

    I have been an adolescent psychologist for 26 years and, while I think I have done some good out there in the clinical trenches, I have to say candidly that I think scientific psychology has contributed shockingly little of value to our understanding of teenagers. Furthermore, every time there's some kind of high-profile incident or issue regarding youth, the 24-hour networks trot out the "experts" to wring their hands on TV and, increasingly, talk about the 'teenage brain.' I remain skeptical of this research–or at least the way it gets spun in the media and in workshops for educators and such. We've had decades now of paranoia and hostility toward, and scapegoating of, teenagers. We love to think of teenagers as 'a tribe apart," as inherently reckless people who "feel invulnerable," and are randomly violent and so on. On scrutiny, most of this BS goes away. There's really no evidence whatever that teenagers feel invulnerable, are inherently reckless. Adults, compared to teens, are more suicidal, more prone to abuse drugs and alcohol, and walk into a building a shoot people. This "teen brain" thing, I fear, is just more fearmongering and scapegoating.

    December 25, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  16. Soe Naing

    I heard that there are places in Chicago and surrounding areas where police or ambulance would not go. And I read somewhere that there are 200k gang members in that area. They may be kids but they are foot-soldiers of very dangerous gangs and cartels.

    I just pray that someone much smarter than me would start solving these problems. Otherwise, we would have full-blown violence like Mexicans are having in there country right now.

    December 23, 2009 at 11:54 pm |
  17. Home in Chengdu

    it is a problem not only in one country. We are real estate agency in Chengdu, we could connected with kinds of people who have kinds of questions and problems.

    December 23, 2009 at 10:09 pm |
  18. devon

    I wonder how this could be argued for better and more comphrensive sex education...

    @“Whenever there's high emotion then this part of the brain is really taxed. It really has to work extra hard to sort it all out.”

    I would say that the decision to have sex is an important as the decison to participate in violence...we HAVE to stop teaching kids to "just say no"; accoring to this article the decision making part of the brain develops WAY too late for teens that are having to make important, life altering, health risk, decisions.

    December 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  19. Bubba

    Deb, what's your plan? Sterilization? Force 'em to buy food instead of wine and handguns? Maybe you could just let them eat cake.

    December 23, 2009 at 1:39 pm |
  20. Alex

    I find it interesting that cities and countries that have a higher Black population also have the most crime.

    December 23, 2009 at 1:21 pm |
  21. Anne McWilliams

    I think the neighborhoods, kids, and families - and all the institutions that operate in the area contain all the resources needed to solve these problems. Money is a big issue, the economy, for sure; but, money only addresses part of the matter. I am afraid of violence and poverty. I don't understand what it must be like to live with those facts every day. Still, I trust the ability of people to come together for their common good. I am willing to pay higher taxes and to give up some of my privilege in my social location to provide more basic social support to those who need it.

    December 23, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  22. mary place

    I praise all that do right in their lives.

    December 22, 2009 at 5:10 pm |
  23. Master of Business Administration

    These are nothing more than discipline problems from kids with way too much time on their hands and not enough tough challenges in life. Enact universal military service for everyone from ages 7-16, put them in military school, have a military drill instructor run them ragged 24/7 and all of these problems will disappear. The kids will be too exhausted and mentally beaten to cause any trouble.

    December 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  24. john s

    Those that disagree with the research must also remember that 50 years ago teenagers were not loaded up with violent video games, violent TV programming, evolving ghetto culture, and a whole lot more. Nostalgia is warm and fuzzy, but it is also short on facts.

    December 22, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  25. Sialia

    I first heard about Dr. Jay Giedd's groundbreaking work on teenagers' brain development while doing child advocacy work and was blown away by the ramifications of it. It explains so much about teenage behavior that adults find mystifying or annoying - from misunderstandings that escalate inexplicably because they can't decipher facial expressions as well as adults to why they can't always follow instructions properly.

    My partner and I now try to share Dr. Giedd's findings and the findings of other researchers doing similar work with all our friends who are parenting teenagers. It has helped them understand that some of what their teens do isn't willful misbehavior, ti's because their brains are still developing skills like decoding emotions and predicting future consequences. We've also shared it with some teens we know who didn't understand how they could be trying so hard to do the right things, but sometimes found themselves in unfortunate situations of their own making. It really seems to help both the parents and the teens to know what's going on and work together to devise good "work arounds."

    Thank heavens for Umoja and programs like it! We are all products of our environments, but the negative effects of exposure to trauma, violence, or other kinds of difficult environments can be ameliorated by support and guidance from caring adults, whether those adults are parents, teachers, youth program staff, coaches, clergy, or a neighbor down the street.

    My fellow readers and commenters, the next time you see a teenager doing something positive, praise them for it, even if you don't know them. You never know how much of a difference you can make!

    December 22, 2009 at 3:31 am |
  26. cielcomplex

    The country is filled with violent, or otherwise criminal adults who don't take personal responsibility for their actions. We shouldn't be acting as though this is just a youth problem. I would say simply this: to anyone who says that more responsibility was expected of children in the past, that's perhaps true in a lot of ways. But one must ask themselves honestly (ie, without a nostalgic view of the past) why that is, and when one does that, they'll see that the truth of the matter is that society today constantly extends the effective period of what it considers to be "childhood." Childhood and "teenage" are relatively recent conventions in society.

    You want responsible kids the easy way, harkening back to "the good old days?" Here's a few major methods that helped to accomplish this in the past:

    1) Take away child labor laws and make them work to support the household from earlier ages.

    2) Abolish the juvenile courts and try everybody as an adult for anything that they do

    3) Shorten the length of public school, and put them out of the parent's house earlier; if they have to live on their own like adults maybe they'll start acting like it... sink or swim.

    4) Send more kids to more wars - scars build character and nothing builds an appreciation for keeping a pleasant home front than being sent to some country you never studied in school to fight trench warfare.

    Not that we'll do this, of course, but the fact is that the world the teens face today is not the world that any of us had to deal with when we were kids. And they didn't make it that way, we did.

    December 22, 2009 at 3:19 am |
  27. NEM

    Hello Mr. Eanes:
    You said that "Me and my wife both work and "Me and my wife are both teachers." Obviously you're not English teachers. "My wife and I" is the grammatically proper way to express things.

    December 21, 2009 at 3:38 pm |
  28. Laura

    A Deb, a lot of those kids have mace and stun guns for their protection. Are you under the impression that if they only had the money they'd used to buy the stun gun; (that they probably stole it anyway), their parents could have heat in the winter? You are clueless.

    December 21, 2009 at 10:40 am |
  29. karen

    The problems are many and the solution is multi-faceted. Some of the basic facts are these:

    there are too many "kids" having kids. If the parents brain hasn't developed because of too much violence, drugs etc. it doesn't develop like it did "50 years ago" and the maturity to raise the children isn't there.

    The trauma effect on a child's brain is permanent. Look at some brain development research; although the research coming out indicates there is some healing going on in the brain – it is often not until the person has started to deal with the trauma and often this occurs after they have raised their children.

    It's just one explanation – not an excuse.

    December 21, 2009 at 10:10 am |
  30. Mark

    We may find explanations (and excuses) for peoples actions, but people have free will. They make choices, some good some bad. A return to the fostering of taking personal responsibility for ones actions may help.

    December 21, 2009 at 8:36 am |
  31. MG

    This is a question– why take the physiological angle of teen violence versus a critical look at structural racism that creates a survivalist mentality? I applaud this effort to give voice to a serious problem in the Chicago area and other urban centers.

    December 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm |
  32. Arieh Zimmerman

    Teen brains are flooded with testosterone as the young males, as with all other mammals, struggle to reach alpha male status.
    In our permissive Western cultures, outside the police and the courts, there are few methods available for the control of the resulting the violence created by the struggle. In societies in which the youth's high spirits are rigidly controlled, there is a later cost to be paid, that of repressed emotions in grown men most often accompanied by increased violence against women and children.

    December 20, 2009 at 8:15 pm |
  33. Nigel P.G. Baldwin

    Everyone can not have everything, it is just a fact of life. And if everyone wants everything we may all pay the price in the end. But again, if less than half of us do not succeed here and now or down the road we will all pay the price as well. Even if I can avoid it now I am sure, at some point in time, that I will feel it or someone that can impact my immediate proximity will and that will in turn impact myself.

    Best Regards,

    Nigel P.G. Baldwin

    December 20, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  34. Jim

    It should not be to difficult to understand a teen brain. They are not a different species, just yound adults. We were all there once. They difference is that the violence on tv and video games, broken homes, drugs, physical abuse, and illegal aliens etc, are some of the reasons that youth violence is on the rise and will continue so until Americans get fed up with violence on tv and video games, broken homes, drugs, physical abuse, and illegal aliens etc. Unforunately child violence is a reflection of our willingness to allow these things to happen.

    December 20, 2009 at 2:21 pm |
  35. Muggins

    Hmmm...where do I start? The article is saying that the world these kids are exposed to is what 's rewiring their brains. Essentially, it is post-traumatic shock syndrome. Think about all the vets coming back from Vietnam with major mental and emotional issues. It was a psychological response to the horrors they saw.

    Same thing with these children. There may be some genetically- borne mental issues, but life constantly on the edge of violence takes its toll. When you mix it up with drugs, alcohol, and poor parenting, it's a deadly cocktail. These kids become numbed, dulled, not bothered...until they snap! That's when you get media's attention! Even if they don't snap, these behaviors become embedded and are passed on to the next generation.

    To say that these problems did not exist fifty years ago simply is untrue. We did not all have families like our favorite '50s family sitcoms. I know I didn't! Leave it to Beaver, Lassie, Ozzie and Harriet were so unreal!! Stuff was happening back was just swept under the carpet.

    The real danger is NOT discussing all of these issues and bringing back the good old days. The good old days just weren't all that good!!

    December 20, 2009 at 12:00 pm |
  36. Mindy03

    This is absolute nonsense! I have two teenage boys and they have been taught what we ( their parents) and society will and will not tolerate. If a child has not learned the basics of respect for other people by the time that they are teenagers--then, (of course!) there will be major problems for them in life.

    December 20, 2009 at 11:30 am |
  37. Ann

    I do agree with Bill totally.
    Yes, we do need to contribute to helping nurture our youth. I as an educator see schools trying to bend over backwards to do this. So with the community, churches, and every one else, except the ones who bring these children into this world, which is already gone shot.
    What is it with out society, where we do not ever hold the parents responsible. Is it a bad habit we have gooten into or what? It baffels me to beyond comprehension. Are not the parents of children their most influential teachers. whay are we all running like hamsters on wheels, it is about time we give ourselves a big shake and wake up.
    Hold parents responsible and accountable, and stop taking excuses from them. Yes, the person who says this is not present in other countries is absolutely right. Just here. I too came from as humble a beginning as one could find. But me and my siblings made it in spite of being from a developing country. Poverty has very little to do with it. Good parenting and hard work does, with of course help from all others waiting to help. Ultimately it is no one elses but the parents responsibility, though there may be many out there who disagree. Think about it. enough is enough.

    December 20, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  38. musings

    While all the biological evidence is there that teenaged brains are immature, particularly the frontal lobes, we shouldn't just use the ghetto as our example. There is a darker more pervasive aspect to this: the majority of young soldiers, including infantrymen who are moving around in the most violent arenas of warfare, are usually recruited as teenagers, seven years before the frontal lobe maturity is completed.

    My childhood was influenced profoundly by the effects of war on my father who, although in his late twenties when I was born, had spent four years on the late teen early twenties period in combat. Not all combat is alike. His took him to urban environments where he fought people who looked like himself, sometimes in commando-type raids. In that sense, this WWII vet killing Germans in Italy was similar to some Hispanic killing people who look like himself in Iraq; both men would have felt targeted themselves much of the time.

    My father died a "success" and a "war hero", but I knew his personal struggles and so did my mother. She's collaterally damaged and lives on with some serious scars.

    This doesn't begin to comment on our urban ghettoes where not ten miles from upper middle class wealth and gentility, gunshots wipe out young lives so wantonly, leaving behind untold destruction.

    Let's rectify our attitudes about violence in the wider world. I think that if we do, we'll start to see that we have been part of the problem.

    December 20, 2009 at 9:57 am |
  39. Benjamin Dover

    Sounds like all you people are writing these kids off already. How charitably Christian of you.

    December 19, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  40. marco mauas

    Does this Lombroso-like theory stands also with Al Quaeda? Are their brains also immature? What about Robespierre?

    December 19, 2009 at 4:51 am |
  41. victoria suominen

    Crime in Japan and Finland is quite low, I think. There is very little gun crime because guns are quite strictly regulated. You can own a gun for hunting or if you want to target practice at the gun club, but you must keep it under lock and key at home. There are not a lot of guns traded on the black market for ordinary people (professional organized crime is a different matter), so the average teenager simply has no access to a gun. Because gun violence is rare, what is left? knives, fists? Most kids grow up learning respect because they have to duke it out when they get mad at each other. It's very rare that a teenager will shoot another teen with a gun. I know the right to bear arms is important to Americans, but can't you have that right without some practical gun control laws? Common sense dictates that every gun should be registered, ammunition is only sold to gun owners who show their registration, and if your kid gets a hold of your weapon because you didn't keep it safely locked up, then YOU are responsible. It makes a big difference here in Finland and I don't see how it could not make a difference in America. Sure, there will be kids who get guns and shoot up their school or each other. But there will be less than there are now.

    December 18, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  42. Rose

    I completely agree with Bill and Dave.

    December 18, 2009 at 3:21 pm |
  43. Robert Eanes

    Cause, effect and contribution are very difficult to untangle. Drugs, the schools, politics.. there are many and varied reasons why things are not as they were 80 years ago. I tend to believe that things were not so different then. We notice things more these days because we are not so homogenous as we used to be. In the 1950's the white majority controlled everything. The news was tempered by what that culture would bear listening to. They didn't want to hear about all the crime, and preferred to think it was some other culture that had those problems. So for those of you out there that remember the goog ole days, and how things used to be so much better.. I would think twice, and realized that it was the same... All too much the same. The one thing that does seem to be vastly different from 60 years ago, is the divorce rate and the middle class income level. Me and my wife both work. We both have to work, to have less than my grandparents had. We have less, and we have less time. Less time to enjoy life; less time to raise our children. I know what a difficult time we have raising our children, I cannot imagine being a single parent and having any hope of teaching your child everything you want them to know. This means that today children are more the product of the schools., and that's if you are lucky. More often than not, the children raise themselves. Me and my wife are both teachers. We would be the first to tell you that we are not the children's parent and can in no way shape or form replace what a parent does for the kids at school. We have and hour with them to teach math, english, or something else. And on top of that, there are thirty of them to deal with. Maybe this sheds some light on why things are the way things are. I don't know the answers.. Noone wants to go back to the 50's. Not really. There are no magic answers. The only real solution is to slow down, and take more pride in being parents instead of how much money you can bring in. Your time as a parent means more to your children than being able to buy them a new pair of shoes.

    December 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  44. Mary

    I agree with Frank. Psychology and sociology are quasi-sciences. "Social engineering" is a oxymoron which has caused a lot of death and pain in the 20th and 21st centuries. Those who make a living observing human behavior and think they can predetermine how someone will act call themselves "scientists" and "engineers" out of a need to add value to a discipline that has nothing to do with science. Sure, it's all very interesting, but the world would be a better place if all these progressives and do-gooders would stop trying to analyze and re-make the world in their own image and turn their attention to upholding concepts like individual liberty.

    December 18, 2009 at 10:21 am |
  45. Frank

    Nonsense and other comments. Where to begin, first up, based on their track record, both in education systems and other things, psychology and sociology are voodoo sciences no better than witch doctory and shamanism. 2cd, requiring the just and the decent to get a permit for mace/needlestunguns in such an obviously hostile environment is senseless. 3rd, Far more was expected of teens/children in the US a hundred years ago, and in other countries today, with regard to their self-control, behaviour, and ability to take care of themselves. They are far more sophisticated than given credit for, the evidence is abundant. 4th, The malarkey about "mis-interpreting signs of danger". Are you kidding, take a walk in any of the profiled neighborhoods, or hundreds more they're all too common, and then talk to me about mis-interpreting danger signs. They get it right, the jester from Northwestern gets it wrong. 5th, The hoopla about non-violence is overdone. For some things, violence is the only thing that settles the issue. Many of these problems aren't "conflict resolution" scenarios, and when a rabid animal attacks, you put 'em down, no hu-hu. Sometimes violence is appropriate, and part of being civilized is knowing when; and how, when neccessary.

    December 18, 2009 at 8:39 am |
  46. Bill

    I dont buy this 'teen brain' theory. If it were true they teens all over the world should be acting this way.
    The same goes for the 'fat gene' theory which says that obese people cant help the weight gain its genetic. Are we the only country where people have this 'fat gene?'
    The same goes for criminals – their brains are wired differently.

    Fifty years ago these problems did not exist, at least not to the extent that they do today. Suddenly, irresponsible behavior is not a person's fault any more, its caused by some unknown biological imbalance.

    Scientists need to stop making these pot-shot guesses. We need to hold people responsible for their destructive behaviors and not tolerate it.

    December 18, 2009 at 7:13 am |
  47. Cunamara

    Not to sound all neocon about what are complex problems, but raising functional, well-adjusted kids begins at home. And in grade school. And in the media. And in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples. We can't expect kids to raise themselves, we can't substitute television for parental interaction, video games for baseball and bicycling and checkers, gangs for teams, etc. We have to invest in the positive in our kids and not think that we can let nature take its course. Children don't raise themselves, we need to raise them.

    December 17, 2009 at 9:35 pm |
  48. Norman

    thank you for this report and continue to remind most American what's going on in our inner city problems. i pray for these kids and hope they will continue with their education and not to be discouraged. I show it to my two middle schoolers. we live in Florida and desegregation law still apply and they take bus each day from our suburban home to attend school in the struggling neighborhood.

    December 17, 2009 at 8:01 pm |
  49. A. Smith, Oregon

    The CIA under Bush-Cheney protected and greatly expanded the vast opium fields in Afghanistan resulting in a tidal wave of cheap heroin that is flooding the streets of Chicago. The devastation of the heroin tidal wave thru-out Chicago is evident in the amount of violence and the destruction it has on the entire society and community that exists there in Chicago.

    December 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  50. dave

    Drug use is greatest in the U.S. than compared to other countries. We need to greatly expand mentoring and neighborhood improvements programs. We need to reach kids and their parent(s) well before they become the age of “trouble”. Kids get into trouble the most between 3-6pm.; in addition, to the times going to and from school by foot or by bus.
    Sports leagues, drama, homework and volunteer programs to teach life’s lessons to become successful, and how to become resourceful, for example, could be organized at schools after hours (3-6pm). Those who are good working with kids could run these programs. Studies have shown employees who are allowed to volunteer are more productive on the job.
    Programs for the whole family should also be organized at schools. Job training, parenting tips, health care (including mental and dental care) should be organized in neighborhood schools for parent(s).
    Studies have shown if students exercise, they are more productive on tests and have fewer discipline problems. Many kids are afraid to walk to school. Many are afraid to ride the bus. Perhaps some parents could be hired to monitor various walkways or streets to school. Perhaps an extra adult could be hired for buses. DVD players are now inexpensive. Some of these DVD players could be installed on buses to entertain and educate students to prevent problems. Web cams are now inexpensive. Some web cams could be placed on “troubled” streets. There are now phone systems where people can talk to one another at the same time. Parents could monitor and talk to other parents at the same time on these walkways and streets. Buses could drop off students a few blocks from school on good weather days. This way these students also can get some exercise by walking.
    Let us first ask students and parent(s) for input for items they are interested in. Then let us award students and parent(s) to these items (including concert and sports tickets), for example, for participating in such before and after school programs for kids and their parent(s).
    I believe the money spent on before and after school programs such as these will more than be made up in problems prevented. A strong country depends on having strong families. Then we may all win in more ways than one.

    December 17, 2009 at 9:42 am |
  51. Deb

    I have alot of trouble with this .......poor Chicago's youth....

    87% living in proverty but are able to buy mace and stunn guns

    Don't those things cost lots of money and one requires a permit to

    We need to look more closely at the OVER POPULATION aspect of

    December 17, 2009 at 8:40 am |