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While children are often perceived as innocent creatures unable to do harm on purpose, this view does not always prove to be accurate. Some young people commit a crime with a full understanding of the consequences of their actions. However, most situations include children who are driven by the curiosity of what happens as a result or simply replicate the behavior that they see in media and their community.
Lionel Tate was 14 years old when he murdered a girl twice as young by applying wrestling moves towards her. His mother had to babysit the girl, but she went upstairs for some reason and returned only after 45 minutes when Lionel told her the girl was not breathing. Although the mother heard the noise coming from downstairs, she did not check on the children. Lionel Tale later claimed that he was trying to exercise wrestling that he watched on television.
Factors for Delinquency
The first factor of media influence is the most obvious in this case study. The boy admitted that the idea to wrestle came to him from TV shows where he saw different techniques that fascinated him. The teenage mind is usually not skilled in critical thinking, and media figures often play the role of examples that children want to follow. Besides, even some adults perceive television as a source of acceptable behavior. There are controversial results of studies that focused on adverse media influence on children, with some proving it to be true (Nikkelen, Vossen, Piotrowski, & Valkenburg, 2016). However, there is currently no single opinion on the subject.
The second factor can be read between the lines. The family of Lionel seems to consist only of him and his mother. There is no evidence of him having a father or siblings. This gives a reason to conclude that this was a family of a single mother who probably did not have enough time to educate her son about the right behavior (Fagan, 2013). Besides, the boy did not have a man in the house that could have been a role model.
Finally, the income rate is the third factor. Tate’s mother had to work as a babysitter, which is hardly ever an option for a woman that has a successful career in a demanding industry. This means that she probably had low income and searched for ways to earn money to feed her family. The fact that the woman did not come down to check the source of noise demonstrates she did not like her job.
Juvenile delinquency in this case can be explained by the behavioral theory. It implies that behavior is a result of people’s interactions with the world through their lifetime (Regoli, Hewitt, & DeLisi, 2014, p. 115). The social learning theory that is a part of it suggests that children observe the behavior of others and replicate it. This is applicable to the case of Lionel Tate when he imitated the actions of professional wrestlers. The social cognition concept implying that children learn from what they observe and experience also play a role here. Tate was neglected by his mother, which made him believe that children can be treated in such away.
Strategy for Prevention
The obvious solution for such cases would be to make parents better educate their children on acceptable behavior. It is their role to describe that models they see in media cannot be applied in real life. Unfortunately, many parents do not have the time or willingness to speak to their children and leave this function to society. Such a step is irresponsible as it is difficult to predict how a child would shape his or her behavior resulting from the experience of outside interactions.
Fagan, A. A. (2013). Family-focused interventions to prevent juvenile delinquency. Criminology & Public Policy, 12(4), 617-650.
Nikkelen, S., Vossen, H., Piotrowski, J., & Valkenburg, P. (2016). Media violence and adolescents’ ADHD-related behaviors: The role of parental mediation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 60(4), 657-675.
Regoli, R. M., Hewitt, J. D., & DeLisis, M. (2014). Delinquency in society. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.