NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teen Predator At Home

April 2, 1996

Middle-class parents of 16-year-old teenage predators have few options, suggests one frustrated father in Bothell, Wash. His son David doesn't really attend school, doesn't work and stays out all night with older members of his gang.

  • David was detained three months awaiting trial -- for carrying his gang's drugs on school grounds -- but the judge let him go; and when his parents called the cops because he brought drugs home, the police said they might prosecute -- in a year.
  • The state's Child Protective Services suggested institutionalizing him; but it would cost his parents $5,000 a month -- and he could walk out whenever he wanted.
  • His girlfriend is pregnant; but until David is 18, his parents can't even throw him out -- even to protect their younger children from exposure to their brother.

The teenage child is a myth, suggests the father: Newton discovered the quadratic formula in his teens; violinists, chess players, swimmers and gymnasts all become world class by intense discipline when they are teens; and 17-year-olds have regularly gone to war. They also commit serious crimes and have children of their own.

Society protects them as juveniles, with anonymity and few consequences for their actions. What might help, he concludes, is a responsible emancipation program that would let parents cut their ties, and let those teens who won't work or go to school live on their own.

Source: Mark Langley, "My Son, the Teen-Age Predator," Wall Street Journal, April 2, 1996.


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