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Lack of Moral Guidance Causes Juvenile Crime and Violence (From Juvenile Crime: Opposing Viewpoints, P 107-117, 1997, A E Sadler, ed. -- See NCJ-167319)

NCJ Number
J J DiIulio Jr
Date Published
11 pages
This paper argues that "moral poverty" -- an absence of concerned adults capable of teaching children right from wrong -- is responsible for the increasing number and seriousness of crimes committed by juveniles.
"Moral poverty" is the poverty a juvenile experiences being without parents and other authorities to habituate them to feel joy at others' joy, pain at others' pain, happiness when doing right, and remorse when you do wrong. It is the poverty of growing up in the virtual absence of people who teach morality by their daily example and who insist on following their example. Moral poverty begets juvenile super-predators whose behavior is driven by two developmental defects. First, they are radically present-oriented; they live entirely in and for the present moment. Second, the super-predators are radically self-regarding; they place no value on the lives of their victims, whom they dehumanize as worthless. Direct government action to address this "moral poverty" will not be effective. The institutions prepared to deliver the needed services are churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Islamic. Public funds should be used to empower local religious institutions to act as safe havens for at-risk children (church-run orphanages, boarding schools, adoption out-placement services, parenting classes, substance-abuse treatment, day-care and preschool programs, and programs for young nonviolent juvenile offenders). Juveniles who have already developed into super-predators, however, must be incarcerated for public safety.