Janae B. Weinhold
High-risk kids have become a serious social problem in the past few years. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of children being identified as violent, defiant, hyperactive and suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. Teens and young children involved in school shootings have captured national attention and created a ripple of fear and anxiety that now permeates the entire country. Parents and children no longer believe that schools are safe places.
Early Symptoms of High-Risk Behaviors
Child care providers are also reporting dramatic increases in the numbers of preschool age children being expelled from their facilities for aggressive, violent behaviors. This rise in the number of young high-risk children disturbs adults, who wonder what these children will be like as teenagers and adults.
Following the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, many parents brought children exhibiting violent and aggressive behaviors in to mental health centers around the country seeking help for them. Columbine seemed to shock parents into awareness about the risk their of child becoming violent as they got older.
Why the Rapid Increase in High-Risk Behaviors?
There is one recurring question that these episodes of child and youth violence are generating: Why are there so many disturbed children The answer is not simple.
When viewed in its broadest perspective, it becomes clear that the problem is systemic and involves culture of violence issues, a mobile population that has destroyed the extended family infrastructure, an economic system that requires two-wage-earner families and families that are under stress from the accelerated lifestyles now considered normal in industrialized countries.
Drugs Are Not the Answer
Because this problem is expanding so rapidly in a time of increasingly fewer resources, many parents have decided to drug their children. Yes, it often diminishes their oppositional and defiant behaviors, but these are just the symptoms of a larger problem.
The real issue is that children is that children are spending less and less time in the care of their biological parents. Many children spend 8 – 12 hours a day in childcare, being cared for by people with whom they are not bonded. I call this “custodial care” because their physical needs are being met, but not their social and emotional needs. The lack of warm, empathic and energetically attuned adult caregivers is a recipe for disturbed attachment and the path to negative mental health.