In spite of the big dreams usually nursed by many youths today, a good number of them are facing several challenges and even getting into diverse troubles. No matter where they are found, there are always lots of pressures for the youths to deal with among friends, family and the larger society. For some of the youths, the pressures emanate from such unwholesome conditions like poverty, violence and other associated issues around them, including even parental problems and the various gangs they may have got themselves entangled with. Youths may also be concerned and have questions arising from their inability to fully grasp the significance of such issues like religion, gender roles, values or ethnicity.
Some of them (youths) may equally be having difficulties dealing with the past traumas they had experienced, which may have arisen, for instance, from the abuses they had suffered either from strangers or even relatives. There is equally the endless struggle between teenagers and their parents. This is usually because many of them tend to think that they require greater independence to explore their world when in fact they still need parental guidance. These conflicts may sometimes result in behavior problems which might in some cases degenerate and eventually abort the great dreams of some of the youths. There is need therefore to create awareness on the menace of deviant behaviors which have impeded and continues to hamper the progress of countless young people out there.
Deviances in youths manifest themselves through diverse vices like – shoplifting, truancy, fighting at school or other places, immoral acts, drug or alcohol ingestion, indulging in unhealthy entertainment, etc. Sometimes, these youths are unable to explain why they find this unwholesome conducts attractive. The adults who ought to help them understand and seek ways out of their predicaments may even be as confused as the youths themselves. Several youths even consider the vices they are manifesting as appropriate ways of dealing with some of the experiences they are grappling with. Naturally, when these youths misbehave, their parents and loved ones feel scared, angry, frustrated or hopeless, and in the process may not be able to evolve adequate responses to the situation. Even the misbehaving youths may later begin to feel guilty, wondering where they had gone wrong, and why their conducts (which they naively consider harmless) are provoking such kinds of reactions. These are feelings that are expected in the course of human development, but what is important is that those concerned should understand that there is help available to troubled youths and their families.
In this maiden contribution to this column, an attempt will be made to explain the sources of deviant behaviors and ways of resolving them.
~ SOURCES OF DEVIANT BEHAVIORS AND HOW TO RESOLVE THEM
Self-control is an individual characteristic that is established early in life and lack of it accounts for the deviant behaviors we witness in several young people and even adults. Self-control can be achieved through strong attachments to social foundations such as family, church, school or community. These social bonds possess the capacity to influence the level and extent of deviance somebody could engage in. It must be pointed out that people engage in unacceptable behaviors (like stealing, for instance) because of the immediate gratification they offer. In many cases, it only requires just a little time to think it over, and often does not have a long term goal which would require long waiting before it materializes. These results are appealing to children with low self-control or self-regulation. Self-regulation is the ability to set goals and apply the necessary effort and discipline to achieve them, refrain from problematic behaviors that might threaten them, and focus on long term goals that yield more beneficial and lasting ends. But a trend among adolescents is inability to maintain goals or restrain their behaviors without guidance. This inability to control challenging tendencies will influence the child to partake in deviant activities.
What is known as the social disorganization theory has tried to enhance our understanding of why adolescents partake in unhealthy conducts. The main thrust of this theory is that high rates of deviancy are witnessed when a community’s informal social control within the family and society deteriorates through negligence or condoning of resistance against correction by young people. This theory stresses the merits of community social control, as espoused in the African proverb that says that it takes a village to raise a child.
Parents are deemed to be the first models their children encounter in life. Research has shown that when parents are held in high esteem and are the main sources of inspiration for their children, those kids are more likely to model their lives after them. But negative attitudes by parents are more likely to be emulated by their children. And this will in the long run affect the rest of the society. Once their children begin to grow, it is normal for parents to begin to mould and shape their behaviors to conform to the norms of society. This demands that teenagers or young adults who are usually inclined to resisting parental controls on the grounds that they now feel grown-up and reasonable, or even supposedly possess more knowledge for self-direction, should resist such tendency and accept with delight parental control which most of the time is for their own good.
It has been observed that there are certain parenting techniques that tend to have greater impact on the child’s behavior than others; the most effective is “parental support” which consists of those positive attitudes toward the child, such as praising, encouraging and showing of affection, which build their self-confidence. These make the child the child to feel valued and loved. In multiple studies, it has been found that support from parents bonds the adolescent to institutions and builds their self-control. This building of self-control will impede the development of deviant behaviors and create in the child a positive personality. However, in today’s world good family bonding is speedily giving way for single or no parenting largely as a result of parents not being available to nurture their children due to divorce in some cases or outright decision of some not to be in husband/wife family structure, thus providing incentive to an ever increasing tendency to yield to unacceptable lifestyle.
For youths growing up in such environments without adequate parental support or under the kind of deviant parenting where unacceptable conducts are tolerated (or even promoted), experienced pastors of a church like the Watchman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement can constitute a pool of alternative and reliable mentors outside the home; these are people whom they would be able to trust enough to disclose their plight and have them give them proper, godly guidance that would put them on the path of rectitude and lay for them the requisite foundation for growing into responsible members of the society and future leaders. And for this to work very well, the concerned youth must happily yield to effective discipline, monitoring and problem-solving techniques provided for their own good by these their self-adopted parents. Consistent discipline must be ensured at the sighting of deviant behavior in order to prevent their development. Every rewarding lifestyle would always require conscientious efforts to build. Youths who are determined to defeat deviances must invest time and energy to put into practice what they heard during church meetings, from parents and pastors.
When adolescents are distinguished by unwholesome conducts, what may happen is that they are most likely to be rejected by conventional peers causing them to drift into associations with deviant peers. And when this happens, and the concerned adolescent ceases to be restrained by the opinions of parents, teachers, pastors and conventional peers, his new deviant friends would encourage and reinforce him to participate in deviant behaviors. It is known that deviant friends happily accept each other and their deviant actions. The age at which adolescent begins associating with deviant peers influences the level of delinquency he might participate in. Every youth should carefully select the social group he wants to be associated with, as birds of the same feather always flock together. For Christian youths and those desirous of leading responsible lives, the best company available to them is other Christian youths, and they must endeavor to participate actively in the activities of the Youth Church. One cannot be different from the kind of friends one keeps.
Support for social learning has generated important implications for resolving deviancy. From a social learning perspective, deviant and criminal conducts are learned and sustained via associations with family and peer networks. If one agrees that this is the source of such behavior, then it follows that these behaviors could be modified to the extent that one is able to manipulate those same processes or the environmental contingencies that precipitate them early enough.
From this perspective, policy-makers should focus on developing and implementing preventive and rehabilitative programmes that use social learning variables to change behavior in a positive direction. Examples of programmes guided by social learning principles include mentoring, peer counseling and group interventions. The idea behind some of these types of programmes is that providing Watchman Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES) as a means of fostering good and productive social integration for overall development of our young ones.
It is however noteworthy here that the deviancies in persons and the world at large today, basically derives from deviations from our Creator’s originally drawn patterns of living in the world He created and put us in. Some parents themselves departing from these patterns established by our universal Father have gone ahead to lay foundation for a society that has become depraved and deviated from the original purpose of the Creator (Acts. 17:24-31).
Anyone who cares about fulfillment in life should first get back to God as the foundation of life, seek out His pattern in the areas of their concerns, and live by them, for in Him we live, move and have our being. Youths should desist from quickly seeking absolute freedom in the midst of ignorance, which is suicidal. They should rather make up their minds to be the best of what God designed them to be under the guidance of God’s word and their Godly parents (Prov. 6:20-23, 27 & 28; Isa. 8:12-20).
~ Chris Ebo Duruegbusoaku, Ph.D., is the WCCRM Diocesan Pastor of Ilorin and the Director, WCCRM Missions.