Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Married households, cure for crime

Published:Tuesday | September 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I support Ronald Thwaites' comments in his article 'Normalising high-crime Jamaican neighbourhoods' (The Gleaner, September 26, 2016). He rightly lists the tragic and lethal mix of factors accounting for our apparent entrenched crime problem. It is also true that there is always hope to reverse the problem.

Might I add my opinion that part of our crime-fighting planning problem is a faulty perception of human beings. We are not machines that can be switched on or off. We are thinking, feeling beings with the capacity to choose right from wrong. We have to be taught good norms, see them modelled around us, and experience the benefits. Making good choices has to sound, look and feel way better than the other options.

Here's a radical suggestion to deal with our crime problem: stable, married households. Psychologist Dr Patrick Fagan, in an instructive study, The Real Roots of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family and Community, remarks, "Too many young men and women from broken families tend to have a much weaker sense of connection with their neighbourhood and are prone to exploit its members to satisfy their unmet needs or desires."




Have we ever had a public conversation on how nurturing married father-and-mother households link with economic growth, safer neighbourhoods and better academic performances of children? Why isn't family well-being a policy imperative of our planning institutes? Jamaican data exist that demonstrate the overall better outcomes for children from married households, compared with cohabiting households and single-parent households.

Studies abound by local and international experts on the development of criminal behaviour and its direct roots in children being unloved, neglected and rejected by their parents, experiencing familial conflict and abuse.

The other prescriptions made in Ronald Thwaites' and Arnold Bertram's article on fighting crime - strong police presence, rural development, training of youth, civics curriculum, will not work by themselves if the gnawing, core need remains unsatisfied: humans beings believing that their lives matter and they are loved and belong.

If leaders who have benefited from the stability of married, two-parent households are themselves unwilling to say so because they don't want to 'mash anybody corn', they are really not interested in solving problems, nor do they really care for children. When our policies and laws are based on adult convenience and not what's best for children, all of society pays for it.

Crime is about moral failure and the absence of personal responsibility. It didn't begin with the first gunshot. I humbly submit that as long as we ignore the elephant in the room - our family practices - then your leading headline, 'murder madness', may well become normalised.