NEWS

Child violence has many causes

The innocence of children is a myth that has long been debunked. The tragedy in the story of young Alex is that it reveals new facts about violence among children in Greece, such as the setting up of gangs, a complicated phenomenon. Among its causes are social exclusion and racism that entire groups of people (usually immigrants) are subject to, changes in the working hours that keep parents away from home and images of violence in both the media and in electronic games. When the scoring in playing one of these games is the number of people the player runs over with a vehicle, the child becomes inured to violence and there is the danger he could forget it is just a game. Violence is everywhere at schools. Once, the sight of a child mistreating a cat seemed to be the limit, but now it is common phenomena to see pornographic scenes filmed by children of their fellow pupils on their mobile phones. «There are several conditions that lead a child to commit crimes,» said child psychiatrist Thanassis Alexandridis. «If these are cumulative, the child could do something illegal or even criminal. Children who act dangerously have a psychopathology that has been created within the family. An over-organized family with an authoritarian father can be pathological, but more often it is the less strict families in which there are no rules. There is often great ignorance and roles within the family are often confused when there are no positive role models. «In these families we often find cases of incest and child abuse – situations that are unacceptable in all societies. From a young age, children are subject to severe punishment without reason. Often the children have been neglected since infancy and are lacking in basic care such as affection; they are not given the necessary framework in which to mature. These factors attract children to crime (a deprived child might be tempted to steal something he wants) and make them vulnerable to pathological elements in the outside environment. A pedophile, for example, would be able to prey on such a child’s emotions. An older child or adult would be able to induct them into a life of crime, using them at first as «helpers.» The common denominator among all these families is usually poverty, unemployment and social exclusion, which is particularly rife among immigrants. «The latest wave of immigration to Greece has drastically increased the number of minority populations,» said Alexandridis. «We Greeks have developed a superiority complex. While most immigrants, children and adults, try hard to show that they also belong to a nation that deserves respect, some children are not able to do this and conform to the image attributed to them (as thieves, delinquents and so on). They will try to break down the positive image other children have of themselves, either by attacking them (their exterior physical image) or raping them (their internal psychological image). «Children find support and recognition in groups. Gangs act as a substitute for the family. They swear to a code of secrecy. There are often other factors binding these groups together, such as drug use, sexual practices or gang rapes of other children, acts that create bonds of guilt and lead to greater cohesion within the group.» Are children capable of murder? «I think this can only happen if there is an accumulation of a number of factors that cause children to lose control at any particular moment. The boundaries for dysfunctional children is usually the injury or humiliation of their victim. However, there are two factors that can lead to a crime they don’t want to commit: sadistic enjoyment once a beating begins or rape and collective hysteria in which each tries to outdo the other.»