One of the more interesting courses I took during my undergraduate years at Baylor was a sociology course on juvenile delinquency. In both lecture and textbooks Dr. Osborne led us through the history of juvenile delinquency and, one by one, through the prevailing explanations for why juvenile delinquency occurred. This meant considering the theories of what caused juvenile delinquency and searching out available research to test the accuracy of these theories. Later, using the same approach, we addressed the available ideas on what needs to be done to reduce the incidence of juvenile delinquency.
There are several things that I learned from this course, the first being that any course well taught can teach you a lot more than merely the content of the subject. The next thing I learned was that I was developing a powerful interest in social problems and a strong desire to do something about them. I was realizing that social problems are primarily people to people problems. I also realized that the best of theories only have so much to offer in explaining a social phenomenon and, however accurate a theory may be, it had to be linked with other theories to more fully explain what was going on in the real world of flesh and blood humans I also became strongly interested in collecting information – doing research – to see if a given theory accurately described what was really going on with people. It was clear to me that virtually everyone had an opinion about the causes of juvenile delinquency and the best solutions to the problem. I also realized that there were many interesting ideas to be offered on any subject and that the implementing of any idea probably impacted some other areas of society in ways not initially anticipated – the law of unintended consequences.
Working in construction during the summer of my high school years the contractor who directed the work of rowdy teenage males was some what a blue-collar social commentator. He liked to share what was on his mind, frequently stated somewhat tongue-in-cheek. One day on a break he said, “I know how to solve unemployment and juvenile delinquency at the same time.” We were obviously curious and he responded. “Send all the working mothers home. Giving these jobs to men will eliminate unemployment. Having mothers at home to raise the kids instead of having them run the streets will eliminate juvenile delinquency.” His implied cause of juvenile delinquency was that it came from children not being sufficiently mothered. I could see some truth in what he was saying from my observations of the world I was growing up in but instinctively believed that it was not so simple. I also instantly, and humorously, wondered where we would get all the men to suddenly become nurses, teachers, waitresses and secretaries. I also wondered if his plan would allow working moms to choose for themselves or simply require them to obey as they were told. You never knew with him how serious he was, since everything was said in good humor, and how much he was merely trying to discombobulated you.
By the time the juvenile delinquency course was finished, I had formed in my own mind the realization that many factors are associated with juvenile delinquency and that some seem causally related. I realized that accurate statistics tell you what is happening but not why it is happening. You have to supply the why. However, I came away with a conviction that remains with me to this day, that whatever are the causes of social problems, and you can count on a cluster of causes. A huge part of the causation and an even larger part of the resolution will be understanding what is happening in the family of origin and determining which strategies a society can embrace to most wisely respond to the needs of the family. It seemed to me that, if the world could be so ideal that all children would be born to parents who desperately wanted them and loved them and had the means to care for them, most of our social problems would be dramatically reduced.
Through the years of additional education and professional careers this conviction has grown stronger. I am writing the books I’m writing to inject as much sanity, wisdom and love into marriage and family relationships, to maximize the likelihood of all children being born with such an advantage in doing life. I’m also keenly interested in the way the larger forces of society impact the family for good or ill. As I develop my blog I will be recommending other resources that seem to me to be similarly motivated, and therefore offer additional help to people who are searching.