Growing murderers

Scientist points to abuse of boys by mothers; says absence of fathers not a factor

Thursday, March 07, 2019

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ANTHROPOLOGIST Dr Herbert Gayle says abused boys account for more than half the number of men who murder or commit violent crimes in Jamaica.

At the same time, Dr Gayle, who lectures at The University of the West Indies, posited that a breakdown in the relationship between mothers and their sons is the main reasons that boys join gangs.

“The strongest bond between any two human beings is between a mother and her son. It is important that you recognise the kind of power that you have,” he told his audience at a series of fora focusing on 'Safety and Security' organised by the Jamaica National Group for its members and other citizens.

“Women, I am charging you; you have to get up and begin to protect your sons, otherwise we are not coming out of this. The number one reason boys join gangs is because they have a problem with their mothers,” Dr Gayle said, noting that the finding is not unique to Jamaica but spans several Latin America and Caribbean countries, which, as a region, is responsible for 40 per cent of global murders.

Referencing a study conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund some years ago, Dr Gayle said more emphasis needs to be placed on nurturing boys to avert their regression into a life of violence. However, he also stressed that more needs to be done to protect women from abuse.

“... Abused boys account for 53 per cent of murderers in Jamaica,” he stated, underscoring that violence is a symptom of societal ills. “Fifty-three per cent of murders in Jamaica are done by someone who is a repeat killer, and repeat killers are [often] traumatised boys who come from traumatised mothers.”

He said that much of the country's violence is caused from mental problems, and many people are not willing to help children in need.

“A lot of you see young men and young women walking around the community and you know for sure that there is something wrong and we mistreat them,” he said.

He urged parents to be more deliberate in raising their children, especially sons, to address the issue of violence.

“Violence begins in our homes. A lot of us are building gangs in our homes not knowing that's what we are doing,” he said.

He challenged the belief that the absence of fathers is a major contributor to violence, pointing out that Jamaica now has the highest number of fathers in its households now than at any other point in its modern history, with 42 per cent of households having both a mother and a father, yet murders have continued to climb.

The increase in households where fathers are present runs parallel to the annual increases in murders since Independence, with 2017 recording the third-highest number of murders in the country's history.

“In 1948, Jamaica only had 18 per cent of its children having a biological father living in the house,” he stated. “Do you think we can build a society hoping a father will be in the house when he's not there?” he argued, accepting that his comments would stir controversy.

“We are now at 42 per cent of children having a biological father in the household, which is the highest in our history. It is one of the fastest-growing fathers' presence in the entire world. It means that we need to encourage fathers and work with them and drop some of the philosophies and cultural frames that we have,” he pleaded, especially to the women in the audience.

Dr Gayle also argued that investment in education, starting at home, is critical to addressing violence in Jamaica, pointing out that in nearly 90 per cent of cases, educated people will not commit violent crimes.

“Invest the very last dollar you have in education, and that's the only way we are going to keep our place safe,” he urged the audience.

He said that education is integral to the penultimate and final stages of the process and argued that there are three levels of education which can help to reduce violence — tertiary, secondary and primary.

The tertiary level of intervening seeks to reach a ceasefire agreement; at the secondary level, redeployment and training of the perpetrator is implemented; while at the primary level, the aim is to educate and re-educate the violence-producer, Dr Gayle pointed out.

The anthropologist stressed that the more educated people are, the less risks they are likely to take.

“Working on the mind provides people with options,” he emphasised. “The more primal you are is the more risk you will take. The more options you have, the information you have, is the more you bank and the more you create a structure of protection around you.

“Begin the task of looking at your children and answering the following question: Have I given this child — boy or girl — the greatest opportunity to be a civilised human being? If the answer is 'yes' 87.2 per cent of the time, he will not commit a violent crime,” the researcher said.

The fora were held in townships and parishes which have been plagued by violence, such as May Pen in Clarendon and Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, to provide residents with information and advice which they can use to protect themselves. A third forum is scheduled for Mandeville, Manchester, on March 21.


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