8
Crime and self-destruction among the young

One important factor in the whole teenage phenomenon is not just the self-contained teenage society, but also the interactions between it and the adult society. In the survey of newspaper references we traced a growing concern, amounting at the last to a hysteria which was the general attitude among adult commentators on teenagers in 1959-60. We can perhaps say this is a reaction to the abnormal crime figures among teenagers for 1955-58, and the general spread among the teenagers during the mid-'fifties of a culture based on the idea of reckless rebellion and violence. This is comprehensible enough, but what is not so easy to understand is the way this attitude has persisted. It is as if the collective adult mind had become neurotically imprinted with the idea of the menacing teenager. With Jung, who asked when he met a neurosis, why does it persist and how does it serve the person it lodges in, rather than how did it begin, one might enquire: why does the collective adult mind nourish this spectre? As we shall see, the facts do not support it. We must look elsewhere for an explanation of this deep-rooted attitude which has done as much as anything to promote the existence of an independent teenage society.

One can put forward several suggestions. The first is that our society conspicuously lacks any socially approved way of allowing controlled outbursts of violence. Pain, blood, anger are in fact the embroidery of life in England for whether we like it or not, the animal urge is satisfied in road accidents, boxing matches, football riots. On all these occasions violence is, in theory, an unwanted by-product. The idea of road transport is not to kill and maim. Boxing is, in theory, an art where pain has no necessary place. It is even less appropriate in football, and so on. Perhaps as a result of public denial of the real personal need for this darker side of life, we project it all onto an out-group of society: the teenagers.

But no one reason is going to tell the whole story. Another cause for

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