An Interview: on Juvenile Delinquency

Ten years ago at the University of Colorado, Dr. Gordon H. Barker, then chairman of the Sociology Department, introduced a new program to help rehabilitate juvenile delinquents. The idea was surprisingly simple: offer an institutionalized delinquent the friendship of a handpicked university student about his age. The plan proved highly successful, and now Dr. Barker directs eight programs involving students, who act as big brothers and sisters, camp counselors, and assistant probation officers in working with delinquent youngsters. In 1966, Dr. Barker served as a consultant to the President's Crime Commission. Here he brings to a sociological problem the special insights of a Christian Scientist.

If one were to boil everything down to the most significant factor related to children's mental states, undeniably it would be deficiencies in the family. In the home where there is no father or only a very weak father figure there isn't anything for the boy to emulate. The delinquent boy is supposed to act like a proper male, and yet he has never had a strong male figure around to imitate. The delinquent girl has often been abused either physically or emotionally by a male figure, and she is striking back, using sex as a weapon. When these children get older, society holds up strong masculine or feminine role expectations for them, and they can't play these roles because they don't know how. This happens often in low economic groups, but there can be deficiencies in the suburban family too. Yet wherever we find strong supportive parental figures, we tend to find less delinquency.

Some of the homes from which these children come are indescribable. The qualities of truth and love that make up the strong nuclear family are absent. Remember that Mrs. Eddy says, "A mother is the strongest educator, either for or against crime." Science and Health, p. 236; Inconsistency, dishonesty—all the conditions that tend to produce delinquency—are usually present. The love that protects and provides and cares for the family—holds it together—is missing.

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Truthfulness and Peace
February 10, 1968

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