Phila. Studying Role Of “Feral Children” In Crime Increase


Analysts of Philadelphia’s rising crime rate are focusing on the fact that infants born to drug-addicted moms in the 1980s and early ’90s are coming of age, says the Philadelphia Daily News. A growing number of experts say the effects of early drug exposure – including aggression and other behavioral and learning problems – can be overcome with good parenting and social-service intervention. The real problem is that good parenting can be hard to find in families wracked by drug addiction. Drugged-out parenting does far more to doom a child to a life of crime – as a perpetrator or a victim – than does a baby’s drug exposure during pregnancy, experts are discovering.

City officials have launched a study of the nearly 500 people arrested for murder in 2005 and 2006. They will examine what factors may have driven the accused perpetrators to kill, including whether they were drug-exposed newborns, grew up in drug-infested homes and used or sold drugs. “Nothing has devastated our children more than being raised in a drug-addicted household in which they fail to receive the basic benefits of love,” said Julia Danzy, who heads the Department of Social Services. “Imagine being left alone in a crib, hungry and frightened, all day and night, because your parent went to get a fix. Drugs totally sever the parents’ ability to nurture. A child who is not nurtured does not develop basic social skills. It’s almost like we’re raising feral children.” Almost half of the 484 people arrested for murder in 2005 and 2006 were 22 or younger. That’s young enough to have been born addicted to crack or raised in a drug-plagued home, or both. Danzy’s murder-suspect study will be the first test of the Cross-Agency Response for Effective Services, “analytical-mining” software that allows city agencies to compare data. Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University psychology professor who studies juvenile crime, agreed that juveniles who use drugs are more likely to commit crimes.


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