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September 15, 1999






Girls may join boys in
violence, counselor warns

___By Dan Martin
___Texas Baptist Communications
___ARLINGTON--For the most part, violent teenagers tend to be males, but a counselor warned girls may start acting out in rage-filled behavior such as killing classmates, torturing animals and the like.
___Joy McInvale of Fort Worth discussed characteristics of violent teenagers during the violencelogoChurch and Random Violence Conference at First Baptist Church in Arlington.
___The conference was sponsored by the minister/church relations office of the Baptist General Convention of Texas and LifeWay Christian Resources' LeaderCare program.
___Most of the violent behavior--such as the shootings at schools in Jonesboro, Ark.; Littleton, Colo.; Pearl, Miss.; and Portland, Ore.--is done by males, McInvale said. But young females may soon start acting out.
___Most violent teens suffer from a "lack of personal and familial structure," she reported.
___"American families are in a crisis of values, and often our children grow up in a jungle, where they become their own authorities," she said. "Media often raise children in the absence of parents.
___"Statistics indicate children and teenagers spend 220 minutes per day in front of a television set, as compared to three to eight minutes in face-to-face conversation with their fathers.
___"If we do not see changes in how we do things, we probably will see more episodes of violent behavior from males and females."
___The typical violent teenager also is "a loner--lacking adequate connections," McInvale said. Violent teenagers additionally "have an inability to adhere to norms and boundaries."
___Most teens who participate in violent acts "have low self-esteem," she observed. "They feel no sense of pride in who they are, nor do they value anything or feel valued by anyone."
___Troubled teens have a twisted notion that they should "reject others before they have a chance to reject you," she said. "They are vulnerable and fragile. Many times, those who commit atrocious acts revert to a child-like state. They don't know why they did it. They are saddened by what they did."
___But, at the same time, the violence "lets them be somebody," she added. "Most of them have envisioned the act they committed, and they have played it over and over and over in their minds before they finally act it out."
___Usually, a violent teen has experienced change of some sort, whether it is "significant or insignificant," she noted. "Violent teenagers didn't wake up killers. The violence has built up and built up in their systems."
___Many of the violent young people have been influenced by hate groups, she warned, adding they are confused by who God is and what God wants.
___Troubled teens have a heightened need to belong, she pointed out. "The teen who doesn't fit in anywhere has a tendency to migrate toward groups who are less than healthy. They are in a desperate search for a place to belong."
___McInvale said the troubled teen typically has no limits on media--television, movies, interactive video, music.
___Most of the violent teenagers have had access to guns or information about weapons. "They know a lot about guns, and most of them know where to find guns in their own homes, their grandparents' homes or in the homes of friends," she reported.
___Finally, the troubled teen typically has a lack of involvement in the community, she said.
___McInvale urged Christians to be "messengers of hope."
___"Let teens and their families know they are important," she urged. "Churches have to increasingly teach that the young person is created in the image of God and is important to us and to God."

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