Sunday, June 16, 2024

Rise in juvenile crimes expression of alarming lack of empathy: Experts

The rise in criminal involvement among minor boys, whether driven by machismo or gangsterism, is evident in recent trends. The recent killing of a 17-year-old in northeast Delhi’s Welcome area by a minor boy is not an isolated incident, as the city occasionally witnesses disturbing acts of crime committed by juveniles.

Dr Sneha Sharma, Consultant-Psychiatry, Aakash Healthcare, said that the details of the whole incident suggest that the person committing the crime had no sense of empathy or any fear of the consequences of the crime.

“He in fact danced after committing the offence and also boasted about the previous similar offences that he had allegedly committed. These actions suggest an absolute disregard for social order and norms and complete lack of any remorse or regret while doing the heinous act or even after the incident,” said Dr Sharma.

“This sort of behaviour is commonly seen and labelled as part of an antisocial personality and often the onset happens during the adolescence period during which behaviour like involvement in unlawful activities, lack of regard for safety and feelings of others and a lack of empathy/ feelings towards others are noticeable,” said Dr Sharma.

“These behaviours need to be identified in the social context and steps need to be taken at the community level to address them at an early stage to prevent incidents like these,” she added.

“Childhood and adolescence mark a highly impressionable and sensitive age of development,” according to Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket.

“The control centres in the brain, including the frontal region, are still developing,” said Dr Malhotra.

Highlighting the contributing factors to juvenile issues, Dr Malhotra pointed out that “Vulnerable predispositions like hyperactivity, impulse dyscontrol, externalising behaviour, and substance misuse, coupled with a disturbed family environment and excessive explicit aggressive content available through media, internet, and violent internet games, all seem to play a role.”

He stressed the importance of timely recognition and professional addressal of behavioural concerns. “Emphasising the inculcation of empathy and right values, fostering meaningful aims and life purpose, channelizing energy through physical sports, exercise, and yoga, developing constructive hobbies, and promoting healthy and effective parenting, alongside the availability of good role models, can all contribute to a positive outcome.”

Dr Minakshi Manchanda, Associate Director – Psychiatry, Asian Hospital, Faridabad said that one critical aspect to explore is the presence of any underlying mental health disorders, such as conduct disorder, antisocial personality traits, or even psychopathy of the juvenile involved in heinous crimes.

“These conditions can manifest early in adolescence and may be associated with a lack of empathy, impulsivity, and a disregard for societal norms. A comprehensive psychological assessment should guide the development of an individualised treatment plan. This may involve cognitive-behavioural therapy to address aggression and impulse control, trauma-focused therapy to explore any underlying traumatic experiences, and family therapy to address potential dysfunction within the familial context,” said Dr Manchanda.

“Additionally, exploring the offender’s social support networks and community influences is vital for creating a holistic intervention strategy aimed at addressing the root causes of their violent behaviour,” she said.

“This incident underscores the importance of a multidisciplinary approach involving both the legal and mental health systems to address the complexities of juvenile crime. Understanding and addressing the psychological aspects of such cases are crucial for preventing future acts of violence and promoting the rehabilitation of young offenders,” she added.

(Shekhar Singh can be reached at



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