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Why “At-Risk Youth” is a Modern Day Issue

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not
 necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

“It takes an entire village to raise a child,” is a wise saying that has been dismissed with the progression of modern-day living. However, one in today’s society would be quick to judge youths that are at risk of developing troublesome behaviors and attitudes are due to circumstances at home.

While this may be partly true, the home influence of such behaviors is just one of many factors contributing. With the definition of ‘at-risk youth’ by the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA), and the exploration of how a child’s village helps impact their life, solutions to ensure the decrease or prevention of such issues will be considered. 

Definition of ‘At-Risk Youth’

According to the CCPA, the term ‘at-risk youth’ is: “when a child begins leaning towards behaviours, attitudes, and perceptions that are risky, they are behaving in a fashion that practitioners might diagnose as at-risk.” To delve deeper into what pertains to “risky,” these are actions and/or perceptions that negatively impact the child’s growth, and are thus the causes of the decline of their mental and physical health. These include and are not limited to the witnessing and/or engagement of substance abuse, premarital sex, and suicide. 

Why Home Influence is Not the Only Reason

Youths that are at-risk of these attention-seeking behaviors are generally dismissed to be caused solely by family dysfunction at home. The home environment indeed is the most influential of a child’s functioning. As statistics provided by At Risk Youth Programs show: “teens who are likely to be more at-risk are usually those that lack a strong support system at home, as well as teens who are not coping well with the different challenges they are facing.” 

However, there is a bigger picture to explore before dismissing influence at home as the sole responsibility. A child’s growth depends on their nature and nurture, and the nurturing provided to them is not limited to their caregivers. Their bubble includes that of those they interact with within their neighborhood; the ones that often visit; their teachers and peers at school; and any other peers involved in their extracurricular activities. As the article “Youth at-Risk; Society at Risk” put it, “children’s developing attitudes, values, motivations, aspirations and most important[ly], their perceptions of their own self-worth are influenced by their experiences within these varying and often conflicting contexts of the community.” Hence, one should find the different roots of the problem before narrowing their perception to just the tip of the iceberg.

Collaboration by the Village

Truth be told, it does take an entire village to raise a child, hence one should look at every influential aspect of a child’s life to determine factors and solutions that reverse the risky behaviors of affected youths. For instance, a crucial factor can also be the child’s role models at school; the teachers. This is a good example such that “teachers often fail students by complimenting the successful students and ignoring those who do not prove as successful.” This can result in attention-seeking behaviours in a child which gives adverse results.

Another critical factor to consider is whether the child is being heard by the adults they look up to. This is important to consider, as children who feel unheard “may seek out measures to establish a symbolic means of control such as the usage of substances, alcohol and drugs, eating disorders, criminal activity, cheating on exams, and sexual activity.”

To paint a bigger picture, society as a whole is responsible for the outcomes of a child’s development. Primarily speaking, “society […] has contributed to the very conditions in which our nation’s children and youth struggle to survive.” Such modern influential contributions are the economical demand for people to work, and the inflation of goods and services by the government and large corporations. These are root factors that are often dismissed because people do not see the bigger picture. This picture depicts caregivers’ absence from a youth’s life due to the exchange of long work hours for necessities such as shelter and food. In turn, youths are defined to be ‘at-risk’; “no longer can society ignore the magnitude of family-life problems and not take collaborative actions to turn around the negative factors resulting in children and youth at risk.”

Solutions

A community is responsible for effective solutions that will ensure decreasing the issue of at-risk youths. Solutions can be raised to help at-risk youths, as well as to prevent future progenies from being at-risk. Effective solutions for those in the child’s immediate influence would be healthy communication and an unconditional environment. Adults “need to embrace and praise their children for his or her efforts, and offer a hand up when a child is needing help.”

To resolve the modern-day issue of caregivers’ absence takes more effort by society as a whole. Solutions can be to increase the minimum wage so that a reasonable amount of hours are served; to deflate consumers’ basic goods and services to reasonable prices; to provide caregivers or more facilities for daycare. A strategic approach would also be to raise awareness on at-risk youths so that neighbors and a child’s immediate community would lend a helping hand in ensuring their safety and healthy development; and reestablishing the logic that a village is required to raise a child. 

 

Works Cited

“At-Risk Children and Youth.” Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, 22 July 2011, www.ccpa-accp.ca/at-risk-children-and-youth/.

“Information on At Risk Youth Statistics.” At Risk Youth Programs, 28 Oct. 2020, atriskyouthprograms.com/information-on-at-risk-youth-statistics/.

Thornburg, Kathy R., et al. “Youth at Risk; Society at Risk.” The Elementary School Journal, vol. 91, no. 3, 1991, pp. 199–208. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/1001706. 

Written by Natasha Byrne

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