In the survey, conducted in selected
public and private schools in Toronto in the spring of 2006,
more than 3,200 students were asked to report their involvement
in crimes related to violence, property and drugs. Boys, at 41
per cent, were more likely than girls, at 32 per cent, to report
If anything surprises Dr. Doob about
those numbers, it's that they aren't higher.
"I would suspect that that's low," he
said, based on other self-reporting studies he has seen or
conducted in the past.
The more specific the questions, the
more likely kids are to reveal that they have, indeed, committed
some kind of crime at some point in their lives, he said. "If
you ask the simple question, have you damaged or destroyed
somebody's property, you'll get one answer, but if you go
through all of the different kinds of things that kids can do
which constitute vandalism - have you carved your initials into
somebody's desk; have you broken branches off trees; have you
scratched somebody's car; have you broken an aerial - you get a
much higher rate," the professor said.
If you throw in other misdeeds - theft
of food or drink, jumping a subway turnstile, writing graffiti -
and ask kids if they've done any of those things, the numbers
"You combine all those things and say
'one or more' and it would probably be approaching 100 per
cent," Dr. Doob said.
Whatever the numbers, the adult response
to a child's deviant behaviour, even if it's merely the product
of routine adolescent rebellion, is crucial, according to a
Toronto police officer who has spent most of the past five years
"There's a lot of kids who experiment,"
Constable Scott Mills said. "That's why when they get caught
it's good to have people that care, at whatever level it is - at
school, at a community centre, with the police, but most
importantly with Mom and Dad - and get them involved with
The study suggests that Mom and Dad make
a difference. The prevalence of delinquent behaviour was 18 per
cent among children who lived with both of their parents, but 25
per cent among those with one parent and 35 per cent for the
children of stepfamilies.
The incidence of misbehaviour increased
when parents worked. When the mother was unemployed, 17 per cent
of kids were delinquent, and when the father was jobless, 14 per
cent stepped out of line. Those numbers rose to 21 and 20 per
cent, respectively, when mothers and fathers worked, suggesting
supervision might be an issue. The delinquency numbers also
soared, from 12 per cent to 56 per cent, between kids whose
parents who kept track of their movements outside the home and
those whose parents rarely or never knew where they were.
Children born outside Canada, meanwhile,
were less likely to be delinquent, at 15 per cent, than their
Canadian-born classmates, at 23 per cent. There was no
significant difference, however, between Canadian-born children
of immigrant parents and children born to non-immigrants.
Gerry Connelly, director of education
for the Toronto District School Board, had not read the report
closely as of late yesterday, but she said she welcomes it
"because it helps us in working with our youth and bringing
forth programs and supports to help them."