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Deviant Adolescents

Posted April. 23, 2010 00:07,   


A fire broke out at a southern Seoul villa last weekend, forcing 76 residents to evacuate from their homes. The entire villa could have burned down had the blaze not been extinguished in time. The culprits turned out to be two 18-year-old boys who told police that they started the fire just to see what would happen.

On the same day, a middle school student in Busan dropped a brick from the 13th floor of an apartment building, hitting a teenage girl who happened to be in the flower garden below. She is in serious condition. Such deviant acts are too serious to be simply considered juvenile.

What one does for fun or out of curiosity could hurt people or result in disaster. Such acts can cause not only physical injury but also leave mental scars on the victims. In February, middle school graduates forced others to go naked in public on the day of their graduation ceremony. This went far beyond what could be tolerated as a “generation gap.” A photo of birthday party gone wild has caused the latest stir. Youths in their 20s exposed their friend’s genitals and injected an object into his anus, taking photos and posting them their Internet mini homepages.

Adolescence is often characterized by impulsiveness, fastidiousness and capriciousness, and called a period of “storm and stress.” In the past, hormones or excessive social taboos were cited as the cause for adolescents being “rebel without a cause.”

The latest brain research suggests a new theory, however. Adolescent brains are well developed in the limbic system, which controls emotion, but immature in the prefrontal lobe, which controls judgment. Adolescents shake their bodies the instant they hear music and turn their heads toward the door at the sound of the doorbell. Their moral judgment remains underdeveloped. But is that all?

Everybody goes through adolescence but deviant adolescent behavior is growing more serious probably because of the domestic educational system. Children are under a great deal of stress due to the university entrance system that focuses on test scores, while moral and character education at schools and homes is insufficient. People should learn responsibility and ethics from kindergarten. The roles of communities and the media are no less important. Yet nothing is more important than home education. Individual personality has a great impact on a person’s life and those of others.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)