Sunday, March 20, 2016

Changing behavior

when a society collapses and there is a lot of crime in an area, how do you reprgram those who never learned the basic stuff about right and wrong.

Freakonomics discusses preventing crime via cognitive therapy. (includes podcast; another podcast mentioning this HERE)

On this week’s episode of Freakonomics Radio: conventional crime-prevention programs tend to be expensive, onerous, and ineffective. Could something as simple (and cheap) as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) do the trick? First we go to Chicago, where at-risk teenagers who learn to be less impulsive have lower dropout and arrest rates.
Then, we take a look at Liberia, where a former child soldier and a team of researchers pair CBT with a cash incentive to help other former soldiers become productive citizens in peacetime.

cognitive means thinking. Behavior means how you act. Therapy here is a form of teaching.

My friend, a Catholic nun, in Zimbabwe worked with ex teenaged insurgents after they won their independence, so they could learn how to integrate back into society. That was 30 plus years ago so this is not new.

in the USA there are no child soldiers to be rehabilitated: But there are gangs. And the failure to teach self control is part of the problem.

when I lived in Boston, the churches had an active outreach program to cut gang related crimes that was successful. Churches traditionally teach basic right and wrong and encourage self control and looking at situations from a different point of view  and to help others. Youth groups often do this implicitly, and the feedback to newcomers to act maturely is important. Indeed, as the CDC points out, often gang wanna be's are boys in a chaotic family/neighborhood looking for a pattern to follow to affirm they are adults, and the gangs (and the TV/movies/rap) merely give positive feedback for negative behavior that leads to them being arrested or worse.

  • Joining a gang is part of a life course; therefore, it is important to understand the risk factors for children starting at birth.
  • Strong families are a major protective factor in preventing kids from joining gangs.
  • Very early prevention efforts — including programs focusing on low-income pregnant mothers and families with young children — show promising results.
  • Communities — not just classrooms — should be regarded as a valuable resource for reaching kids at risk of joining gangs.
  • Girls join gangs in large numbers; therefore, some prevention efforts should address gender-specific concerns.

CDC webpage on gang violence.

includes this:

  • Community partnerships can help reinforce and enhance the existing strengths of families and communities to reduce gang-joining, especially when supporting activities such as tutoring, mentoring, life-skills training, case management, parental involvement, and supervised recreation.
more here

 But there are hundreds of thousands of gang members, and it's easier for "activists" to shout "black lives matter" and ridicule cops and law abiding citizens than admit there is a problem.


DUBNER: Indeed, while it’s famously hard to get good data on gang numbers, law enforcement groups estimate that Chicago has more than 100,000 gang members while New York, a much larger city, has only around 20,000. So it’s easy to believe that, that has something to do with Chicago’s higher crime rate – although we should say that Chicago isn’t even in the Top 10 when it comes to the most violent big American cities. There’s Detroit, Oakland, Memphis, St. Louis. In any case, Chicago is plenty dangerous – so much so that the Chicago Public Schools, the CPS, asked Levitt and some colleagues for help.
LEVITT: They were extremely concerned about the pattern of violence against Chicago Public School students. So actual students were being shot, not necessarily in school, almost never in school. But when they weren’t at school. And it’s actually remarkable how many of these students were being shot. It was something like 250 Chicago Public School students were being shot each year – of which about 20 or 30 were dying....
DUBNER: Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a form of psychotherapy that’s pretty common in mental health treatment – although not in the kind of social work that DiVittorio does. It’s meant to be a short-term, pragmatic approach to helping people solve problems. As the name implies, it’s meant to change behaviors without necessarily dwelling on the underlying psychological sources of those behaviors, as talk therapy does. CBT tries to get people to think differently about behaviors that have become practically automatic; to respond more thoughtfully to stress – and not just in a purely therapeutic realm. 
translation: teaching them to think instead of acting out spontaneously, and not just using sermons or lectures, but by using plays and acting out situtions in the classroom.

and they use plays to teach how to act in a situation... (something I learned in medical school and come to think of it, something I learned in Catholic school, where they used short plays to teach us how to resist intimidation by others trying to get us to take drugs/ have sex/steal etc.)

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