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Steingart, E.C. (2002). Youth Violence—Current Research and Recent Practice Innovations edited Jeffrey M. Jenson, Matthew O. Howard, NASW Press, 1999, 261 pp.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 62(3):307-310.

(2002). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 62(3):307-310

Book Review

Youth Violence—Current Research and Recent Practice Innovations edited Jeffrey M. Jenson, Matthew O. Howard, NASW Press, 1999, 261 pp.

Review by:
Ellen C. Steingart, C.S.W.

“In my opinion this child does not need to have his head shrunk at all. Juvenile

delinquency is purely a social disease.”

“So take him to a social worker!”

“But I'm not anti-social! I'm anti-work!”

“This boy don't need a job! He needs a year in the pen!”

“Gee, Officer Krumpke, we're very upset. We never had the love that every child

ought a get. We aint no delinquents, we're just misunderstood, deep down inside

of us there's good!”

“It aint just a question of misunderstood, deep down inside he is no good!”

“The trouble is he's lazy!”

“The trouble is he drinks!”

“The trouble is he's crazy!”

“The trouble is he stinks!”

“The trouble is he's growing!”

“The trouble is he's grown!”

“Krumpke, we've got troubles of our own!”

Stephen Sondheim, West Side Story

Given the tenor of our times, it is hard to remember a time when youth and adolescent violence could be regarded in such a light-hearted manner. Perhaps it never was. Sondheim's lyrics capture the conflicting trends and attitudes, as well as the ambivalence adults experience with respect to what was formerly referred to as juvenile delinquency. Is it a psychological, sociological, political or a biological problem? Where do we lay blame? The “badness” of adolescents generates ambivalence in adults because it reminds us of our own destructiveness; we often externalize it only to have it mirrored back to us in the horrific destructive acts of others. Sondheim is not a postmodern thinker. That is, he does not have the benefit of a pluralistic, nonreductionistic approach to his conundrum.

To be sure, the subject has preoccupied thinkers for centuries.

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