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April 12, 2007


Tom Cloyd

I have some insight into this. My first grad. degree was in cultural anthro. I learned there about the cultural universals having to do with adolescece. There's a lot of variance, of course, but generally speaking, girls adhere closely to their family, while boys roam. This is also actively encouraged by most cultures.

There is a psychological need in all adolescents to separate from their dependence upon family, but for males there is more. Most males, in most speces, seem to need to roam to seek mates ("outbreeding" is good for the gene pool, in all species which reproduce sexually). Part of this involves both establishing status with peers and advertising one's desireability to any observing females. Females prefer powerful males. Breaking stuff indicates power - just ask any male chimpanzee! It is, however, primitive behavior. In humans, it indicates a kind of desperateness, as if to say "If I can do nothing else, at least I can do this. See, I'm dangerous!"

Most human adol. males do not need to be too deviant to get the developmental tasks of adolescence accomplished, but SOME do. I find that this correltes with disturbed family background &/or poor affect regulation (partly genetic in origin, in some cases), etc. Studies of who joins gangs have shown that joining correlates with abscence of father or father-influence, for example.

The key idea is that a psychological need for ego differentiation drives (under certain circumstances) behavior that is deemed sociopathic by others.

In many cultures, older males essentially "grab" young males and take over their rearing, in part to control them - the problem of control is recognied and dealt with preemptively. In our culture, we do not have some of the control mechanism in place that may be seen in many more traditional cultures. Some of the time this will result in outrageous behavior by some individuals.

All of this tends to be a bit opaque to [a] folks not accustomed to thinking cross-culturally, or [b] psychodynamically, or [c] in terms of the uniqu developmental needs of each gender. I find that most of my professional peers are very ignorant relative both to cross-cultural issues and gender psychology. I think the latter matter is more important, but the former is still urgent, in today's world. We all have a lot to learn!

As for the nature of your neighborhood, its quality may simply make it a target. Adolescent males roam, remember? The perpetrators need not have come from the region at all.

Robin Shapiro

Thanks, Tom, for your cogent explaination. Do you know that teen-age male ravens will hang upside down by one foot and do back flips in the air to impress the girls? I don't think it's just human boys who show this behavior.

Any other ideas out there?

Tom Cloyd

Backflips? Hey, why didn't *I* think of that? Seriously, all sorts of strange male behavior is reported in biology and anthropology - when females are around. It appears either to be that female hormones are toxic to male brains (strongely suspected in some quarters) or (more likely) males are actually trying to get female attention. The reason for this appears to be related to the fact that in many species females are not sexually receptive unless they are ready to reproduce, and the hormonal sequence required to kick start that state of affairs occurs only when a male is in the vicinity. So, he signals her, she responds hormonally, then signals him back (hey, I'm sexually receptive now), then it's game on. I love it that we humans do just what all sorts of other animals do. We think we're so special. Nonsense.

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