LOST BOYS by James Garbarino


Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them
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An impressively well researched, thoughtful, and helpful study of why some American boys become violent, even murderous, and about what can be done, beyond the simpleminded response of building more prisons, to prevent such behavior and to help boys when preventive efforts fail. Garbarino (Human Development/Cornell.) delves into the confluence of psychological, social, existential, and spiritual factors that make some “acting out” boys become violent. These include lack of sufficient attachment to at least one loving and reliable adult, living in drug- and crime-infested neighborhoods, suffering abuse or some other trauma, and lacking the kind of a ’spiritual anchor” that provides a system of meaning beyond the self. In the last quarter of his book, Garbarino proposes a variety of responses (he doesn—t believe in a single “magic bullet” solution) to aid at-risk and violent boys. His ideas are often innovative and generally involve the boys” families as well as social institutions. For example, he recommends that incarcerated juvenile offenders be placed in institutions more akin to monasteries than the “boot camps” that are the rage today. Garbarino bases his findings on both an extensive review of the literature and wide-ranging discussions with a significant number of boys in prison. With the exception of occasional meaningless statistics (television allegedly accounts for “about 10 to 15 percent of the variation in violent behavior—) and a few hyperbolic generalizations (—being a boy is inherently traumatic in our culture—), his writing is straightforward, clear, and engaging. At a time when too many policy makers look at juvenile offenders with a combination of contempt and rage, Garbarino’s important book offers them, and those who work with adolescent and pre-adolescent boys, a far more sophisticated and socially constructive approach.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-85908-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999