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Death penalty for being abused? The price is too high for society and disadvantaged young people

 

Young people who had been in the care system are far more likely to die in early adulthood than their peers, a report showed last week; indeed they are at least 7 times more likely to die prematurely, before the age of 21. The BBC story about this highlighted poor access to mental health services, the lack of general support available, and the consequent over-use of drugs, alcohol and other forms of unhealthy self-medication and attempts to manage stressors.

I have worked with children in the care system for over 30 years and at least the research is showing what we have always known clinically. Bad early experiences lead young people to use drugs, alcohol, take risks in sexual and other behaviours, but also to struggle academically, socially and in their emotional wellbeing generally. Most of my most worrying cases in the NHS have been in the care system, and major crises often occur at the age when they are supposed to become ‘independent’ at the age when most well-adjusted children from loving families in fact rely on their families more than ever.

 

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Risk-taking, crime and life expectancy

An interesting new study by Professor Alex Piquero in Dallas found a strong link between the age at which young people imagine they will die and the likelihood that they will commit crimes. Basically youth who expect to not be alive much past their teens were far more likely to be involved in criminal activity. Indeed those with the least hope for the future offended at higher rates and committed more serious crimes. This was a complex study with a sample of over 1400 offenders who were followed for 7 years.

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