Does Childhood Cruelty To Animals Translate Into Criminal Behaviour In Later Years?
October 22, 2018 16:14 By Mambee
It is scary to think that what you assume as your child just experimenting could as well be an indicator that he or she will be an anti-social criminal later on.
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It is an unspoken belief that a child being cruel to an animal in various ways, such as mutilation, starvation, beating, severe bullying and even killing, is unacceptable behavior. On that note, researchers have raised the question of how this may affect behavior later in life.
A cursory look at the records of criminals like Albert DeSalvo, better known as the Boston Strangler who was convicted for killing 13 women, shows that he used to shoot arrows at cats and dogs as a child for fun.
This seems to support the graduation hypothesis: It suggests that when a child begins abusing an animal, he or she can ‘graduate’ to exhibiting interpersonal violence.
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This is also in line with a study by Gleyzer R. et al (2002) which assessed how the history of animal cruelty in childhood can be a diagnostic criterion for antisocial personality traits (APD).
However, Knight et al from Sam Houston State University used data from the National Youth Survey Family Study that ran between 1977 and 2004 to examine this subject matter.
The results showed that inasmuch as those who abuse animals as children can show considerable levels of violence later on, there is another subset who abuse animals as children because of their environment.
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The belief here is that having witnessed or been victims of abuse, they perpetrate the same on weaker beings - animals - as a way to vent or enjoy the power that has been snatched from them.
This is consistent with Joni E. Johnston, a contributing writer on a Psychology Today’s analysis. She identified 3 sets of animal abusers.
The first is includes children from 1 to 6 years of age, who are not mature enough to know the effects of their actions on animals.
The second group, from 6 to 12, know it is not right to abuse animals but go ahead anyway because they may be witnessing and/or experiencing domestic abuse.
The last set is those above 12 who abuse animals and engage in other antisocial behaviours, such as drug abuse and gang activities.
This analysis is corroborated by statistics that say that 30% of children who have witnessed domestic violence perpetuate same on their pets.
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Thus, it is still inconclusive if animal abuse in childhood is a definite marker of later criminal behavior, as other factors may be involved.
One thing is sure, though: Animal cruelty should never be condoned, whatever the underlying cause may be.