Pent-up rage can cause teens to commit violent crimes, says expert
KUALA LUMPUR - On Oct 26, a teenage girl was charged at the Children’s Magistrate’s Court in Johor Bahru with unintentionally causing the death of her 16-year-old brother.
The Form Six student, aged 17 years and 11 months, had on Oct 19 allegedly hurled a knife at her brother at their house in Kampung Ulu Pulai, Johor Bahru, hitting the main artery on the right side of his neck which caused him to bleed excessively.
The accused was charged under Section 304 (b) of the Penal Code which provides for a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or a fine or both if convicted.
It was reported that the siblings had an argument earlier on the way home from school over the seating arrangement in their car.
The incident certainly sent shock waves through the country. The teenager now faces a bleak future on account of her impulsive action.
Was the act of violence triggered by pent-up anger and frustration?
According to Prof Datin Dr Mariani Md Nor, a child psychologist at Universiti SEGi, such incidents can be attributed to various causes including pent-up rage and emotions that have been held back for a long time.
Referring to the recent case in Johor, she said: "Maybe the perpetrator has been suppressing her rage for so long that it ended up with her taking the ‘shortcut’ to release her anger, resentment and perhaps even hatred which led to the unfortunate incident.”
Mariani, who is president of the Early Childhood Care and Education Council Malaysia, told Bernama some children may feel sidelined if their parents pay more attention to their younger siblings.
"They will not only be frustrated but will start harbouring feelings of revenge and resentment. This is why it’s important for parents (not to practice favouritism and) to treat all their children equally as they (children) are observing their behaviour all the time,” she said, adding that the squabble between the Johor siblings that ended fatally could not be attributed to just one or two causes.
"That incident was (probably) the culmination of provocation or a ‘time bomb’ that finally exploded and it was perpetrated in a semi-conscious state.”
Mariani is also a member of the Special Committee for Studying and Improving Procedures for Handling Cases of Sexual Harassment and Bullying in Educational Institutions, which comes under the purview of the Ministry of Education.
Agreeing that children these days are somewhat emotionally fragile and have low mental resilience, Mariani said that compared to the baby boomers and the X and Y generations, today’s Z and Alpha generations have all their needs attended to by their parents.
"This is similar to helicopter parenting where parents keep a close watch over their children’s movements and activities,” she pointed out.
The irony of it is that as long as children are mollycoddled, overly protected and not allowed to experience hardship, they will not have the chance to master the necessary soft skills to face life’s challenges.
These soft skills include having the ability to compromise and give and take, make decisions and accept the opinions of others as well as being able to accept defeat as life is not all about winning.
"(If they have the necessary soft skills) our children can handle the hardship, pain and misery they encounter in their lives. They will be able to manage their emotions and feelings and, eventually, build up their mental resilience.
"How is it possible for a child to be mentally strong if he/she is overly protected and cannot be teased or even touched?” said Mariani.
Commenting on the penalties for juvenile delinquents, Mariani said the punishment meted out must be appropriate in order for the offender to repent.
"The punishment is aimed at teaching the juvenile offender a lesson and to enable them to learn from their mistakes. Even though they are categorised as children under the Child Act 2001 as they are under 18 years of age, psychologically however they have entered adolescence,” she said.
Referring to the family of the teenage girl charged with unintentionally causing the death of her brother, Mariani hoped that their relatives, friends and neighbours, as well as the schools the children went to, would give them the support they need to recover from the tragedy.
"I hope the family will be able to start life over. The parents must continue to love and motivate their daughter no matter what punishment the court metes out. She should not be allowed to drift away and be haunted by guilt for the rest of her life.
"She caused the death (of her brother) unintentionally. There could be a reason why she acted that way and this is something that must be re-examined,” she said.
Lawyer Muhammad Hafiz Hood, meanwhile, said several exemptions and mitigation are applicable to juvenile delinquents in Malaysia, and being exempted from a long prison sentence is one of them.
Under Section 12(1) of the Juvenile Courts Act 1947, the court may order a juvenile delinquent to sign a good behaviour bond or order him/her to be placed under the care of a suitable guardian or sent to a reform school.
"The laws of our country provide exemptions to juvenile delinquents. The concept of deterrence and rehabilitation is applied in the laws and punishment involving underage offenders,” he said.
Muhammad Hafiz also urged the public to refrain from judging the girl charged with unintentionally causing the death of her brother, saying that a person is innocent until proven guilty.
"Regardless of the court’s decision, it’s not proper for society to label the accused as she is still part of society.
"If she is found guilty, the principle of the rule of law must be upheld by everyone. If she is found not guilty, her family members, friends and society must give her the moral support to rise again and put the dark episode of her life behind her.
"She would have suffered enough and learned her lessons during the long and traumatic court process. It’s not the job of society to punish the accused and her family. In fact, society must learn from this incident to be more mindful of mental health issues and find ways to deal with stress,” he added. - BERNAMA