For years, there have been cases involving children committing crimes ranging anywhere from graffiti on walls to massive school shootings. Should the children who commit these crimes be responsible for their actions or should the parents of these children be at fault?
Should there be a law holding parents responsible?
Glenda Hatchett, a chief presiding judge of the Juvenile Court of Fulton County in Atlanta, thinks that parents should not be severely punished for the actions of their children. “I don’t think across the board parents should be criminally charged, but I do think that we need to raise our consciousness about parents being more responsible for their children’s actions,” Hatchett said.
There are instances in which the parent can and should be held responsible for their child’s actions. This goes for cases involving younger children who have not yet developed the mental capacity to make a decision or use sound judgment. Based on psychologist Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, by the time a child reaches early adolescence which begins at the age of 12, a child is able to make rational decisions and is “capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.”
In incidents such as the Columbine High School shooting, which involved two young men Eric Harris, 18 and Dylan Klebold, 17, it is difficult to place the blame on the parents of these two young men who are clearly old enough to decipher right from wrong. It is definitely the responsibility of the parents to instill values and teach their children right from wrong.
When children reach a certain age they are able to consciously make a decision. Often, some children may act in ways contrary to how they were raised simply as a means of rebellion or because that is what they consider to be the best decision.
Therefore, it is unfair to punish a parent who has raised their child to the best of their ability for actions that were not their own.
The only way that the parents would be at fault is if they had knowledge of what their children were about to do and chose not to take action.
According to Peter Arenella, a criminal law professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, “Parents are not legally responsible for the criminal acts of their children unless they were aware they were going to commit such acts and failed to stop them.”
More than likely, the parents of these children are completely unaware. Issuing fines and imprisoning parents is not the solution to deterring crime committed by children. The children themselves should be held accountable for their own illegal actions.