More problem children today than 50 years ago

There has been a dramatic increase in children and teenagers with behavioural problems in Canada in the past 30 years, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 21, in a story about a report written by Anne-Marie Ambert, professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Arts, for the Vanier Institute of the Family. As many as one in five young people are now demonstrating severe problematic behaviour – acts that intentionally hurt others, such as being disruptive, aggressive or delinquent – up from about one in 20 three decades ago, says Ambert. At some schools and in certain neighbourhoods, that ratio can be as high as one in every two young people.

In her review of hundreds of Canadian and US studies that looked at various causes of this "disturbing shift in behaviour," Ambert blames the evolution of an environment that essentially acts as a breeding ground for the development of problem behaviour, wrote the Globe.

She notes that, compared to the 1970s:

  • Parents are now working longer hours and are less available to monitor and engage in their children’s lives;
  • Schools and neighbourhoods are no longer offering the strong community and social control they once did;
  • There is less emphasis on religion in the home and in society as a whole;
  • There is a rise in the number of single-parent homes, especially those living in poverty;
  • Youth are now spending unparalleled amounts of time accessing media, through television, music videos, the Internet and video games.

In a 13-year study conducted between 1976 and 1989, yearly samples of parents and teachers increasingly reported that children destroyed things belonging to others, lied, stole, and hung around with others who got into trouble. Peer and teacher victimization has also become more frequent in the 2000s, she reports.

  • The finger of blame points at everyone: parents, schools, neighbourhoods and the media, said Anne-Marie Ambert, a sociology professor who recently retired from York’s Faculty of Arts, wrote Canadian Press Feb. 20. “In the past, parents used to receive the support of their neighbours,” she said. But now, she observed, people are often afraid to intervene if they see children or teens misbehaving in the neighbourhood or at the mall. Ambert said the only surprise she found when looking at the literature was that more girls are engaging in physically aggressive behaviour than in the past.
  • The number of badly behaved youths in Canada has quadrupled since the 1950s, largely due to the spread of negative values on television and the Internet and in video games and movies, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 21. Anne-Marie Ambert, a retired sociologist from York’s Faculty of Arts, said the role of the media has proved most detrimental to the development of well-integrated, empathetic young citizens.

Ambert said responsibility for children’s increasingly antisocial behaviour can’t simply be put on the backs of parents. "Parents, whether they’re divorced or whatever, it just doesn’t account for the aggressiveness and lack of civility and so on," she said. "These are things kids get from advertising, which influences their peer group and so on and so forth."

  • Ambert also spoke about her study on numerous television and radio stations across the country Feb. 20.

Dance professor tells her story on flag day

Born in Bombay, India, in the 1940s, Menaka Thakkar (LLD ’93), adjunct professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, first stepped on Canadian soil 35 years ago after accepting an invitation from her brother, who was studying at York, to visit him in Toronto, wrote the North York Mirror Feb. 20. Originally set to stay three months, Thakkar, a classically trained Indian dancer, decided to make a new life in the city after the urging from an immigration officer.

Thakkar shared her story of what it means to be Canadian with 150 students Feb. 15 in celebration of Flag Day. "I am so happy to be here in Canada," Thakkar told the students. "There are so many dance forms I see. In India there are only Indian dances. Here I can mix my tradition and culture together."

Former student receives Order of Canada

Former York student Barbara Gowdy is one of more than 80 new appointments to the Order of Canada, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 21. Gowdy, a Toronto novelist, began writing in the early 1980s after pursuing a number of other careers, including musical theatre and the securities industry. Born in Windsor, Ont., Gowdy grew up in the suburb of Don Mills. She studied at York University and the Royal Conservatory of Music. She has taught creative writing at Ryerson and University of Toronto and worked as an interviewer for TV Ontario’s Imprint. Her 1998 novel The White Bone was nominated for the Giller Prize. She was also nominated for a Governor General’s Award for Mister Sandman and The White Bone.

York grad student bemoans Internet service in Kawartha Lakes

I am somehow considered to be living at the end of the world, wrote York graduate student and Kawartha Lakes resident Mandy Hadenko in a letter published in the Lindsay Daily Post Feb. 21. Apparently this area is not serviced with high-speed or wireless Internet, and will "never" be serviced by Cogeco Cable and Internet. I am a PhD student at York University and most of my work and research happens from the office I have built in my house. Sure I could move to Toronto and get wireless Internet (the entire city is serviced) but, because I choose to live in the beautiful Kawartha Lakes, my work suffers. I can’t even pick up my laptop and work at the Lindsay library, as they don’t even offer wireless access.

On air

  • A presentation on his flight aboard the space shuttle by Canadian astronaut and York alumnus Steve MacLean (BA ’77, PhD ’83) at York’s Keele campus Feb. 19 was featured on City-tv and CP-24 TV Feb. 20.