Developing Thinking & Behavioral Skills to Reduce Youth Crime Rates

Could developing a kids’ thinking and behavioral skills cut crime among youth?

It’s a very good possibility, found a new study from the University of Chicago’s Crime Lab. In the study, about 1400 kids in 7th through 10th grade from high-crime neighborhoods in Chicago were chosen to participate in the 30-week program Becoming A Man. A similar group was tracked who did not go through the course. Researchers found students who had been through the Becoming A Man program were 44% less likely to have been arrested by the end of the year.

The program uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy, which “aims to get people to think about the way they think, and to recognize unconscious patterns of thought that produce unhappy life outcomes,” according to NPR.  One activity the participants had to do began with the group dividing into teams of two. One kid had a ball and it was the job of the other teammate to get the ball from him. Fighting ensued, and the program leader stopped them and asked why not one of them just asked their teammate for the ball. The kids trying to get the ball thought it would show weakness. When the teammate with the ball was asked what they would have done if they would have been asked for the ball, they said they would have given it to their teammate. This activity helped students see that their perception of what the other person in a confrontation is thinking can often be “falsely imagined.”

Read the full story, “Therapy Helps Troubled Teens Rethink Crime,” at NPR.

Critical thinking, social, and emotional skills are just as important as academic skills for success in school, professional, and personal life. My books Critical & Creative Thinking for Teenagers and People Smarts for Teenagers are perfect for teens to learn critical thinking skills for school, home, and life. If you are interested in learning more about how these books can be used for a summer reading program or enrichment class at your school, contact me at


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