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Friday, August 13, 2010

A word about Google Ads (Scared Straight)

I noticed that the ads Google runs on my blog are related to the content of my blog. Please be aware that I do not condone or support any of these ads. One in particular caught my eye; it was an add for a parenting program, "scare you kid straight." I definitely don't support that type of program. It may have worked for kids back in 1940 or 1950, but scaring kids into good behavior probably stopped working in the 1960s.

Scared straight parenting programs may have worked for a specific issue, but not in general. More importantly, if the majority of teens rejected the "scared straight" program, it's likely that this attitude would spread.

In the 1940s, many kids were scared to try Marijuana. A popular film called, Refer Madness (watch it here:, (there were commercials and other types of ads to scare kids) scared teens into thinking that smoking marijuana would cause insanity, murderous rage, and delinquency. The problem was that it didn't cause these problems. When the 1960s rolled around and teens started to try Marijuana, they found that it the only effect seemed to be an improved mood, feeling relaxed, laughter, or improved concentration. An entire generation learned not to trust their parents' warnings about Marijuana. To make matters worse, information came out that the prohibition on Marijuana was largely for the economic gain of the petroleum industry over hemp products (whether true or not).

By 1969, marijuana had made the cover of Life magazine with a subtitle, "Should it be legalised?" The collective experience the 1960s generation was probably passed down to subsequent generations of teens. The problem is that teens should be very scared of drugs, like Cocaine, Heroine, Meth or Ecstasy. Yet, Marijuana is a "gateway drug," it is more potent than ever before, it is often laced with other drugs, and it is psychologically addictive.**

When it comes to parenting - it's my opinion that to avoid self help books like Scared Striaght or parenting programs which are promoted on radio or TV ads. These programs do not address the unique nature of your child's problems and developmental status or needs. These programs are not regulated by anyone. Anybody can develop a parenting program!

If your child has behavior problems that are not corrected by your parenting approach, then see a mental health practitioner who works with children and parents. They'll start with an assessment and help you understand some possible causes and interventions. They may recommend a self-help book at that point. The internet is full or information, but if you're not an expert, you may have difficulty telling the difference between what's good or bad. Marketers of parenting programs or other "alternative treatments" will appeal to your biases.

The following study discusses the ineffectiveness of scared straight programs:
Title: Scared Straight: The Panacea Phenomenon Revisited
Author(s): James O. Finckenauer ; Patricia W. Gavin ; Arild Hovland ; Elisabet Storvoll
Sale: Waveland Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 400
Prospect Heights, IL 60070
United States
Publication No.: ISBN 1-57766-035-8
Annotation: This study examines why, in the face of scientific evaluations that show its ineffectiveness, the "Scared Straight" approach to delinquency prevention continues to be used in some jurisdictions.
Abstract: The first edition by the authors, "Scared Straight! and the Panacea Phenomenon" (originally published in 1982), examined and critiqued the Scared Straight project at New Jersey's Rahway State Prison. Drawing on this case study, the first edition described a pattern of failure that apparently was associated with other efforts to deal with juvenile delinquency. This pattern apparently resulted from a futile but persistent quest for simple remedies or cure-alls. This pattern was referred to as the "panacea phenomenon." The purpose of the current revisit is to update the evidence and to extend the discussion both into the present and overseas, specifically the use of Scared Straight in Norway. The authors first yoke the panacea phenomenon to the concept of myths, defined as "widely accepted beliefs that give meaning to events"; myths are socially cued, whether or not they are verifiable. Myths seem to have the function of offering simple explanations for complex, often otherwise unexplainable issues and problems. This discussion of myth is followed by a review of the original Scared Straight case study. Evidence of Scared Straight's performance since 1982 is then presented. Two of the authors' colleagues then turn to a new case study that offers the latest example of the panacea phenomenon. Modeled on its U.S. precursors, Norway's Ullersmo project operated from 1992 to 1996. The history of this project provides the opportunity for an international comparative analysis of similar efforts to prevent delinquent behavior across cultures. The book concludes that Scared Straight, and other panacea programs like it, survive despite their empirical failure because they are harmonious with certain deeply held mythical beliefs about crime, punishment, and human behavior. The myth that fear of consequences sustains behavioral change persists in criminal justice philosophy and public perception. Readers are challenged to shun strategies that appeal to emotion and popular belief and undertake the challenging search for substantive, effective ways to deter deviant behavior in juveniles. Chapter notes, appended evaluation instruments, and a subject index

** Psychological addiction is a type of physical addiction which occurs in the brain. It's more than just a "mind-set," it's a real chemical addiction.

Mental Health Advice Disclaimer

The information included in this post and blog are for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional mental health treatment or medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her mental health provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a mental health or medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a therapist-patient relationship.

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