A Novel Approach to Youth Crime Prevention: Mindfulness Meditation Classes in South African Townships
Abstract: Children growing up in poor areas with high crime rates are shown to easily get involved in violent actions and criminal gangs. In South Africa, despite considerable efforts to reduce youth delinquency, youth crime rates are still disturbingly high – specifically, in the townships of the Cape Flats. This paper points out an important aspect previously unaddressed by most youth crime prevention: the subconscious roots of youth crime. What if we could develop youth crime prevention programs that manage to impact the subconscious behavioral patterns of youth in high crime areas? This paper proposes a promising and cost-effective approach that has great potential to affect multipe causes of crime: mindfulness meditation. Built upon newest findings in Neuroscience, this paper suggests that mindfulness meditation classes are associated with a reduction in aggressive behavior, a risk factor for youth crime, and an increase in self-efficacy, a protective factor. The impact of mindfulness classes at a high school in Khayelitsha, a poor and violent-stricken township of Cape Town, is analyzed. Self-reported aggression and self-efficacy are measured via a psychometric survey questionnaire created from two well-tested and validated scales. Regression analyses of 384 survey answers provided mixed results. Whilst novice meditators were not associated with higher self-efficacy and lower aggression, long-term meditators performed better in several dimensions of self-efficacy and aggression, yet no significant relationship was found. Further research specifically needs to investigate the moderating effect of age (a proxy for psychological development) on meditation. This study aims to bridge the gap between the outdated paradigms of youth crime prevention and ancient wisdom via ground-breaking new evidence from the field of Neuroscience. This study furthermore hopes to point policy makers toward developing new, integrative and sustainable approaches to youth crime prevention – approaches that give back agency to our youth.
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