We have been reading a lot about the gruesome murder of seven-year-old Pradhyuman’s body was found in the washroom of a Ryan International School branch in Gurugram. The botched up investigations by the state police seems further increase the insecurities amongst the parents. Is my child safe in school? To add to the mystery the CBI has come up with another theory of a 16 year old student doing the gruesome act. The fact that a 16 year old child can actually commit a crime of this magnitude in a top international school is not palatable for quite a few parents. What must be the child’s psychological state and was it an act of impulsivity or a prolonged effect of some psychological trauma? What will be the effect on the juveniles mind if this turns out to be a botched up investigation like Aarushi’s murder case? My aim to write the article basically tries to dig deeper into the mind of the juvenile who has been arrested by CBI and finds out the reasons why the child acted in a horrific way. The contributing factors while lead to a criminal mindset and what parents can do about it?
Let’s try to first recap a few points about the case so far.
· Pradyuman had been dropped outside his school in the morning just before start of school hours and in a matter of 15 minutes, he was found to be lying in a pool of blood, dead.
· The police arrested a bus conductor as the murder accused even before the passage of a whole day.
· The Gurugram Police Commissioner boasted that the case will be cracked in 1-2 days.
· The arrested bus conductor first confessed to committing the murder then retracted the statement, saying the police coerced it out of him.
· The investigation was handed over to the CBI which after several weeks detained a school student as accused.
· The CBI has asked for the 16-year-old boy's custody in order to find out if any other people were involved in the crime, and to also unearth the sequence of events leading to Pradyuman Thakur's death, and to "unearth the conspiracy, if any".
· The CBI has asserted that after inspecting the crime scene, the CCTV footage, movement of students near the crime scene and questioning people in the school, it has identified and apprehended the accused.
· The CBI's findings in the case came as an embarassement to the state police as the CBI said that a Class XI student who allegedly wanted a parent-teacher meeting and examinations to be postponed had been apprehended in connection with the killing of seven-year-old Pradyuman in Gurugram's Ryan International School.
· As it has often been seen, wide media coverage and public outcry put investigating agencies under extra pressure.
· In many cases, failure in proper preliminary investigation, or incomplete/delayed collection of forensic evidence lead to botched up investigations that ultimately make it more difficult for the victim to get justice.
If the crime was committed by the 16 year old boy
The motive of the murder was postponing the parent teachers meeting and examination. It may sound very trivial to most of us but it would be really important to know what led the juvenile of 16 years to actually do the gruesome act. So let’s assume that the juvenile committed the crime. So let’s try to understand his mind
1. What were the changes in the brain that must have taken place? We all know that “amygdala” a part of the brain which deals with firing emotions develops by the age of 2 and the prefrontal (neobrain) develops by the age of 20 years and for some it may be later. This we label it as maturity. The prefrontal lobe works as a regulator to control emotions like anger, sadness or impulses. In short, kids are without any regulation till the lobe develops completely. Here the role of parents and educator comes into play. Most of the schools do not have curriculum or take active interventions in India into helping the child deal with these raging emotions. So the primary responsibility of helping the child with socioemotional problems lies on the shoulders of the parents. If both parents are working the child is left at the mercy of the caretakers. This creates this dysregulation.A study done in United States where MRI of criminals were done and it was found that most of them had a very thin layer of prefrontal lobe with an enlarged hypertrophied amygdala. Hence when provoke they were unable to regulate their impulsive behavior. Hence, lack of regulation in kid lead to such catastrophe.
2. The motive was the postponement of examinations. If it hold true, then the children today are highly stressed by the expectations of parents as well as educators to excel in their academics. A study by me where we measured the blood cortisol of school going kids on a normal day without any examination. We were shocked to see that the average levels of cortisol (207) were actually on the higher side close to the upper limit (210).You can imagine what must be the state of the child when they appear for their examinations. Again lack of regulation will make the child take these drastic steps as it is evident by shootouts in the United States.
3. The role of gaming and gadgets have further deregulated the children.The ease of availability and addiction of technology in today’s kids is for everyone to see. At a very tender the age the child learns to shoot someone in a game by a click on the mobile. Violence in cartoons like Chota Bheem are seen by kids of the 6 and 7 years. Since the prefrontal lobe is not developed, the difference between good and bad is not understood by them. Hence we are seeing a rise in violence and aggressiveness among kids. Surprisingly parents themselves want them to be addicted to television initially but later on regret. Social media like Facebook and whatsapp have contributed to isolating a child and interfering in the basic skills of communication. Games like Blue whale have taken undue significance due to poor development of socioemotional skills in the learning phase of teenagers. Typing an emoji saves the body a lot of trouble of making facial expressions but eventually creates plutonic and shallow relationships. You type a wrong emoji and the meaning changes.
4. Lack of effective programs and interventions in schools focusing on socioemotional behavior and helping children to deal with stress.
5. Time spend by parents with students has markedly reduced. With the hectic schedules and competitions in today’s world, parents are not giving enough quality time to their children.They themselves are too much involved their own world, the child misses the guidance and compassion of the parents. With a deregulated and agitated system the child is bound to react impulsively. I am not defending the juvenile who committed the crime but simply believe that he is not solely responsible.
What if the Juvenile has not committed the crime?
The marks on the child’s mind where the whole country is gunning for his life are going to be damaging and permanent. The amygdala which is deregulated will fire and lead to the added frustration and anger. This will have an extremely negative impact on his mind which may lead him to become a hard core criminal or commit suicide depending on the value system. All we can pray that the CBI at least in this case has not goofed up in naming him as the murderer. It may end up destroying the future of a young life.
Parents and educators need to take combined responsibility in developing the socioemotional behavior of the children.Teaching them to deal with their impulsiveness.
Some of the tips which may be useful for parents
Talk to your children .Parents need to speak to their children without judging them and advising them. Make them your friend and listen to their problems controlling the urge to advise them if not necessary.
Limiting gadget times. Parents need to fix the gadget times for both themselves and their children. By forcing them to switch of the gadget and parents still using them might not work. Children learn from their parent’s behavior and mimic them.
Giving positive feedback: One of the most depressing thing for a child is to get a negative comment from the parents. Parents are their world especially for young kids. Every negative comment creates disinterest in their studies or activities and widens the gap of understanding between them.
Giving them space. Every child is special and each one has a unique quality and skill. By judging and analyzing them solely on their marks and ignoring their other talents, we destroy their self-confidence and make them more aggressive. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses is done by all parents but very few have the heart to ignore their weakness and help them work on their strengths. There would be only doctors and engineers in the world and no painters or sportsman if academics was the yardstick to success.
For educator and school authorities: Effort should be made by introducing programs to develop the socioemotional behavior of the kids .Active interventions at the right age will prevent the murder of kids like Pradyuman and spoil the future of teenager who murdered him . There are many Pradyumans and teenager who are roaming around with an unregulated mind who need active intervention. My vision is that socioemotional interventions like mindfulness based cognitive therapy will be made compulsory in school curriculum which seems to the need of the hour and save many Pradyumans and the teenage boy.