In the USA a 1993 study indicated that the serious problems of adolescents, including drug abuse, school failure, delinquency and violence, have grown to tragic proportions in part because of the deteriorating environments in which young people are raised. The decline in economic security is a major contributory factor, but the system of neighbourhoods, families, child welfare, health care education, job training and justice system were all effectively under siege and were failing to rescue young people in need of help. In many cases they were making matters worse as with school programmes that discriminate against low-achievers, health programmes that exclude adolescents with serious health problems, absence of assistance to young people in the transition from school to a job, and the inability of the justice system to rehabilitate offenders.
The environment of a typical Eastern European Gypsy child living in a shanty village is poor in positive influences. These children do not browse through their parents' books and parents do not read stories to them, they do not have a chance to colour pictures in children books, because all of these are missing, unimportant items in Gypsy households. There is virtually no regularity in eating and sleeping in the families. Children are allowed to watch videos of all sorts together with adults in rooms filled with cigarette smoke, they often witness arguments and fights of adults, their excessive consumption of alcohol, and often also sexual activities.
We must recognize how difficult parenting has become, particularly in the margins of our society. Support networks in the form of grandparents, family and stable neighbours are no longer readily available. Increasing numbers of children are being born into rickety partnerships, where the normal trouble of child rearing are intensified by poverty, bad housing, poor support services, loneliness, family conflict and increasingly high levels of marital instability. Children's difficulties caused additional anxiety, anger and helplessness which rebounds on the children themselves, who become ever more angry in the process. Many parents do not recognize the value of consistent discipline. The effect is a confused child who is unsure of right and wrong. Demoralized teachers have given up forming good citizens in favour of producing good test results. Significant discipline problems and poor exam results are the outcome. We have forgotten that good citizens will probably be literate, but that the converse is not necessarily true. Even when children are removed from home because of really serious delinquency, they go to establishments where they have rights without responsibility. That can cause mayhem with impunity. In our society, the balance of power between wayward youth and the agents of social control has dramatically shifted in favour of youngsters.