Crime and Violence

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Impact of violence on Jamaican society
The devastating impact of widespread violence on social order has been widely documented. As is the case worldwide, all types of violence pose serious public health risks and exact both direct and indirect costs on society (3, 7, 8). The impact in terms of death, injuries, short- and long-term disabilities, and mental anguish is vast (7). In addition, violence impedes social advancement and deters economic growth and development. Violence inhibits the recruitment and retention of a highly skilled workforce and forces society to expend a disproportionate amount of its national budget on violence-related health care, security, and crime fighting (3). Jamaica is no exception, spending an extraordinarily high percentage of its gross domestic product on violence-related issues and struggling with reduced human capital, productivity, and quality of life (2, 7, 8). Moreover, the high cost of doing business makes the society unable to compete in the global economy (2, 3). According to Brown (9) ". . . investments from both local and foreign sources, which could create new employment, are being shelved; the educational system is being affected; social interactions are being disrupted; and, the citizens are gripped in fear, unable to live normal lives which prevail in other civil societies." In monetary terms, violence costs the country an estimated J$ 15 billion in health care, lost economic activities, and human suffering; violence related injuries cost the economy more than J$ 700 million per year (3). It is worthy of note that, consistent with global trends, the costs of violence are unevenly distributed since violent crimes are concentrated among the lowest economic segment of society (3, 5, 7).

Father absence. A father in the home, indepen-dent of mother's contribution, serves a protective function against maladaptive outcomes (29). In the United States, empirical studies have indicated that children from homes where there is no father present experience significantly more physical, cognitive, psychiatric, and behavioral problems than their peers residing in homes with a father present (30). For example, a child with a nonresidential father is five times more likely to live in poverty; two times more likely to suffer physical, educational, and emotional neglect; at 120% greater risk to suffer some type of abuse; and has significantly higher odds of incarceration than their peers with a father present in the home (31). Children from father-absent homes often harbor feelings of hostility and rejection, have a high occurrence of association with deviant peers, and involvement in negative peer activities (32). Conversely, the academic literature has explicated the positive consequences for overall family well-being when the child's father is present and involved in his or her life (30–32). In the United States, 85% of prison inmates had no father at home (33). In Jamaica, a high rate of father-absence has been the norm historically. However, in present day Jamaica, family dispersal and the diminution of the extended kin leave many children without the traditional compensatory network (29). The noticeable increase in the number of street children, especially in urban Jamaica, and the concomitant rise in the incidence and severity of problem and criminal behaviors among youth, have stirred renewed interest in the effect of father-absence on the developmental outcomes of Jamaican children (29, 33–35). Some have posited that in Jamaica, the combination of father absence and female dominance is responsible for the low levels of responsibility and high aggression and hostility in Jamaican males (34). Also, Wright (35) delineated father absence and, by default, deficient parenting as the principal causes of youth problem behaviors. Crawford-Brown (28) examined the relevance and importance of the father in delinquent outcome in Jamaican adolescent boys and found that 77% of delinquent youth in...
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