The Psychological View of Why Children Vandalize

In the world today, there are many forms of violence. Such as physical, emotional, and psychological, just to name a few. I have the belief in my heart that any form of violence was wrong and the cause of why this act was performed needed to be discovered and the solution obtained.

Since the beginning of time, there has been vandalism. In the dictionary, vandalism is defined as the spirit and conduct of vandals as cruelty and hostility of willful or malicious destruction of ones property (Dictionary pg. 1569). In just the United States alone, vandalism costs total to millions of dollars in damages yearly and in most situations the cost to have the characters removed are paid for by businesses, schools, the government, or by individual victims (World Book pg. 1503).

Most of the time, adults who vandalize use it as an act of revenge on a certain individual or several people, though sometimes it is a way of expressing a political opinion (World Book pg. 1502). Information collected from several surveys showed that boys tend to vandalize more than girls do, although the level of obedience and respect in both sexes tends to decide whether they commit this act or not. Also a young vandal can be spotted by the way her/his peers act and the way she/he acts around them (Bard).

Vandalism in young adults is usually caused by peer pressure. Young adults believe they look “cool” when they disobey authority be it parental or civil. This simple act of rebellion is when the most vandalism occurs because the vandal is trying to prove they are independent (CWRU). During adolescence, a developing child will spend more time with their peers when than when they were younger. Due to increased contact, it is likely that adolescents influence each other more than when they were children (Bard). As a result, adolescents with high achieving friends are more likely to be involved in a wholesome peer environment, which as the outcome means that they are less likely to commit violent acts such as vandalism then adolescents that are involved with more of their delinquent peers. As a consequence of these decisions, young adults begin to rely on their friends to guide them through life more than their parents (Bard).

Even though the public has stereotyped vandals to be in their teens, they are wrong. Vandals can range from any age starting at just the age of seven up until the age of sixty or in rarer case, higher (Bard). As a punishment to any vandal caught performing an act of vandalism that is below the age of eighteen, the parents of the culprit are forced to pay a fine to the owner of the property for the damages done and to the government. Yet this seldom happens because eighther the act is not large to pursue legal action, or it is to difficult to find enough proof to charge the vandal. (World Book pg. 1503).

Even though there has been a decline in youth violence since the year 1994 to 1999, it is still a serious problem in the United States today. Unfortunately, not enough attention has been directed to preventing vandalism, which is one of the reasons it continues to be an obstacle in the United States today. Considering the fact more than three fourths of vandalism originates in schools in schools there is still very little being done preventing school-based crimes such as the defacement of public property (CWRU).

Vandalism “sprees” usually occurs in “waves” and in groups. Translated into simple terms, this means that vandalism usually happens in a certain amount of time while the levels of intensity of vandalism vary while usually more than two people will deface a singular piece of property together. It is unknown whether the media has anything to do with vandalism, and if so whether society copies the media or the media copies society because of the many situations presented in real life and in the media. Today, with our busy society, children seem to be doing things more drastic just to earn the attention of their parents. The problems are the same, but the actions are more elaborate and attention grabbing. There are different reasons as to why vandalism occurs. Some do it because they are angry at life, while others do it because they don’t care or they want to fit in with their peers (Walden).

One of the few ways that is used to help prevent vandalism is to teach children about respect. Children of all ages today feel as if adults are bossy and intimating people who like to punish those younger than them. If they can be taught earlier on that adults used to be children too and they faced the same challenges as adolescents of today do, then maybe there is hope for future generations in our quest to cease vandalism (Walden).

Most parents feel that vandalism is plainly wrong and that those who commit the act should be punished. Most parents try to teach their child from right and wrong when they are younger, but as the family is swept away due to the demands of society, that lesson is soon forgotten. Just as a puppy needs to have a particular command reinforced several times during training, so does a child (Abercia).

It is in the opinion of some trained professionals, that those who vandalize feel that they have no self worth, so they do whatever that is in their power to leave their mark. Graffiti marking is rather like an animal marking its territory, its instinct. To many people an area with visible graffiti in it has a high crime rate and it is not a safe place to reside and raise a family (Abercia).

Unknowingly, vandalism has affected our lives in many ways, from our homes to our schools. Children are suffering everyday as a result of vandalism, even as they perform the act. With the help of people around the world, we can make our community a better place if we reach out to improve our surroundings and teach our children how to respect one another. Maybe someday in the future, the world will be a better place as a result of the lessons taught today.

Lynn Gardner

Works Cited

Personal Interviews:

Mrs. Karen Abercia; Teacher

Dr. Susan Walden: Bachelors degree in English, Masters degree in Education and Counseling, Ph.D. in Counseling; Pin Oak Middle School: House B Counselor.


“Webster Collage Dictionary.”, Philippines: Merriam-Webster Corporation.

“World Book, 2003. Vandalism.” World Book Inc.: New York; New York, 2003.

Web Sites:

Boyd, Ebony M. “Adolescent Violence.”

Case Western Reserve University

Chyung, Darling. “Varying Association Between Peer Problem Behavior and Adolescent Problem Behavior as Functional of Parental Rule Obedience.”

Bard College

In This Section