Applying theory to practice

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According to Graham Young’s description, one of the things that stands out is his admission that he grew up with an intense fascination with chemistry more so the different kinds of poison and their effects on human beings. Another interesting aspect is that Young was interested and idolized other infamous murderers like William Palmer, Doctor Hawley Crippen, Adolf Hitler and several others. The third interesting issue with him was that his unconventional interests or hobbies led him to begin experimenting with poisons at the tender age of fourteen years.  He managed to do all this through lying about his real age when asked and explained that a particular poison was for the purposes of a school experiment. This allowed him to purchase the chemicals without raising any suspicions.

One of the things that is important to understand the origins of the delinquent behavior lies in his intense fascination in the field chemistry. This took place when children his age were more interested in riding bicycles, constructing tree houses and watching cartoons. Another aspect regarding this case was the juvenile’s deep knowledge and suggestion of experiments in class which raised a red flag on the part of his teacher. The third factor has to do with Young’s fascination with sketching raw sketches of dying men, essays on famous inmates as well as storing poisonous substances in his classroom desks.

The theory of observational learning can be most appropriate in explaining and deciphering this particular juvenile’s behavior. This is described as a learning that takes place through keenly observing other people’s behaviors (Shaffer, 2009). It is also a type of learning that takes numerous forms based on a variety of processes. Just as witnessed in Graham Young, this kind does not require reinforcements to take place but instead it needs a specific social model such as sibling, teacher or even friend (Chance & Krause, 2009). In Young’s case however, the social model was far removed consisting mostly of famous inmates or murderers and essays about them.

Young children continually learn undesirable and desirable behavior through this process of observational learning. In the course of this process, a young child’s cognition, environment, as well as behavior all end up integrating and ultimately determining how the individual functions (Franzoi, 2011). In this particular case, Young’s cognition and environment were deeply influenced by chemistry and the stories of inmates that committed similar crimes that he constantly thought about. He managed to create an artificial environment that nurtured his character as a killer without being noticed by those closest to him. Young accomplished this by masking his evil intentions in a seemingly enviable fascination with academics in general and chemistry to be specific.

A strategy of comprehensive programming can be used to prevent this kind of juvenile delinquency. This can use two main factors which are multiple settings and multiple interventions to provide the juvenile with a variety of settings to copy from in the process of his or her observational learning. This strategy also borrows heavily from the ecological systems theory.

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  1. Chance, P., & Krause, M. A. (2009). Learning and behavior: Active learning edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  2. Franzoi, S. L. (2011). Psychology: A discovery experience. Australia: South-Western Cengage Learning.
  3. Shaffer, D. R. (2009). Social and personality development. Australia ; Belmont, CA.
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