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How is a young person capable of brutal violence? One answer lies in the developing brain, the youth psychiatrist says – Domestic

According to Riittakerttu Kaltiala, chief physician of adolescent psychiatry, when working in a group, the responsibility for the actions is blurred.

Described in police terms, the manslaughter of three 16-year-old boys in Koskela, Helsinki, in December was overwhelming.

Prosecutors said the violence used against the defenseless victim in the crime was not only blatantly brutal, but also lasted for several hours. Towards the end of the deeds, the victim was probably already unconscious, and no longer reacted to the boys ’kicks or even to them when they blew up a papat mat between the victim’s buttocks.

It is easier for many to understand how, for example, a hardened professional criminal is capable of serious violence, but how can a young person aged 15-16 be able to do the same?

  • Read more: The “punishment game” that led to Koskela’s murder was the invention of the victim’s childhood friends – the accused justified their sadistic game

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    Read more: Do these messages testify to the intrigues of those accused of Koskela’s murder? “The two of us are more important now”

The answer can be sought, for example, through the development of the human brain, says the chief physician of adolescent psychiatry at Tampere University Hospital. Riittakerttu Kaltiala. Against this background, young people are very capable of violence.

– Adolescence is once and for all shorter than adults. Yes, they understand death, distinguish between right and wrong, know how society works and understand that crimes must not be committed. However, the logic of adolescence is different, he says.

Professor Riittakerttu Kaltiala also works as the Chief Physician of the Juvenile Forensic Psychiatry Unit at Tampere University Hospital­

Kaltiala speaks on the subject at a general level, and does not refer specifically to the Koskela criminal case.

By the logic of the young man, he suggests that parts of the human brain mature at different rates.

The first in line are the deeper areas of the brain, which, among other things, produce the desire for experience and the need for immediate reward. They dominate the development of the young, while the maturation of the frontal block occurs only later.

According to Kaltiala, the frontal lobe is the abode of discretion in the brain. It plays a part in many essential abilities or skills.

Ability to take perspective on things.

Think beyond the moment at hand.

Consider the alternative consequences of the action.

Postpone the satisfaction of need and gain a rewarding experience.

Brain development explains why young people engage in different risk behaviors, activities that cause danger and harm.

– It is not the case that young people do not understand the risks. What is essential is the immediate reward that comes from being valued by a reference group that is important to the young person themselves, i.e. peers. Admiring, appreciating, or satisfying your own group of friends is more important to a young person than avoiding wrongdoing or danger.

Also related to this is that young people commit crimes much more often as a group than adults. In a group, responsibility for actions is also blurred: when done wrong in a group, the individuals involved in it experience less personal responsibility.

Riittakerttu Kaltiala at the door of EVA, a psychiatric research and treatment unit for very difficult-to-treat minors. Three-quarters of the young people cared for in the unit have committed serious violence.­

If, for example, young people break into a house and destroy places, there are usually young people involved who would not even dream of doing one alone. The group seems to be more than the sum of its parts, Kaltiala says.

Such dynamics can also be seen in violence against young people. When working in a group, it is easier for the young person to believe that they are not responsible for their actions.

– It seems that nothing can be done about things and they just happen and he believes that he is not as personally responsible for the solutions when he only goes with the group. But it is quite true that more stupid stuff is done in a group and stupidity intensifies in a group.

– When, for example, a party gets out of hand and places are broken, it has no special purpose or reason, but the group as if to direct the activity.

In her work, Kaltiala encounters many young people who have psychiatric problems related to mental health. He recalls that violence in itself is not a psychiatric disorder, and not all violent behavior suggests that a person has mental health problems.

If a young person commits serious violence, he or she lacks either the ability or the desire to curb violent behavior, Kaltiala says.

– When it comes to violent behavior related to mental health problems, it is often a case of a young person lacking the ability. When desire is lacking, there is often a underlying process during which a young person has learned to think that violence is a good solution in many things and justified, at least for me.

– On the other hand, young people who are prone to violence against others and think, for example, revenge, bullying or showing the place of a closet are ok, still do not think that others should do it for him or her friends.

Predisposition to violent behavior is also a long process, Kaltiala says. The cause of the behavior cannot be identified for a particular life event.

Indeed, much is said about the traumatic experiences of young people and the fact that those who use violence have themselves been subjected to violence or exploitation and neglect in years of growth and development. Of course, this is likely to increase the risk of weaker control over behavior and emotional life, Kaltiala says.

– However, it is not mechanical, and for example, being subjected to disciplinary violence does not directly mean that the young person becomes violent himself. I think of it as usually a series of unfortunate events.

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