In recent years, the number of juvenile criminals sentenced by Chinese courts has increased even while the youth population shrinks in China.
"Crimes committed by youngsters have been causing a growing amount of severe social damage," Liu Guiming, deputy secretary-general of the Chinese Society of Juvenile Delinquency Research, was quoted by China Daily in 2007.
Although experts held the social change responsible, China's one-child policy and the Internet were also to blame for the mysterious trend. An often-overlooked reason could also be childhood verbal abuse, which has a strong link to adolescent delinquency.
To find out and spread awareness about the long-term adverse effects of emotional maltreatment, China’s Center for Psychological Research recently collaborated with international advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather to interview juvenile delinquents about their past.
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“In China, verbal child abuse is a taboo topic that is not widely discussed nor easily detected. To help Chinese parents and guardians see the real-life, destructive consequences of verbal abuse, O&M told the backstories of six juvenile offenders in Shenyang Detention Center, who are serving time for serious crimes like murder and assault,” states the Beijing-based O&M.
“Each teen spoke candidly about the scarring words that their parents and caretakers said to them as children, including 'moron,' 'you’re good for nothing' and 'go away and die.'”
With the help of the interviews, a powerful PSA called Words Can Be Weapons came about. It explains how harsh words frequently uttered by the juvenile delinquents’ parents spur them – with the passage of time – into a life of crime.