Troubled Teenagers

July 17, 1987

Report Outline
Special Focus


“Where do my children go at night?” wails the distraught but passive mother in a powerful film called “River's Edge.” She doesn't know and doesn't try to find out. Such parental neglect may be one reason for the plight of the film's unfeeling teenagers. Learning that one of them has slain another, they decide not to report the crime but to protect the killer.

“They have to make up their own moral codes in the absence of an inherited moral code,” says Neal Jimenez, the screenplay's author. “They're not getting it from teachers or parents or society.” The film was based loosely on a real case in which a 16-year-old boy killed his 14-year-old girlfriend in 1981 in Milpitas, Calif., a community near San Jose. The boy bragged about the killing to his friends and took nearly a dozen of them to see the body. For two days, no one called the police.

Unlike most movies with teenage protagonists, “River's Edge” challenges, rather than celebrates, youth and its culture. To the surprise of many in the movie business the film is proving a success at the box office. In fact it may he part of a larger trend, an apparent new willingness to recognize that many teenagers, white and black, affluent and poor, are in a bad way these days—neglected by their parents and growing up under the powerful influence of peer pressures, television, rock music and an exploitative youth culture.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Juveniles and the Justice System
Sep. 11, 2015  Reforming Juvenile Justice
Mar. 05, 2010  Youth Violence
Nov. 07, 2008  Juvenile Justice
Apr. 27, 2001  Kids in Prison
Mar. 15, 1996  Preventing Juvenile Crime
Feb. 25, 1994  Juvenile Justice
Jul. 17, 1987  Troubled Teenagers
Nov. 28, 1986  Juvenile Justice
Jul. 27, 1979  Juvenile Justice
Feb. 11, 1970  Juvenile Offenders
Jul. 17, 1957  Reform of Delinquents
Sep. 25, 1953  Youngsters in Trouble
Sep. 08, 1950  Teen-Age Lawbreakers
Feb. 23, 1943  Juvenile Delinquency
Drug Abuse
Popular Culture