The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Thief at home, and not alone
- Social pressures drive teens to lavish lifestyle

Case I: A boy in Class VI of an English-medium school in south Calcutta asks his parents for Rs 2,000 to party with friends. His businessman father refuses. While his parents are asleep, the boy sets a pile of his own clothes on fire in his bedroom. The worried parents take their son to a counsellor the next day. After a week, there is still no change. The boy continues to get out of hand every time his demands are not met.

Case II: A Class XI student asks his mother to buy him a cell phone with a Rs 15,000 price tag. A refusal meets with repeated demands from the teen, who is fixated on a handset with camera and MMS. Thwarted, the boy from Burrabazar punches in a glass showcase with his right hand. He receives a number of stitches and the mother relents.

Case III: Officers of Shakespeare Sarani thana spot a drunk teenager loitering in front of a disco. She can't walk straight and barely manages to tell the cops where she lives. When police reach her Ballygunge home, her parents are stunned to see her in clothes they don't know she owns. The girl would leave the house with a change of clothes and slip into them before hitting the dance floor.

Sarika, the girl who robbed her businessman father of Rs 2.5 lakh to party with her friends, is not alone. City-based child psychiatrists and police have recorded cases of parents robbed or forced to cough up by children chasing a life in the fast lane.

'A number of children and teenagers from affluent families are suffering from personality disorders,' says psychiatrist Ranadip Ghosh Roy.

'Of every 100 cases, over 40 are of teens out of control. Whenever the child's wishes are not fulfilled, he or she becomes adamant and sometimes even violent,' he adds.

Such disorders, feel mental health professionals, are a reflection of social pressures to lead a lavish lifestyle. Over-protection during childhood, followed by over-indulgence in adolescence, also sends confusing signals, they warn.

Police insist they can't play moral guardian, stressing the parents' role to keep tabs on their children's whereabouts and activities.

Cops often have to step in when kids turn to crime to finance their clandestine life. Like in Sarika's case, thefts become a problem, both in and out of the home.

The city police are also planning restrictions on nightspots being frequented by an increasing numbers of minors.

'We are going to take stern steps to restrict underage boys and girls from entering bars and discos,' said Anuj Sharma, deputy commissioner, (south), under whose jurisdiction most of the city night-clubs are located.

There is no easy way out. Sarika's father refused to press charges, agreeing to take her for regular counselling sessions. But a few sessions, opine doctors, could have little effect in such cases, which require 'intensive corrective intervention'.

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