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School shootings put suburban life under microscope

Some experts believe that children in suburbs are more prone to alienation, while others strongly disagree with the theory
CNN's Don Knapp reports children who live in suburbs suffer isolation.
Windows Media 28K 80K

May 29, 1999
Web posted at: 9:28 p.m. EDT (0128 GMT)

From Correspondent Don Knapp

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- When it comes to crime and kids shooting kids, there is still much more violence in the cities than in the suburbs.

But the string of recent shootings in suburban school districts has led some experts to examine whether the nature of suburban life itself might be playing a role in such tragedies.

Some sociologists now say suburbs may actually contribute to a nightmare of alienation for some of the children who live there.

"I think what we're seeing in the suburbs, increasingly, is teen-agers being isolated from adults," said Barry Krisberg, a criminologist with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Suburban neighbors may also be less likely to look after one another, and there may be few places to go or things for kids to do after school, Krisberg said.

Michael Southworth, an urban design professor at the University of California at Berkeley, believes the problem of isolation is made worse by the layout of suburbs into vast tracts of cul-de-sacs.

"You can see each of these housing tracts is really an island unto itself, with very little connectedness between them," he said.

However, the theory of suburban alienation doesn't sit well with urban designer Michael Pyatok.

"It's the height of irresponsibility of architects and planners, now, to say that if we planned our suburbs differently, to be more like cities, that we'll turn out better kids," he said.

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