What is Juvenile Delinquency?
Juvenile delinquency is the occurrence of crimes or illegal activity committed by an individual under the age of eighteen. Some of the common crimes associated with juvenile delinquency are truancy, theft and gang-related violence. Many courts have special systems designed to meet the unique needs of juvenile crime and often incorporate preventative and rehabilitative measures within their corrections system. Although the reasons for juvenile crime are as diverse as the illegal activities that juvenile delinquents engage in, most of the causes of juvenile delinquency fall within the categories of individual, family and social factors.
Causes of Juvenile Delinquency
Juvenile delinquency is certainly not a thing to be neglected. The fact that there are more and more cases of it every year makes one wonders what may be causing it and can it be stopped. Many different causes may stand behind it, mostly connected with modern lifestyles. Namely, with a large number of divorced parents and parents working throughout the day, children are left to themselves most of the time. Besides school, they educate themselves through mass media on the TV or the Internet. The violence and the twisted system of values mostly being the major theme of blockbuster movies, books, and even modern music offer numerous wrong ideas for children to look up to.
Individual Causes for Juvenile Delinquency
The majority of juvenile crimes are overwhelmingly committed by males, and typically these juveniles come from backgrounds that support the concept of power and aggression being a characteristic of masculinity. Having a low IQ and poor impulse control are also factors that tend to contribute to an adolescent’s involvement in juvenile crime. Many juvenile delinquents struggle in school and have difficulty being successful in both academic and work activities. Behavioral disorders such as attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities can also contribute to increased risk taking in youths that can often lead to participation in criminal activity. Having a low self-esteem and problems making friends can also lead minors to develop relationships with individuals and groups that tend to participate in illegal activities. Children with low self-esteem are more vulnerable to peer pressure and may find it difficult to refuse to participate when their friends decide to commit a crime.
Family Causes for Juvenile Delinquency
Families that are filled with conflict and inadequate supervision are frequently blamed for juvenile delinquency and for good reason. Children that are raised in single parent homes are more likely to be juvenile offenders. Even when living in home with two parents, a juvenile is at risk for delinquency when both parents are too busy or lack the drive to adequately supervise the child. Overly permissive parenting contributes to juvenile delinquency. Children who are given many adult privileges at an early age, such as staying out late, also are more likely to become involved in crime. Not only do permissive parents contribute to juvenile delinquency, but parents who use harsh punishments for discipline are also a known cause of juvenile delinquency. Harsh punishments often create anger within a child that can cause them to act out. This is especially evident in instances of physical and emotional abuse.
While parents have a significant influence over whether a juvenile heads down the path of crime, siblings are also an important factor to consider when assessing the reasons behind juvenile delinquency. Having a sibling that exhibits aggressive or criminal behavior makes it more likely for a child to also participate in that behavior. Wayward siblings have also been known to coerce younger brothers and sisters to participate in committing crimes. The impact of a sibling can sometimes work in the opposite direction, as when a child attempts to set their self apart from a well-behaved sibling by taking part in negative behavior.
Social and Cultural Causes for Juvenile Delinquency
Poverty is an often cited cause for juvenile delinquency. Poverty can contribute to juvenile delinquency by leading a child to believe that they must steal to survive. Theft amongst poverty-ridden youths is fairly common and can be attributed to both a need to survive and a need to belong. For many juveniles, living in poverty also means living in dangerous neighborhoods that are prone to violence and criminal activity. In these types of neighborhoods, committing crimes can often be a normal way of life for the people that live in the community. Some of the hardships associated with poverty can also lead to juvenile delinquency, even when a juvenile is trying hard to maintain good behavior. For example, a juvenile who must work to support their family might miss school on days that they worked late the night before, leading to truancy.
Along with poverty, living in a gang filled community is another social reason behind juvenile delinquency. Many children feel a need to belong to a group and gangs are an easy and available way to meet that need. Especially for children with poor family backgrounds, joining a gang can provide them with a sense of family and friendship. For children in dangerous neighborhoods, having the protection of a gang can even be vital to their survival. Unfortunately, gang involvement almost always includes illegal activities involving such crimes as theft, drug distribution and violence. Many of the most violent juvenile offenders claim gang membership.
Preventing Juvenile Delinquency
Finding a way to stop juvenile delinquency is best achieved through prevention. Discovering the causes behind a minor’s criminal activities can often lead to a rehabilitation plan to end the crimes. At the social level, many communities have discovered that setting up neighborhoods that are conducive to supervised and healthy youth activities have been effective at reducing instances of juvenile delinquency. Implementing youth recreational facilities and clubs can give at-risk juveniles the opportunity to develop a sense of belonging with their peers while also providing safe options for interactions with responsible adults. Individual and family counseling can also be helpful for healing the effects of living in high conflict environment. Parenting classes can also be effective for teaching positive discipline methods for caregivers of juvenile delinquents.
Finally, even when a juvenile has already committed a criminal act, there are still measures that can be taken to ensure that they get back on the right track. Many courts have implemented juvenile courts that include peer panels who decide upon a minor’s sentence. Community service and required volunteer hours are frequently a sentence handed down by these peer panels and have been shown to be effective. By participating in their community and working beneath the guidance of mentors, many juvenile delinquents learn positive behaviors that lead them to leave their life of crime in their past as they move forward into adulthood.
Reasons Behind Juvenile Delinquency
As mentioned above, one can perceive many possible causes of aggressive behavior in concerning children. From a wider point of view, children have generally become more independent. However, they are not in this situation by their own choice. Rather, they may be supported by a single parent working double shifts in order to provide for them. This leaves children alone most of the time, learning about the world through popular TV program. Even with both parents at home, they still may have to work longer than they are supposed to, which is an often case, leading to the same outcome. Since most of the things selling in the mass media world are connected with violence and the worst in humanity, children are offered a large specter of bloody scenes, massacres as well as education in criminal and mischievous ways. With no parents to tell them right from wrong, children learn that the only way to progress in the world is by using force, stealing, lying and criminal actions in general as one’s tools. Video games mostly deal with killing and destruction adding onto this malevolent way of education.
This modern lifestyle gives birth to children which independently choose their ways of life and conduct, often rejecting some traditional moral-based codes. Through such revolutionary behavior children often strand into violence and may eventually even become adult criminals.
Basically, all the above causes need to be set straight. Schools should focus more on presenting a clear distinction between right and wrong to children. They need to know, from the very early age, what is good and what is bad behavior. Also, morale and conscience need to be restored in the minds of the people in general, let alone children. Entertainment and media should work on education more, rather than focusing on earning money by selling violence. Parents need to spend more time in communicating with their children, helping them solve their problems and answering their questions about the world, leading them towards the right ways of life and conduct. Finally, all the technological revolutions and advancements we have been exposed to have set us apart from each other. People rarely communicate face to face and physical contact has decreased seriously. People should spend more time together and talk instead of sending emails, being people instead of machines.
James Stewart, a 17-year-old who committed suicide while in solitary confinement, had never been to jail before August of 2008. That was when, under the influence of alcohol and marijuana, Stewart had gotten into a head-on car collision, killing a 32-year-old man.
Because of the severity of his crime, Stewart was charged with vehicular homicide – and charged as an adult. His family couldn’t make bail, so Stewart was placed in the County Jail while he awaited his sentence. There was just one problem: Since he was a minor, Stewart was ordered to be put in protective custody, separate from the adult prisoners — and the best protection the jail had to offer was solitary confinement.
Weeks later, the psychological impact was too much. After a brief reprieve from solitary to be in a shared cell with another juvenile offender, Stewart was sent back to isolation after a minor argument with his cellmate. According to his older sister, Nicole Miera, Stewart took his own life after less than 10 minutes of being back in what inmates called “the hole.”
“It was stated that that when he got in there, he was pretty upset,” Miera told reporters, her eyes filling with tears. “He had taken a sheet and he had wrapped around his neck and just twisted until he couldn’t twist anymore.”
Stewart was one of many juveniles who are in adult jails and prisons. Not all of their stories end as tragically as his, but the increasingly blurry line between juvenile offenders and adult correctional facilities have made many wonder if better solutions are needed for this growing population.
As tragic as James’ story is… it is not unique… IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU! So always think about the choices you make and the things you do. Freedom is priceless!
Don’t do anything to get there…
You won’t like it!