Juvenile DelinquencyRemember doing something mischievous or wrong when you were a kid and gettingthe label “delinquent” slapped on you ? Did you ever wonder what it meant ?That is what my topic for today is . . . juvenile delinquency.
In this report Iwill: define juvenile delinquency, give the extent of juvenile delinquency,give some suggestions on what causes juvenile delinquency, and what is beingdone in various communities to deal with this growing problem. The legal termjuvenile delinquent was established so that young lawbreakers could avoid thedisgrace of being classified in legal records as criminals. Juveniledelinquency laws were designed to provide treatment, rather than punishment, forjuvenile offenders. Young delinquents usually are sent to juvenile courts,where the main aim is to rehabilitate offenders, rather than to punish them.But the term juvenile delinquency itself has come to imply disgrace in today’ssociety. A youngster can be labeled a delinquent for breaking any one of anumber of laws, ranging from robbery to running away from home. But an actionfor which a youth may be declared a delinquent in one community may not beagainst the law in another community. In some communities, the police ignoremany children who are accused of minor delinquencies or refer them directly totheir parents.
But in other communities, the police may refer such children toa juvenile court, where they may officially be declared delinquents. Crimestatistics, though they are often incomplete and may be misleading, do give anindication of the extent of the delinquency problem. The FBI reports thatduring the early 1980’s, about two-fifths of all arrests in the United Statesfor burglary and arson were of persons under the age of 18. Juveniles alsoaccounted for about one-third of all arrests for larceny. During any year,about 4 % of all children between the ages of 10 and 18 appear in a juvenilecourt. The percentage of youngsters in this group who are sent to court atleast once is much higher. A third or more of those boys living in the slumareas of large cities may appear in a juvenile court at least once. Girls arebecoming increasingly involved in juvenile delinquency.
Today, about one ofevery five youngsters appearing in juvenile court is a girl. In the early1900’s, this ratio was about 1 girl to every 50 or 60 boys. Sociologists haveconducted a number of studies to determine how much delinquency is not reportedto the police.
Most youngsters report taking part in one or more delinquentacts, though a majority of the offenses are minor. Experts have concluded thatyouthful misbehavior is much more common than is indicated by arrest records andjuvenile court tatistics. Many studies have been made in an effort to determinethe causes of delinquency.
Most of these have focused on family relationshipsor on neighborhood or community conditions. The results of these investigationshave shown that it is doubtful that any child becomes a delinquent for anysingle reason. Family Relationships, especially those between parents andindividual children, have been the focus of several delinquency studies. Anearly study comparing delinquent and nondelinquent brothers showed that over 90% of the delinquents had unhappy home lives and felt discontented with theirlife circumstances. Only 13 % of their brothers felt this way. Whatever thenature of the delinquents’ unhappiness, delinquency appeared to them to be asolution. It brought attention to youths neglected by their parents, orapproval by delinquent friends, or it solved problems of an unhappy home life inother ways.
More recent studies have revealed that many delinquents had parentswith whom they did not get along or who were inconsistent in their patterns ofdiscipline and punishment. Neighborhood conditions have been stressed in studiesby sociologists. Many of these inquiries concentrate on differing rates ofdelinquency, rather than on the way individuals become delinquents. A series ofstudies have shown that delinquency rates are above average in the poorestsections of cities.
Such areas have many broken homes and a high rate ofalcoholism. They also have poor schools, high unemployment, few recreationalfacilities, and high crime rates. Many young people see delinquency as theironly escape from boredom, poverty, and other problems. Social scientists havealso studied the influence of other youngsters on those who commit delinquencies.For example, they point out that most youngsters who engage in delinquentbehavior do so with other juveniles and often in organized gangs. Studiesindicate that the causes of delinquency also extend to a whole society. Forexample, delinquency rates tend to be high among the low-income groups insocieties where most people are well-to-do. The pain of being poor and livingin slum conditions are felt more strongly in a rich society than in a poor one.
Many efforts have been made to develop programs of delinquency prevention.There is little evidence, however, that any of these programs is truly effective.Some programs provide counseling services to youths who appear to be on theverge of becoming delinquents. Other programs draw youngsters into clubs andrecreational centers in an effort to keep them away from situations in whichdelinquency is likely to occur.
In recent years, many efforts have centered onimproving the educational and work skills of youngsters. For those juvenileswho have already become delinquents, there are programs designed to prevent themfrom committing future delinquent acts. Probation services are offered throughjuvenile courts in an effort to provide guidance for delinquent children. Themore progressive institutions for juveniles attempt to provide treatmentprograms for offenders–work experiences, counseling, education, and grouptherapy. However, many other institutions provide little more than protectivecustody for juvenile delinquents. In conclusion, I have defined juveniledelinquency, explained the extent of juvenile delinquency, gave some suggestionson what causes juvenile delinquency, and what is being done in variouscommunities to deal with the problem of juvenile delinquency.