What would be considered some causes of juvenile delinquency?What would be considered some causes of juvenile delinquency?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to a study done by the Department of Justice, the largest group of juvenile delinquents is the 12-20 age males.  There are roughly about 75 million juveniles in the United States and one out of every four juveniles will become a delinquent.

Every year, an estimated 250,000 youth younger than age 18 are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated in the adult criminal justice system.

The latest label applied to delinquency is group crime.  This applies to those crimes committed by juveniles within a gang setting. In large urban settings, this is the number one juvenile crime.

Interestingly, there is a male phenomenon demonstrated by the fact that boys are five times more likely to commit crimes than are girls.  This statistic may find its origin in the natural tendency of males toward aggression, from the slower maturity rate of boys, and again, more than likely, the family dynamic.

There are many opinions about the actual causes of juvenile crime.  Numerous facts enter into the equation.  Most of the causes are interconnected, and no one factor can be pointed to without addressing related issues. Here are the primary causes of delinquency.

  • From divorce to step-parents –these living situations impact the child.
  • A single parent home with the parent working allows children to be without supervision. A lack of supervision when a young boy is not ready for this freedom often leads to poor decision making. 
  • No father figure in the home often adversely influences the male adolescent.  Without the good masculine role model, the boy will look somewhere else for his guidance.  Often, it is the gang relationship which becomes his safety net.
  • The parent who does interact with the teen and has an addictive personality and uses drugs or alcohol in front of the teenager encourages the teen to use these as crutches.     

One of the primary causes of juvenile crime is poverty.  In the United States, 21 % of all juveniles live in poverty. If the chlid's needs are not being met at home, again, this encourages the search for other avenues for his desires. Furthermore, mental illness and lower mental capacity have also been found in many of the juvenile criminals.  These teenagers are more likely to submit to peer pressure.

A new term has entered the picture recently. It is called the “Cradle to Prison pipeline.”  This term represents the population of adolescents that live in conditions that cause them to be channeled into prison starting at birth.  The pipelines indicate that most of the previously mentioned causes enter into the background--lack of parental supervision, poverty, lack of education-- and make these teenagers helpless and unable to change their situations in normal ways.  This pipeline disproportionately impacts minorities living in low income situations.

Hopefully, programs will be instituted which will address these problems facing the adolescents.  If not, the delinquency rate may grow.

mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I talk to prisoners as the on call crisis counselor, this question often appears.  The answers vary widely with many of those listed above part of the answer.  The most widely used answer used to explain to me their criminal activity is that they felt no one cared.  Some had decent but busy homes and experimented with drugs, some were mentally ill and no one recognized the symptoms, some were ignored from birth and dismissed from the home at early ages, and some were treated so badly in the home that they escaped to the streets.  Low intelligence plays a role for some, low self-esteem for others, and a "failure to thrive" issue explains others.  Too often they felt invisible and unrecognized by everyone around them, and for too many, the mental illness burden many carried and hid was overwhelming.  This country needs to invest more in children at a very early age and not wait until they are already into the drug life or criminal life and then hope to change them.  Teaching young children who have babies much too early in life how to be good parents is important.  Children need to feel loved and cared for, and too many do not.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a teacher, I think we should first establish a common understanding of juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency is "chronic antisocial behavior by persons 18 years of age or younger that is beyond parental control and is often subjected to legal and punitive action." That being said, the one of the biggest causes of juvenile delinquency is that the consequences for offenders does not motivate future offenders to make good choices. I have had several juvenile delinquents in my classes over the years, and they brag about their status. Probation officers come to school, and the offenders feel no shame or remorse at having committed a crime. Consequences have got to become motivating, or the behavior will continue.

eNotes has some great information for further research.

tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The word "delinquent" means "failing in or neglectful of duty." As far as kids are concerned, I think it is the circumstances in which they find themselves that lets them down before they ever let themselves or others down. The main and most important source for a child is his/her home. If home isn't stable, odds are that the kid won't be. Now that's not to say that all neglected kids are delinquents and turn to crime, but I sure don't blame them initially for their mistakes if they do happen to come from loveless homes. Many rich children can turn to crime out of boredom, but in this case I would ask what is really missing from the home for those kids? Whatever the case may be, something is missing from those kids' lives and that's what leads them down a bad path.

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I tend to agree with carol-davis's post. In order to combat crime as a social problem, it seems essential to me to understand the social origins of it, and I think it is even more important to do so with juvenile crime. I would also suspect, as an aside, that the correlation between juvenile delinquency and incarceration as an adult is extremely high. But in any case, I would surmise, based on observation as well as a bit of reading, that poverty is the root factor that contributes to juvenile delinquency in the most fundamental way. This is because so many of the other factors that unquestionably contribute to juvenile delinquency (lack of parents, drug abuse, trouble/low achievement at school, etc.) are strongly associated with poverty. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One possible source of juvenile delinquency is bad parenting.  One of the other posts referred to a lack of role models.  But kids can “go bad” even if they have parents around since sometimes those parents serve as bad role models.  Kids might become delinquent because their parents spoil them and the kids have no sense of boundaries.  They may become delinquent because their parents are excessively strict, causing the kids to lash out.  They may become delinquent because their parents do not have time for them.  All that said, kids can also become delinquent if their parents do everything right.  We simply can’t account for what motivates every child.

patdobbsedd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no easy answer to the question of what causes juvenile delinquency. It is easy to blame lack of parental support at home, and that is often a major contributor. It is easy to blame peer pressure; that too is a major contributor since adolescents crave relationship and inclusion with peers. As an educator, I look at my students and recognize that the bigger question is "Why do adolecents from similar socio-economic and familial circumstances choose different paths?" In other words, what causes some teens to choose positive paths and others to choose negative ones?

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To synopsize some of the ideas above, we might say that a bad home situation can lead to deliquency. This, of course, can describe a wide range of issues in the home, from abuse to neglect to a lack of positive modeling.

It seems that when young people feel that doing well in school and doing "the right thing" are not only difficult but also pointless, we are seeing a lack of self-esteem combined with a lack of vision. Each of these can be attributed to inadequate parenting. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most common cause of juvenile delinquency is kids not having role models.  Kids are not born knowing right from wrong.  Someone has to teach them how.  Kids need people they can look up to.   If they look up to people who cause trouble, they will cause trouble.  If they look up to people who are good citizens, they will be good citizens.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It has to start with the parents, and they should be the best of all role models for their children. The higher number of single parent families is one of the causes for children being improperly supervised, a major factor in juvenile delinquency.

To be honest, I think it is caused by bad influences and bad parenting. When parents dont raise their children the right way and dont care about their future they dont care either. Which leads to things like drugs and crime when they dont feel cared about by their own parents. When a parent doesnt discipline and has no rules, their children can get into things that they shouldnt be.

discussion1984 | Student

I'm going to say that it really depends on how you define "juvenile delinquency." If you mean by it "breaking the laws," the reasons could be anything. A person might be bored, he might disagree with them, he may be doing it just like any other adult...But if you mean by it a certain attitude against the established norms of society, well that's just what being a young person is all about, so it's just natural to be a "delinquent." The funny thing about questions like this (and I mean no offense) is that the question has a kind of attitude that says: "The established norms and laws of our country make sense and must always be obeyed, so if young people are disobeying them, there must be some radical departure, a kind of illness that would cause them to be so insubordinate. We will attempt to explain this strange unwarranted behaviour in a scientific manner." I don't worry about it too much.