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.