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What Are the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Why do some individuals want to destroy the social peace that others work so hard to preserve? Parents and community residents have speculative views on the causes of crime, but among educators there is the view that crime is a learned behavior. They tend to think students learn criminal behavior through interaction with peers who defy the law. There is also the notion that youths who see themselves as delinquents behave according to their negative self-image.

According to Pelfrey (1993), juvenile delinquency is influenced by many factors, and no one perspective or theory can be considered the "correct" explanation. His story about the judge, the mother, the police officer, and the teacher questioning the causes of hostile behavior in the following courtroom scenario indicates a need to find answers regarding the causes of delinquency.

Juvenile in Court

The Judge
Trying to interpret the youth's hostility, the judge stared at the young man in front of him. Was he as uncaring as his record indicated? Had he been influenced by other wiser and more mature of¬fenders? Why had he engaged in these seemingly senseless criminal acts? Is society to blame? Is this young man salvageable? As the judge drummed his fingers on the desk top, he realized that he had ample facts concerning the youth's offenses but only guesses concerning the causes of his behavior.

The Mother
The young man's mother sat tensely, watching the judge and her son. She had not been surprised when told that her son was in the detention center and, thinking back, she had even anticipated that call. She had tried so hard and failed so miserably with this child that it was almost as if he were destined to do the things he had done. Had she caused his behavior? Was it unfair to this child and to her other children to have divorced and given him only a one-parent home? Had she been too lenient? Too strict? What could she have done differently? What could she do differently in the future? No answers, only guesses.

The Police Officer
The police officer had seen scenes like this unfold many times. This young man had been stoic during his arrest and hearings. Others took different tactics and used apologies, confessions, and tears to cleanse their souls or manipulate the system. Only a seasoned observer could guess at the different motives. Had the die been cast with this young man? Is there any hope for his future?

The Teacher
A caring teacher willing to expend hours of extra work with problem children may be a rarity in many school systems today. Such a teacher sat in the audience and sadly watched the proceedings. This young man had potential, the capability to do well, but he had chosen other ways to define success. Could she have motivated him another way? Could she have spent more time with him and stimulated his interest in academic success? Could she have trained him to defer gratification and think to the future? Could she have seen this coming and referred him to others within the school system more capable of handling his problems?

As they looked for answers, did the thoughts and questions of individuals in the courtroom scenario overlook the possibility that this young man alone was responsible for his behavior-that he had freely chosen to commit the offenses? The answers to all of their questions as well as this last one could be yes-or no-or maybe. Every person interested in this young man's situation tried to understand his or her role in causing or altering his behavior. Cooperative efforts between family, school, and the juvenile justice system to find solutions will have to include the development of innovative approaches.

For instance, judges could do more than decide the sentencing appropriate to fit the crime. When juveniles are allowed to go back to school following a court hearing, judges should not only insist that they return to school but also lecture them about getting good grades, attending school every day, being prepared to learn, and setting long-term educational goals. The school system has to consider how teachers and staff members will treat students who have been arrested or charged with a crime. Measures should be taken to keep them from becoming repeat offenders. Such measures would mean more cooperation between the school system and social service agen¬cies to provide counseling, an expanded alternative school curriculum, and additional family education activities.

Special provisions and programs for juveniles to examine the role models and influences in their life (e.g., peers, family members, teachers, community leaders, etc.) may offer the insight they need to explore the causes of and elements that contribute to their behavior. Furthermore, if they are coerced to conduct criminal activities through their association with others, it is imperative for them to understand how their interaction with individuals who commit crimes can have a negative effect on their future.



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