Definition of a child
The term child may seemed to suggest a person who is below the age of majority (18 years). The United Nations Convention on the rights of the child refers to a child as a person below the age of 18. But here in Barbados, according to the Juvenile Delinquency Act (1932) Chapter 138 clearly defines a child as any young person under the age of 14 years old.
Definition of Delinquency
A working definition of Delinquency is actions, criminal behavior or misconduct that violates the law, which are usually committed by a person who is under the legal age of the majority. For example: in Barbados a juvenile is classified as an individual who is below 14- 16 years old. However, the age of criminal responsibility is 11 years old meaning that a young person breaks the law they can be held responsible for their actions and these individuals would not be treated in the same manner as an adult who commits crime.
Causes of juvenile delinquency
Lack of Educational standards:
The type of school that a child attends may also contribute to their delinquency. Overcrowded and underfunded schools tend to lack discipline and order and the school system. The chaos often experienced in these schools lead children to act more defensively because they are scared by their surroundings.
Socioeconomic factors: Poverty
Research has indicated that juvenile delinquency are prevalent children under the age of 18 years who lives in poor neighbourhoods are at risk to commit crime and those living in poverty are even at greater risk than any other age group to engage in such behaviours (Siegel, Welsh & Joseph, 2006, P.6). In a study conducted in 2010 in Barbados indicated that materialism (34%) was the most serious offences committed by juveniles.
Substance abuse in a home or by the child is a very common cause for delinquency. Children who are exposed to substance abuse often do not have the necessities they need to thrive and are forced to find these necessities in other ways. Others, who become dependent on a substance may also need to commit crimes to sustain their habit.
Since 2010 in Barbados peer pressure is advocated as the number one contributory factor for juvenile delinquency and 65% of the most serious offences as to why juveniles commit crimes. Peer pressure from direct acquaintances can have an effect on how a child reacts to bad situations. If all of their friends are committing delinquent acts, the child may feel pressured to do the same to be accepted.
Approach to solving delinquency in my country
Trying to solve the issues that affect the youth and the factors that leads them is a complex issues. It certainly will not be solved overnight and it will call for all systems such has the church, community, school, all juvenile systems, government agencies and parents working in unison to be in charge for the guidance and help develop and implement campaigns for delinquency prevention for the first time and repeated offenders for the future of our generation and society. For example: the church can provide the youth with a positive peer contact which could promote opportunities for a holistic development, empowerment and involvement, thus reducing certain risk factors such as alienation and antisocial behaviours. This can be done through introducing peer mentoring training which the selected church members can learn the necessary skills, receive informative information and resources needed to coordinate crime prevention programmes. This will be helpful because the church would not only be responding to the spiritual needs but also the social and emotional needs of our youth
We must look at better policies that would prohibit the common practice in our society to detain children with adults unless a family member is present in order to prevent psychological, emotional, sexual and physical harm.
Parents needs to make the time for their children. They need to talk to them, learn about their friends, listen to their concerns in order to figure out what is happening in their lives. It is only when a parent plays an active role that the healing can begin. Violence can be reduced because a lot of the problems that children faced can begin from home within the family setting. If our family structure is strong so will be our society.
Furthermore, it is essential for our understanding that the ideal approach that can help in containing juvenile delinquency (McCord, 2011). Many criminologist and psychologists recommend that the best intervention solution for preventing such cases has to start with offering necessary assistance to the particular children and their respective families as early as possible. Education is regarded as one of the best intervention approaches. Education is of significance because it provides suitable information to such children and families concerning effects of drugs, weapons, sex and other related peer pressure misbehaviors (Dahl, 2014). Education also creates awareness among the teenagers that subsequently enable them to understand the consequences of their actions. Most educational programs are intended to encourage hopefulness as well as opening up prospects for the teenagers.
Experts also recommend recreational programs as the other ideal way of dealing with juvenile delinquency. Leisure activities bring about immediate fulfilment to such teenagers since it makes them feel liberated after school hours (Saminsky, 2010). Most of the recreational activities also enable the adolescent to connect with other youths and adult in the neighborhood. It leads to positive friendships that may become handy in assisting the juveniles from committing crimes at that moment and even in the future (Dahl, 2014). The essence of different recreational activities is to fit the skills and personalities of the adolescent. This is fundamental because it eventually allows them to become engaged in such activities rather than getting involved in crime.
The Impact of Juvenile Delinquency on my Country
In a study conducted by the United Nations Children Fund between 2009-2013. Evidence revealed that between the year 2009-2013. 602 children were remanded. The ages of these children ranged from 11-20016. While 386 juveniles were arrested (2011-2013) between the aged 12- 18 years and 669 juvenile were referred to the Juvenile liaisons between the ages of 2011-2013 in between the ages of 6-17 years old.
Estimating the cost based on each juvenile who committed crime above is difficult; accumulating the total amount of all direct and indirect crime (including adults and juveniles) has cost the whole nation tens to hundred billions of dollars annually. This includes cost to the government, medical cost to individuals, stolen or damaged property, loss of productivity to society, loss of work time and loss of property value. Research has shown that the incarceration of juveniles has the highest per capita cost. This can be a great burden on any country especially if they are experiencing an economic crisis.
It is widely acknowledged that the tree should be bent from young; if poor training is not arrested in its tracks at a tender age, it can then spiral out of control and result in serious crimes that affect the whole country.
Teachers, for example, in Barbados were not at all surprised by the horrendous attack on a young schoolgirl, the video of which exploded over social media, nor the tragic incident at a St. Michael school recently which left one boy nursing wounds.
For too long our teachers have sounded a warning about violence in schools; unfortunately, those voices have not been heeded with the urgency that is necessary. And we as a society can no longer afford to turn a blind eye, harping on the fact that “something must be done” but not willing to do the work, help mentor a young person or press the political class to enact crucial policies to change the tide.