A critical issue, perhaps most injurious to our futures, involves the criminal tendencies of our youth. Juvenile delinquency is without a doubt one of the most crucial topics that we face in our society today. Children and teens do not only shape our future, but will also pave the footsteps for future generations. What prompts this criminal behavior? And why is the proportion of delinquents in society seemingly increasing? As we will see, many factors play a role in molding personality; these factors include gender, family, and schools.
Although gender does not necessarily seem like a contribution to delinquent behavior, studies have shown otherwise. Three types of gender differences play a role in behavioral outcomes and they are Socialization, Personality, and Cognition. Females tend to have closer relationships to their parents, talk about their problems rather than bottling things up, and have relational aggression. Males, however, like attention, are more independent, and display physical aggression which indicates that they are more likely to be involved in delinquent behavior than females.
Although boys are more likely to be involved in delinquent behavior, girls, too, often commit offenses. And recent studies have brought to the surface potential reasons for their transgressions. Cesare Lombroso, A renowned Italian Criminologist, conducted a study with the hopes of uncovering a link between females and delinquent behavior; he found that women who committed offenses were more likely to resemble men in physical appearance than women who didn’t. Examples include external features such as excessive body hair as well as internal features such as abnormal craniums. Studies have also shown that women are more likely to commit offenses when their hormones are fluctuating due to menstruation which causes PMS. Exposure to traumatic incidents during early childhood may also contribute to girls’ mental and physical health, both of which may predispose a woman to behaving delinquently. Nonetheless, gender ratios of incarcerated individuals, as well as databases of statistical evidence, lead to the overwhelming reality that men are still at the top of delinquent pyramid.
Birds of a feather flock together and an individual’s “circle” may determine the fate of their involvements. This “circle” may include family and friends. Over the years, the constituents of a typical household have evolved. Extended families are increasing and the probabilities of a child growing up with one or no parent are more likely to happen now than they did years ago. Studies have found that families with both parents involved in a child’s life are less likely to have delinquent juveniles than families with one or no parent as long as the parents displayed healthy communication and lifestyles among themselves and their children.
Furthermore, extended families seem to have a healthier lifestyle than that of nuclear families. The main point focuses on the idea that the happier and healthier a family is, the less likely the children will grow to commit offenses. Bad parenting falls under this idea. Parents who abuse, neglect, and communicate poorly with their children will more likely raise a child who will be involved in criminal acts. Household abuse also tends to work in a cycle. If a child is abused then he or she will more likely be at risk of abusing his or her future children. Studies also show that parents who are involved in criminal offenses are more likely to have juvenile delinquents because children learn from their parents.
Thus, abuse and delinquent behavior correspond with each other. Additionally, if the child has a delinquent sibling, that also increases the risk of delinquent behavior in themselves. In addition, genetics plays a role on delinquent behavior, which partly explains why siblings have influence on one another. Peers and peer groups on the other hand also play a big role in the outcome of children’s behavior. First off, statistics show that the earlier a child matures, the chance of them being involved in delinquent behavior increases. The maturity level of a child also has an impact on the type of friends he or she will associate themselves with. When it comes to status, the more popular a child is, the more influence he or she will have on the other members of a peer group.
If that individual happens to have a criminal record, then the other members of the peer group will probably get involved in delinquent behavior themselves. There are different theories that explain why a delinquent may or may not choose to associate with a certain peer group. When looking at the labeling theory, delinquents will only interact with other delinquents. This idea shows that the delinquent children will not have much effect on good kids. But on the other hand, the social learning theory gives the idea that Delinquents purposely want to lure good kids into doing bad things. Those delinquents purposely join peer groups that have law abiding children. So the potential of delinquents having an impact on others is probable.
Gangs obviously influence delinquent behavior. A gang is partly defined as a group of individuals who involve themselves in bad behavior. Why do kids agree to join gangs in the first place? There are a few explanations directed towards this question. Young adults who already have criminal records may join a gang in order to continue there bad behavior. Also, gang members may influence and give positive reinforcement to others in order to encourage delinquent behavior. Gang members often choose wisely as to who they want in their group. According to the Enhancement hypothesis, they do so in order to heighten criminality. They often make new members take part in dangerous rituals which gives the new members a chance to prove their capabilities. Studies show different reasons as to why Juveniles may take part in gangs.
One view, the Anthropological view, explains the idea that kids enjoy gang rituals because it reminds them of ancestors and cultural rituals. Those individuals may also feel like joining a gang may fill the gap between childhood and adulthood through “mature acts” such as getting a tattoo. When taking a Psychological approach, the idea is that kids growing up in poverty and poor environments are more likely to join gangs. That is partly because they have a lack of remorse and shame which makes them good candidates for gangs.
Surprisingly, schools have an effect on juvenile delinquency as well; however, not entirely in a good way. Nowadays, education in the United States is a mandatory obligation for children until a certain age. This requirement forces youth to maintain a state of “adolescenthood” for a longer period of time. For that matter, teens may rely on help from one another rather than older role models. This idea takes us back to peer groups and peer pressure. Secondly, dropping out of school has also been linked to delinquent behavior although it is not entirely proven. Some studies have linked dropouts to antisocial behavior as well as having a history of poor performance in school. These factors along with other emotional and psychological issues seem suggest a correlation between delinquent behavior and schooling. Finally, bullying in schools, which stats show occurs in 25% of public schools across the nation, is a major precipitating factor. A survey showed that 10% admitted to carrying a weapon at least once to their school. A high percentage of these bullies live in poverty stricken neighborhoods with high unemployment rates. This idea corresponds with the effects of family on their children along with their environmental factors
Lastly, drugs have a high impact on delinquent behavior. Unfortunately, nearly 50% of high school seniors are said to have tried drugs at least once in their lifetime. It is believed that factors such as peer pressure, parental abuse and neglect, and environment play a role in the likelihood of a young adult trying drugs. Students that live in poverty and poor neighborhoods may feel hopeless and stressed and therefore may turn to drugs. Mothers who used drugs during, before, or after pregnancy are likely to have children who will later on use drugs. Some students use drugs just for the sake of curiosity or may have underlying emotional problems at home unrelated to poverty. Using drugs in itself is a delinquent behavior, let alone the delinquent behaviors one may produce while affected by the drugs. When on drugs, an individual’s inhibition decreases, which makes him or her more likely to commit a crime. Many people commit crimes like theft in order to continue paying for drugs.
It is for these reasons that juvenile delinquency is affected by gender, family, and the other factors discussed. They all somewhat correlate with each other when given explanations as to why delinquency is related to the topics. But with continuous effort in an attempt to create healthy environments for all U.S. citizens, we can only hope that juvenile delinquency decreases in the future.