criminology

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The Relationship between Abuse and Juvenile Delinquents

From 2000 to 2005, thirty-one South Carolina counties showed an increase in the number of juveniles placed in secure detention. A total of 5,330 juveniles were detained during the fiscal year 2004-2005 (Children’s Law Office: Juvenile Detention in South Carolina, 2006, p. 6) Delinquency is an increasing issue in South Carolina, and there is much speculation that delinquency is increasing due to early or current experiences with abuse. According to Mentalhelp.net, abuse is defined as misusing or mistreating someone in such a way that shows no concern for the worth of that person (Patricelli, 2005). Abuse takes several different forms such as, physical, emotional, and sexual. Physical abuse includes throwing, shooting, stabbing, burning, drowning, suffocating, biting, or deliberately disfiguring a child. Included in this category is shaken-baby syndrome (SBS)…Emotional abuse or neglect is manifested by constant criticism and rejection of the child…Sexual abuse refers to the exploitation of children through rape, incest, and molestation by parents, family members, friends, or legal guardians (Siegel & Welsh, 2009, p. 261). Juvenile delinquents who are victims of abuse may turn to antisocial/delinquent behaviors to act out their frustrations from their childhood and/or current trauma.

Green and Brown-Voeltz defined three categories of sexual offenses, hands-off offenses, hands-on offenses, and grooming games…Hands-off offenses include, peeping, exhibitionism, obscene phone calls, picture-taking, showing pornography, lewd comments, etc… Hands-on offenses include fondling, oral sex, penetration finger, penis, or object, and ejaculation on the victim…Grooming games include, wrestling, truth or dare, simon says, penalty hide and seek, etc. Signs of physical abuse include, the child having unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes, injuries that reflect the shape of an object, etc…Signs of sexual abuse include, the child reporting sexual abuse, having difficulty walking or sitting, bedwetting, etc…The child showing extremes in behavior (overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity, or aggression), attempting to commit suicide or harms themselves, etc (Children’s Law Office, 2005, p. 5-7)

Dr. Gaudiosi’s research states, during 2007, an estimated 3.2 million referrals involving the maltreatment of approximately 5.8 million children were referred to CPS agencies (2007). In 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics stated that out of 4,734,310 victimizations by single offenders, about 16.8% of the offenders were perceived to be ages ranging from twelve to seventeen. Also in 2007, out 1,207,340 victimizations by multiple offenders, about 34.9% of the offenders were perceived to be ages ranging from twelve to twenty (Gaudiosi, 2007). This information reflects that there are a large number of abused children and children victimizers. One might wonder how many of these young offenders were abused or are abused. One could also go as far as to ask what form of abuse these children endure throughout their childhood.

Concentrating on South Carolina juvenile delinquents is an appropriate choice due to the fact that in areas such as this crime is sometimes perceived as a non-issue. One might ask, why concentrate on juveniles from fourteen to seventeen years of age? At these ages, most teens are known to rebel and act out. Some might assume that abused teens have more freedom to participate in deviant criminal acts because they are at an age where they are under less supervision. These are also the ages where peer pressure is prevalent. Besides being at an age when rebelling is considered natural, juveniles at these ages are more likely to give into peer pressure. This is due to a sense of needing to belong.

The purpose of this study was to examine and discuss South Carolina juveniles ranging in age from fourteen to seventeen in juvenile detention centers that are or have been abused physically, emotionally, or sexually in their childhood. This research will explore why abused juveniles act out through delinquent acts. This research also explored the impact on more effective therapy/counseling and programs for delinquents. It is a popular belief that people turn to crime because they were abused, but not all abused teens react to their abuse in a violent or deviant manner. However this research identifies a strong correlation between abuse and delinquency.

The social significance of this research is to acknowledge that these children should receive help before they become adults and possibly end up in prison. This issue is only contributing to crime rates. The first step to helping these children is to research them first. Research that is done on child abuse opens doors to resources for abused children such as, effective therapy that can be offered to them more often for them to fully recover from their past abuse. Recognizing the relationship between abused children and child offenders offers a chance to help children before they become deviant criminals.

Through this research various research questions are answered. These research questions include, is abuse a huge contributing factor to the delinquency of juveniles? Another research question is what type of abuse is suffered by more juvenile offenders? Are juvenile delinquents more likely to be abused by a parent, other relative, acquaintance, or stranger? Also, the kinds of crimes juvenile delinquents with abusive backgrounds are more likely to commit are discussed. Answering these questions is a crucial part in preventing juvenile delinquency.

Literature Review

The connection between both child abuse and delinquent teens has not gone unnoticed. There have been a sufficient number of studies conducted on this topic with a myriad of results. The first study used participants from the Pittsburgh Youth Study, a longitudinal survey for boys on the development of antisocial and delinquent behavior. The 1987 Pittsburgh Youth Study began with three samples of boys in grades 1st, 4th, and 7th. Only the 4th and 7th grade boys were used in this particular study. Participants were randomly chosen from a list of 4th and 7th graders. This brings us to our current study, where Van Wijk et al. (2005) split 986 boys into five groups using a combination of self-reported delinquency data. These groups were categorized as sex offenders, index violence, reported violence, moderate offenders, and minor delinquency/non-offenders. The purpose of this study was to compare violent offenders to non-violent offenders. Besides having delinquency problems, substance use, and emotional problems in common, these boys also had family back ground and peer factor similarities as well. About 20% of the boys who were considered to be violent were abused as children, and 9% of the boys considered to be non-violent were abused as children. Also, about 36% of the violent boys and 16% non-violent boys partook in peer delinquency. These results do not just show that delinquent boys have abusive pasts, but also show they are involved in peer delinquent acts as well. Also, the more violent the boy is, the more of an abusive past he had (Van Wijk et al., 2005).

The next study was based on the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Women in Australia were given a survey that discussed male sexual violence against women and children. Chung, O’Leary, and Hand (2006) also relied on the records of the amount of people who were arrested for sexual-related crimes. The results from the survey and reports concluded that about 10% of the alleged offenders were juveniles. Aljazireh (1993) argued that patterns of sexual offending often begin in adolescence and that many adolescent sex offenders go on to perpetrate more serious forms of sexual violence in adulthood (Chung, O’Leary, & Hand, 2006). Even though juveniles made up only 10% of the alleged offenders, this study proved that this behavior is learned at early age.

Another study made reference to a previous study done; where Johnson and Shrier reported that 66% of a sample of male juvenile sex offenders had been victimized either physically or sexually. About 19% were physically abused, and 49% were sexually abused. In this author’s clinical practice, which includes primarily less serious, non-incarcerated juvenile offenders, about 19% report a history as sexual abuse victims (Becker, 1994). Longo reported that 47% of the adolescent sex offenders in his treatment program had been sexually abused (Becker, 1994). Becker (1994) also focused on another study done in 1984 of 401 child sexual abuse cases. About 56% of the boys and 28% of the girls admitted to being abused by a juvenile offender (Becker, 1994). These studies highlighted that the abusive behavior begins in adolescence. It also noted that the offenders are repeating a cycle of abuse; they were abused; now they are the abuser.

In this study, data was obtained from a Minnesota Student Survey conducted in 1992. The survey was voluntary and anonymous. About 131,000 public school students, grades 6th, 9th, and 12th, participated (Borowsky, Hogan, & Ireland, 1997). The questionnaire assessed the health factors, risk behaviors, and resiliency factors among juveniles. Almost all the 433 school districts participated expect one. An estimated 4.8% males and 1.3% of females admitted to forcing someone into a sexual act (Borowsky, Hogan, & Ireland, 1997). About 46.7% of the males and 4.5% of girls were sexually abused by a family member, and 32.2% of the boys and 3.4% of girls were sexually abused by a non-familiar member (Borowsky, Hogan, & Ireland, 1997). The results also indicated that 14.4% of boys and 3.1% of girls were physically abused (Borowsky, Hogan, & Ireland, 1997). Also, 12.9% of the boys and 2.8% of the girls were witnesses to abuse (Borowsky, Hogan, & Ireland, 1997). Lastly, Borowsky, Hogan, and Ireland (1997) found that 25.2% of the boys and 12.4% of the girls admitted to being gang members. These results show that not only are many of these perpetrators abused themselves, but they also partake in deviant violent behavior.

This study explored the effects of child maltreatment. This study was based on of Child Protective Services cases. A table of their findings clearly shows that children who have been traumatized physically and/or sexually are at significantly increased risk for developing a variety of psychiatric disorders (Kolk, Hooper, & Crozier, 2001, pg. 6). The children were split into three abuse groups including, sexual (124), physical (43), and both (34). About 12% of the boys and 11% of the girls from the sexually abused group were diagnosed with being majorly depressed. Also, 12% of the boys and 20% of the girls in the physically abused group were diagnosed with major depression as well. 8% of the boys and 32% of the girls in the both group suffered from major depression. A total of 21% were diagnosed with conduct disorders, and a total of 36% were diagnosed with an oppositional deviant disorder. This study shows that many children abused do not only experience depression, a proven indicator of abusers, but they also experience behavioral problems.

Another study involved gender and child maltreatment. This study was based on another study conducted in the UK. The data from this study identified that emotional/psychological abuse is a reason for bullying (Chahal, 2006). Both 18% of the boys and 18% of the girls surveyed were emotionally abused bullies (Chahal, 2006). This study suggests that many bullies feel they need to have control over others because someone else made them feel the same way.

A study done by Glasser et al. (2001) recognizes the cycle of abuse. The data was collected by using a retrospective clinical case note review of 843 subjects attending a specialist forensic psychotherapy centre (Glasser et al., 2001, pg.1). Among 747 males, the risk of being a perpetrator was positively correlated with reported sexual abuse victim experiences (Glasser et.al, 2001). Glasser et al. (2001) also concluded that of the 96 females, 43% had been victimized and one of them was a perpetrator. This study concluded that both having been a victim and the loss of a parent were predictors of becoming perpetrators (Glasser et. al, 2001).

This next study explored the relationship between prior victimization of adolescent sex offenders and their subsequent abuse of others. Participants in this study were 74 adolescent male sexual abusers in a residential treatment facility who had been sexually abused (Veneziano, LeGrand, & Veneziano, 2000). The adolescent offenders who had been victimized before age 5 were twice as likely to victimize someone younger than age five (Veneziano, LeGrand, & Veneziano, 2000). Veneziano, LeGrand, and Veneziano (2000) found that those who were abused by males were twice as likely to abuse another male, and if their abuser was a relative they were found 1.5 times more likely to abuse one of their relatives.

This study researched children’s exposure to violence, using a national survey. Nearly, one-half of the children and adolescents surveyed (46.3%) were assaulted at least once in the past year (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, Hamby, and Kracke, 2008). The survey confirms that most of our society’s children are exposed to violence in their daily lives. About one in ten or 10.2% suffered child maltreatment (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, Hamby, & Kracke, 2008). This includes physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and abduction. Also, 6.1% were victimized sexually. Lastly, this study suggested that more than one in four or 25.3% witnessed a violent act and 9.8% saw one family member assault another (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, Hamby, & Kracke, 2008). This particular study tries to make a connection between child exposure to violence and those who partake in violence when they get older.

The last study used a total of 1,840 participants admitted in the custody of the State of Washington’s juvenile justice system. The subjects were given the Massachusetts Youth Screening Inventory, second edition (MAYSI-2) as a screening instrument. Screening sites included juvenile justice secure institutions, work camps, regional parole offices, and residential care placements operated under contract with the state juvenile justice system (Stewart & Trupin, 2003). A subset of 222 adolescents completed a diagnostic mental health screening instrument and also completed the MAYSI-2. The three-cluster solution included 437 youths (24%) with high scores for mental health symptoms on all MAYSI-2 scales and 556 youths (30%) with high substance use scores and scores for mental health symptoms that were lower than those of the 437-member group but still clinically elevated (Stewart & Trupin, 2003, pg. 3). Finally, 847 youths (46%) with average elevations below the clinical threshold for all MAYSI-2 scales constituted the low symptoms group (Stewart & Trupin, 2003). About 1.79% of the first group, 1.62% of the second group, and 1.26% of the last group is considered to be depressed and anxious. Also, Stewart and Trupin (2003) concluded that 2.39% of the first group, 1.35% of the second group, and 1.39% of the last group admitted to alcohol or drug abuse. Lastly, 1.28% of the first, 1.34% of the second group, and 1.11% of the last group admitted to having gone through a traumatic experience (Stewart & Trupin, 2003). This obviously shows that out of these youths in this juvenile system, many of them experience depression, are drug users, and probably act out in deviant ways because of their traumatic experiences.

The 2000 study of Veneziano, LeGrand, and Veneziano identifies the connection between sexually abused children and adolescent sex offenders. In a presentation given by Jerome B. Green (Clinically certified forensic counselor) and Crystal Brown-Voeltz (Licesned Master Social Worker) called, “Adolescents with Sexual Behavior Problems; Identification, Etiology and Progression”, it was revealed that about 20 percent of all rapes are perpetrated by adolescent offenders. The Green and Brown-Voeltz presentation revealed also that over half of molestations of boys and at least 15-20% of the sexual abuse of girls are perpetrated by adolescents. The average adolescent sexual offender will commit 380 sex crimes in his lifetime, but at the time of first evaluation will have had only seven victims…As many as 60-80% of adult sex offenders report that their first offense occurred when they were adolescents (Green & Brown-Voeltz, p. 5). The presentation even said that many adolescent sex offenders are exposed to pornography, substance abuse, and to aggressive models (Green & Brown-Voeltz). According to Green and Brown-Voeltz deviant arousal patterns develop in response to victimization or as a result of learned behavior and social interactions over time…Since the family and environment are essential influences in the development of sexuality, family trauma, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, scapegoating, and exposure to sexually traumatic material may contribute to the development of sexually offending behavior (Green & Brown- Voeltz, p. 6).

According to the Children’s Law Office, “Truancy and Educational Neglect” (2005) educational neglect is included in the state’s definition of child abuse and neglect…Child abuse or neglect, or harm, occurs when a parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare…fails to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, education (Children’s Law Office, 2005, p. 1). Educational neglect is defined as not providing your children with education as required by law. Some signs that a child is being neglected educationally include frequent absences along with inappropriate clothing for weather, poor hygiene/ body odor, failure to receive routine/urgent medical care, excessive sleepiness during the day, coming to school hungry and stealing/ asking for food, etc (Children’s Law Office, 2005). Even though educational neglect is not viewed as abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) it is a contributing factor. For example, a child who is not being adequately fed, bathed, and not properly dressed is suffering physically, and in turn suffers emotionally from the stigma that comes along with dealing with these issues. In response to this neglect many juveniles become truant and participate in other delinquent acts.

The link between abuse and delinquency is supported by some theories of delinquency (Siegel & Welsh, 2009). These theories include the social control, social learning, general strain, and trait theories. Social control theory purports that by disrupting normal relationships and impeding socialization, maltreatment reduces the social bond and frees individuals to become involved in deviance…Social learning theory says that maltreatment leads to delinquency, because it teaches children that aggression and violence are justifiable forms of behavior (Siegel & Welsh, 2009, p. 273). General strain theory says abuse creates the “negative affective states” that are related to strain, anger, and aggression (Siegel & Welsh, 2009, p. 273). Trait theory purports that abused youth will develop symptoms of psychological abnormality (depression or psychosis) that have been linked to antisocial behaviors (Siegel & Welsh, 2009, p. 273).

All these studies are relevant to this research. However several of these studies have proven to be more useful and relevant than others. Overall, all these different studies have resulted in the same conclusion. That is, that many juveniles categorized as delinquent, especially those in the system, act out their frustrations from an abusive past through deviant behavior.

Methodology

Due to the fact that abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) is such a controversial subject concerning minors, secondary analysis was used for this research. The prior research and works of others were found to be very reliable. The key variables that were explored include, child abuse and delinquency. To conduct this research journal articles, web pages, booklets from law conferences, and pamphlets were utilized.

Results

The impact abuse has on children is traumatic. Some effects of abuse include secrecy, helplessness, entrapment and accommodation, delayed or unconvincing disclosure, retraction, betrayal, traumatic sexualization, powerlessness, and stigmatization (DeFlice, 2005). Lindsey (2005) also found that children abused physically are more likely to be arrested for violent crimes. Lindsey also states that other possible negative outcomes include mental health concerns, educational problems, occupational difficulties, and public health and safety issues. According to Brewerton (2004) there is a relationship between eating disorders, victimization, and comorbidity. In “Eating Disorders, Victimization, and Comorbidity: Principles of Treatment” one of the themes of the chapter is a cluster of comorbid disorders and their symptoms co-occur together more often than chance would dictate, and that this link is highly associated with a history of victimization (Brewerton, 2004, p. 509).

The prior research of others was used to identify a relationship between abuse and South Carolina juvenile delinquents. As mentioned before being abused does not ensure a life of delinquency. However it was hypothesized that it increases the chances of a delinquent, anti-social lifestyle. There was sufficient research done on this topic to ensure an adequate representation of juvenile delinquents in South Carolina.

As previously mentioned the findings were synonymous with the hypothesis. Although there was not significant research concerning South Carolina, but the increasing rates of detention centers in this state indicate that there is a relationship between juvenile delinquents and an abusive history. Also, previously mentioned, educational neglect is another form of abuse that can affect a child traumatically (physically, emotionally). According to www.uschamber.com is given a “C” for its school management. Usachamber.com (2009) says that South Carolina does an average job managing its schools in a way that encourages thoughtful innovation. The state has solid academic standards and sanctions low-performing schools. However, 92% of teachers report that routine duties and paperwork interfere with teaching. The state of South Carolina’s academic standing indicates that many children are being educationally neglected, and as a result being further abused emotionally and physically. This easily leads to truancy among other delinquent acts. From these findings one could only conclude that as long as delinquency is an issue abuse will always be a possible determining factor. However this relationship appears to not only be a South Carolina issue but an issue across the globe. One could infer that in areas such as, South Carolina where delinquency is an issue it is more likely to experience more cases of abuse.

The issue with abuse is that it cannot be treated if it’s not reported. Many times children are less likely to report there abuse. For many juveniles, by the time that the issue is identified delinquency has already become a part of their lifestyle. Many abused youth participate in delinquent acts to avoid an abusive home-life. So instead of participating in negative after-school activities, positive ones seem to be a more appropriate alternative. The South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has implemented the Teen After-School Center Program (TASC) for juveniles to participate in. This program has been jointly funded since 2004 by DJJ and the Legislative Black Caucus. Teen After-School Centers are daily after school programs that are based in local churches, community centers, and other public buildings; and staffed by local volunteers. These programs are aimed to reach “at-risk” juveniles between the ages of twelve and seventeen. TASC’s are open weekdays after school and in the summer. The goals of this program are to better school attendance, improve grades, for kids to get an appreciation for their community, for kids to become role-models within the community, and to instill the knowledge that all goals can be acquired. Students who participate in extracurricular activities have better grades, feel greater attachment to school, have lower truancy rates and reach higher levels of achievement in college, as documented by a 17-year study followed 1,800 sixth-graders in ten Michigan schools through high school and college (Extra Benefits Tied to Extracurriculars,” Education Week, 2000). For abused youth participating in programs like this may be very beneficial.

Another organization working to help abused youth is the South Carolina Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers (NCAC). The Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers is the South Carolina state chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, one of thirty-eight state chapters in the United States. This organization works to ensure that every child in South Carolina suspected of being abused receives services. A Children’s Advocacy center is a child-focused community-oriented, facility-based program in which representatives from many disciplines meet to discuss and make recommendations about the investigation, safety, treatment and prosecution of child abuse cases. There are CAC’s located in Columbia, Spartanburg, Florence, Charleston, Greenville, Aiken, Sumter, etc.

Abused youth need assistance to deal with their trauma or they may continue being delinquent. More individuals or bystanders need to report the abuse of child to the authorities. When the problem is identified only then can the child be offered the necessary counseling to deal with their abuse. After-school programs, neighborhood youth programs, and counseling/therapy programs are considered ideal to help rehabilitate delinquent youths. With detention center populations increasing in South Carolina more accessible, creative programs could aid in decreasing youth crimes.


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