Can the increase in youth crime be blamed on the breakdown of family values?
This essay will attempt to show the increase in youth crime and whether it has or can be the sole reason for the breakdown of the family values. It will then demonstrate the increase of crime and the types of crimes committed by young delinquents of both genders. It will also demonstrate the different inequalities that lead to crime, explain different theories of crime, whether anything can be done to prevent the increase and will finally conclude.
The term ‘Youth crime’ is defined as the state of being young yet preceding maturity. The crime committed is most likely done through not thinking it through properly due to the lack of maturity. (Muncie and Wilson, 2004, p.222) states that “It is widely acknowledged that the ‘peak age’ for known offending is 18 and 15 for males and females respectively.” This figure however only shows crime that has been reported and the average age of offenders that have been reported. Although the amount of male offenders was significantly higher than female offenders, there is a similarity between the male and female offenders peak of committing crimes.
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The reason that these young offenders commit the crime may be due to the lack of maturity and the lack of career development which may have occurred during their youth. (Muncie and Wilson, 2004, p.223) states that “During 2001, for example, almost 88 per cent of detected crime was committed by adults. Perhaps more significantly, the incidence of youth crime appears to be in decline when measured over the last decade or so.” Although statistics show a high percentage of crime committed by youths, it is in decline because most crime committed is not reported however due to the fact most youths are involved in groups, they are subjected to greater surveillance.
The percentage of males committing crime is higher than the females and has remained stable over many years. The main difference between males and females is the sex difference therefore it can be understood that both men and women have different biological categories. (Muncie and Wilson, 2004, p.94). For e.g. it has been proven that men have much higher testosterone levels than women so this can be one of the reasons why men over represent the crime statistics. Another reason why males may be committing more crime is where the offender has no male role model to look up to. This may in effect lead to no direction in his life and resulting in no other option but to commit crime. Most crime committed youths was property offences such as violent crime, burglary, robbery and theft. Surprisingly the victims of the crime were most like to be a youth.
The percentage of young females committing crime is significantly less than male crime. This may be due to the fact that women are convicted of crimes considerably less than their male counterparts. (Jones S, 2006, p.302). Women are almost equally represented in court as men however are less likely to be convicted of a crime. Previously women could not be convicted of as many offences as men however can now be convicted of sexual offences such as rape. Some of the offences young women were likely to commit were violent offences, property offences, criminal damage, buying stolen goods and fraud. (Jones S, 2006, p.310). The general picture is women and men commit the same types of crime however men commit the crime at a significantly higher rate. Women are also less likely to commit serious crimes such as robbery and murder.
Inequalities in society could also lead to an increase in crime as there is likely to be less social integration between all communities. Ethnic minorities are defined as “A group of individuals who share a distinct culture and are ‘bound together by ties of cultural homogeneity’.” (Bowling & Phillips, 2002, p.24). The ethnic minorities are mainly considered a group outside of the mainstream society and therefore considered a ‘minority’. This inequality may have lead to the increase of crime by the ethnic minorities such as the Black, Asian and Caribbean. These ethnic minorities are more like to live in urban areas that have poor and older housing. In the private sector some estate agents have avoided showing ethnic minorities, houses in popular white areas. (Bowling & Phillips, 2002, p.46). These are major inequalities in society which lead to increased crime in society from ethnic minorities, as there is less social integration in the whole of the country between the minority and the majority which therefore excludes the ethnic minorities more, and increases the breakdown between families.
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White collar crime is defined as “crimes committed by persons of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupations.” (Sutherland and Cressey, 1960, p.40). White collar crimes are usually committed by individuals who have a job in which they are highly ranked. The crime committed is usually against an organisation and is of a high scale. These crimes were not found in the police records however these types of crimes affect the whole population as they are the most damaging. For e.g. a youth steals a mobile phone compared to a white collar worker defrauding the company he works for millions of pounds. The youth will most likely get a harsher punishment than the white collar worker even though the youth’s personal gain wasn’t even a fraction of the white collar workers.
Unemployment is a major factor in juvenile delinquency as many studies have found a link between unemployment and crime. Firstly the unemployed have more free time available than the employed. Secondly they may also have a poor quality of life due to problems with money which may in effect give them no other choice but to turn to crime. Currently there are a large number of unemployed youths and adults due to the ongoing recession. Jobs are needed to ensure that crime levels do not increase so there is added pressure amongst the government to help the economy and to provide more jobs.
Although ‘White collar crime’ is considered to be crime of a mature and intellectual standard, education is vital to prevent youths from committing the crime preceding maturity. Madood and Berthoud (1997) found Bangladeshi students to have the lowest levels of qualifications after 16 years of age. Also young ethnic minorities were less likely to benefit from training programmes than their white counterparts. This shows why the majority of ethnic minorities aren’t laying the foundations to develop their career therefore leading to no other choice than to commit crime. The ethnic minority students were also more likely to be excluded from school than their white counterparts. Most excluded students disappear from the education system altogether therefore leading the ethnic minority to an unpromising future.
The ‘strain’ theory developed in the 1970s describes how and why young people commit the crime. There are three types of strain. Firstly, strain of young may have been developed by failure to achieve their short term goals. (Jones S, 2006, p.171). This is relatively foreseeable as young delinquents may have not achieved as good grades at school as their peers. This explains why most delinquents have fewer post-16 qualifications and fewer have also gone on to higher education. The second type of strain occurs due to the removal of positive stimuli and the continuation of negative stimuli. This could include personal problems such as death of relative or breaking up with someone. The third type of strain from the negative stimuli which results in some kind of trauma such as physical pain or mental pain and punishment. All these strains are likely to affect anyone however in all likelihood youths are likely to not look at the consequences of their actions and there are over representing in the crime statistics. In order to prevent young delinquents committing crime the government need to introduce early intervention, as the ‘strain’ theory explained how fragile young people are. The intervention is needed when the young people aren’t getting as good results as their peers; it is needed at times of distress and also needed at time of negativity. Rehabilitation of the youngsters is vital as it would prevent the future crime that would have been committed by them.
Attachments influence the increase of crime. Attachments involves the sensitivity and affection to others and results in one to think prior to their actions. Strong social and psychological attachments influence criminal behaviour. If an individual is attached to family, he is less likely to commit a crime than someone who is strongly attached to a criminal group, as this will encourage criminal behaviour. (Marsh I, 2006, p.109). This theory also demonstrates that those who are actively engaged in criminal behaviour and are considered to be delinquent usually develop less social bonds. The social bonds they have developed are most likely to be with those who encourage criminal. This then leads to ties being broken with family. Developing a stronger attachment to family than with friends is regarded as the most important as this prevents engaging in adverse behaviour and develops maturity.
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In conclusion, to help prevent all crime reduction, early intervention is vital, as everything has a start which results in a finish. If potential delinquents can be prevented before committing a crime, then crime rates will most definitely reduce. Intervening in the early life of a child will help the child mature and usually crime is committed by those who have been isolated and have had a difficult upbringing. Currently, there has been a rise in knife crime involving youths and the government need to consider this issue seriously. Although the peak age of offending is currently 18 for males and 15 for females, there has been a considerable amount of crimes involving knifes. This will result in the peak age of youth offenders to under 18.
Bowling, B. & Phillips, C (2002). Racism, Crime and Justice. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
Jones, S (2006). Criminology. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
Madood, T. and Berthoud, R., with the assistance of Lakey, J., Nazroo, J., Smith, P., Virdee, S. And Beishon, S. (1997) Ethnic Minorities in Britain: Diversity and Disadvantage. London: Policy Studies Institute.
Marsh, I with Melville, G., Morgan, K., Norris, G., Walkington, Z. (2006). Theories of Crime. Oxon: Routledge.
Muncie, J. & Wilson, D (2004). Student Handbook of Criminal Justice and Criminology. Oxon: Routledge-Cavendish.
Sutherland, E. And Cressey, D. (1960). Principles of Criminology, 6th ed. Chicago: Lippincott