Dealing With Effects On Juvenile Behavior Criminology Essay

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Labeling the delinquency of juveniles deals with the effects of labels, or stigmas, on juvenile's behavior. According to the labeling theory, efforts to control crime often have the effect of increasing crime. Juveniles who are labeled as delinquents hold their self-fulfilling prophecies believing the labels others assign them, thereby acting as those labels. The primary focus of this research is to ascertain whether juveniles who are labeled delinquent will eventually commit adult crimes.


The juvenile justice system was created in the belief that young people were less responsible for their actions, and could be rehabilitated if processed through the juvenile court system. Its goal was to help teens turn their lives around, while protecting their identities, so they are not burdened with criminal records in adulthood.

However, lawmakers blame rehabilitation for failing to hold down juvenile delinquency. In order to crack down on juvenile crime many states have passed a variety of measures to send more youths to adult court. For some states these measures include the following: lowering the age at which juveniles can be prosecuted as adults, greatly expanding the categories of crimes, youth are automatically prosecuted in criminal court, giving the prosecutors the exclusive authority to decide which juveniles are charged as adults, and limiting the discretion of judges to overturn decisions by prosecutors and law enforcement officials. In states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada youth at any age are sent automatically to adult courts for serious crime. Ultimately, if teens are prosecuted in adult court then may face the following penalties: life in prison without parole, mental health problems, rape, assault, death while incarcerated. They will receive little or no rehabilitation.

Many claim these new measures cast a wide net, sending youth to adult prison for non-violent crimes. The problem is that although prosecution is traditionally set aside for serious crimes, several findings indicate that many cases brought against youth were not serious or strong enough to be waved into adult court. These findings also indicate that Afro-Americans and Latinos were more likely to be affected than Caucasians and those represented by private counsel were less likely to be convicted and transferred back to juvenile court (

Early labeling theorists Frank Tannenbaum was the first theorist to suggest that an offender's identity is transformed from doers of evil to an evil person (Vandelay, 2002). Labeling theory focuses on the official reaction to crime rather than why deviant acts are committed. Edwin Lemert elaborated on labeling theory by making a distinction between primary and secondary deviance. Primary deviance is the initial rule-breaking behavior where individuals do not see themselves as deviant, during the secondary deviance juveniles are negatively labeled and retaliate by adapting to the primary deviance (Lemert, E, 1963).

Howard Becker focused on Lemert's secondary deviance by observing how someone develops deviant motives and interests. Becker claimed public shaming pushes individuals to a breaking point in which they give up further attempts to conformity. Once conformity is lost, identity change takes place and the deviant self-image is now in place and the pressure to behave as deviant increases. Furthermore, people that are labeled deviant lose contact with people in their community and began to associate with people similarly labeled deviant. Today, labeling theory is rarely utilized and many have shifted their focus to the effects of state power ( Becker, 1963). Modern labeling theory recognizes that societies create crime by passing laws, and the nature of law should be the main focus. Michael Foucault claimed punishment should not consist of revenge, but individuals should reform to society's norms. Foucault urges that discipline should impose precise norms, not merely judge what is normal and abnormal. In 1989, John Braithwaite introduced social control through the shaming theory (Foucault, 1979). Braithwaite focuses on two types of shaming theory reintegrative shaming and disintegrative shaming. Reintegrative shaming is the process of bringing the offender back into society by ritual gestures of forgiveness: whereas disintegrative shaming shuns the offender from society. Braithwaite claims offenders that are prevented from bonding back to into society can only become more entrenched in crime as a result of being labeled as a criminal (Braithwaite,1989).

Literature Review

There are various reasons why juvenile delinquents commit crimes. These crimes stem from poor family structure, poverty, or even peer influence in pursuit of attention or popularity. Other contributing factors include frustration, failure in school, neglect, easy access to guns, and drugs or alcohol. It is said that it takes a whole village to raise a child. Parents, society, the community and the government all play an important role and make an immense impact in a child's life. A recent study of legal stigmas found that individuals who are officially labeled lacked social status and were unable to find employment ( Due to these barriers, these individuals were more likely to be involved with law enforcement personnel. In a similar study, individuals with prior criminal records were treated differently, therefore providing more opportunities for them to transform their identities and become career deviants (

According to Braithwaite, 1989, labeling increases crimes in some circumstances and reduces it in others. For instance, labeling increases crime when no effort is made to reintegrate the offender back into society but reduces the crime when the punished offender is reintegrated into society. Reintegrative Shaming Theory (RST) offers alternative outcomes as long as the act is being labeled and not the person.

McGrath (2009) interviewed 206 young offenders using a questionnaire immediately after their sentencing. The questionnaire measured the youth's perception of deterrence and whether they felt stigmatized or reintegrated by the experience of being sentenced. The questionnaire also measured the youth's background, including: their academic record, peer influence, and licit and illicit drug use. Braithwaite (1989) argues that labeling increases subsequent crime when no effort is made to reintegrate offenders back into society. Braithwaite claims labeling reduces crime when offenders are made to feel a sense of shame or guilt for what they have done, but are ultimately forgiven and reintegrated into conventional groups. In this particular setting, RST suggests that labeling inevitably occurs in a courtroom setting; those that are more stigmatized will reoffend and those feeling reintegrated will be less likely reoffend. Unfortunately, the RST had a partial effect because offenders felt that the court hearing and punishment were relatively fair. Researchers found the deterrence model had an effect on offenders future reoffending because of the sentence they might receive but did not find the severe punishment as a deterrent. The labeling theory found that those feeling stigmatized would be more likely to reoffend. In this particular study the was deterrence and labeling theory were supported to the extent that the offender felt stigmatized and deterred from committing a future offense.

Harris (2006) tested RST and the emotions offenders feel once faced with social disapproval. The study was administered to 720 participants who recently attended a traditional court case or family group conference. Each participant was apprehended for driving over the legal alcohol limit in Australia. The participants were separated into two groups: participants who were required to attend court and participants who volunteered to attend a conference. The traditional court process usually involves a prosecutor reading the facts, a plea on behalf of the defendant, and sentencing.

Participants who were processed in traditional court were likely to be stigmatized because their focus was placed upon deciding and recording guilt as well as the punishment of individuals. Participants who attended the family group conferences included following: the offender, the offender's family, a community representative, and trained police officer to facilitate the process. The conferences discussed the offense, its consequences, and gave information about the dangers of drinking and driving.

The conferences normally last an hour-and half, whereas those processed in traditional courts only took seven minutes. The study comparison between the court cases and family group conferences were consistent with expectations that restorative justice inventions would be reintegrative. The study concluded the way in which offenders managed feelings of shame would have an important impact on how they react to a future event (Harris, 2009). Ahmed, et al., (2005), indentified stigmatization as shaming by which a wrongdoer is treated disrespectfully as an outcast and as a bad person. Reintegrative shaming means treating the wrongdoer respectfully and empathically as a good person who has done a bad act and making special efforts to show the wrongdoer value after the wrongful act has been confronted. Restorative justice claims individuals who are unable to feel shame or feel remorse for harming others will be at greater risk of repeating the offense.

Ahmed (2003) further examines this by looking at two types of shame management: shame acknowledgement and shame displacement. Shame acknowledgement is an admission that what has happened is wrong and shameful, and involves expressing remorse, while shame displacement takes the form of blaming others for the wrong and expressing anger toward them.

Ahmed & Braithwaite (2005) pointed out high shame acknowledgment and low shame displacement into anger or blaming others is also associated with less bullying. The results indicated that students, who liked school, experienced less reintegrative shaming and more stigmatizing shaming at home. Children who did not like school were stigmatized and parental forgiveness of wrongdoing was strongly associated with reductions in bullying.

Ttofi &Farrington (2008) tested RST by explaining the bullying of family members and peers in schools. Ttofi & Farrington tested whether parental relationship was related to children's expectations regarding the type of shaming received from their parents and whether the parental relationship was related to the way children manage their feelings. According to Braithwaite (1989), RST is way of communicating the shamefulness of crime without rejecting the person who committed the act. Shaming has a conscience building effect and can be used as powerful regulatory practice. From an early age, through either being the recipient of shaming or disapproving of other people's wrongdoing, the individual learns what is considered right and wrong in society and, hence, internalizes social norms (Braithwaite, 1989, p73). Conversely, disintegrative shaming is when the wrongdoer is not interested in acknowledging their shame or feeling remorse since they have already lost their status in the community. A culture with heavy emphasis on reintegrative shaming establishes a smoother transition between the socialization practices of the family and socialization in the wider society (Braithwaite, 1989, p 82). The RST tested whether parental bonding was related to children's expectations regarding the type of shaming they receive from parents; and whether parental bonding is the way children manage their feelings of shame. As a result, these two types of shaming have different effects on the way children anticipate managing shame. The RST was a great tool for researchers to understand the ways in which family factors are related to children's problem behavior (Ttofi & Farrington, 2008).

Losoncz & Tyson (2007) tested the casual model brought forward by RST (Braithwaite, 1989). The study examined expected delinquency, delinquent peers and familial process. They lacked support from the theory due to the conceptually weak measures of the major concepts of RST in some of the studies. Another weakness identified by Braithwaite was the failure to concentrate on the emotion of shame. Due to the challenges, the study tested the casual model by focusing only on individual level variables using survey methodology. With a recommendation from (Braithwaite & Braithwaite, 2001), researchers treated shaming, reintegration, and stigmatisation as three independent concepts. Measuring selected items led to Braithwaite's definition of shaming: shaming is defined as a societal process of expressing disapproval which the intention or effect of invoking remorse in the person being shamed and/or condemnation by others who become aware of the shaming' (Braithwaite, 1989, p100) In summary, the survey data did not find shaming to be independent of reintegration and stigmatisation as proposed by Braithwaite (2001). The final results support Braithwaite's original theory, which, evaluated all shaming as either reintegrative or stigmatic.


Data for this study will be handed out and collected via questionnaire at the Windward, Pearl Ridge, and Ala Moana malls. Participants will be informed of the purpose of the questionnaire, and I will answer any questions to increase the response rate. Another way to increase response rates is to hand out incentives. Unfortunately, due to low funding, incentives will not be available. This study will use Braithwaite's RST scale to examine whether labeling juvenile delinquency increases crimes.

Population and Sample: The targeted population for this research will be males or females ranging from 18 to 70 years of age. The researcher will receive a consensual agreement from participants before handing out the questionnaire. Any participants over the age of 70 years old will be excluded because they are more likely to have health issues that may prevent them from giving accurate responses. The researcher will also attempt to target certain individuals by asking how old they are before distributing the questionnaire. The researcher chose the mall as opposed to a college population because college students were less likely to commit a serious crime as juveniles. Therefore, if a researcher had conducted this study in a college setting, it is unlikely that he/she will get a large enough number of respondents with a juvenile delinquent background. In this study, non-probability convenience sampling has been chosen because it is well suited for the mall setting and could be done within short notice. This type of sampling is convenient for the researcher to get an accurate representation of the population without accruing cost and time. The goal of this research is to receive 300 completed surveys in which resulting data will be coded and analyzed using the SPSS.

Measurement: The more juveniles are labeled as delinquents; the more likely they will commit adult crimes. To properly measure this statement, I will define the dependent and independent variables associated in the researcher's hypothesis. First, labeled delinquents are hereby conceptualized as deviants, and that is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application of rules and sanctions, by others, to an "offender". The deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied. Deviant is a behavior that people so label. The independent variable in this study will be labeled delinquents, and the dependant variable is adult crime, which consists of the following: burglary, grand theft, arson, aggravated assault and battery. To operationlize the variable of labeling delinquent and adult crime, the researcher will utilize the Reintegrative Shaming scale and Formal labeling questions (See Enclosure 1 for complete Reintegrative Shaming scale and Formal Labeling questions).

Data Management/ Analysis: The Formal labeling questionnaire was used to measure the extent in which juveniles were stigmatized by the juvenile justice system (Garfinkel, 1956). The participants will answer eight yes or no questions. The current study will also use the Reintegrative Shaming scale (Braithwaite, 1989), to measure whether court hearing were stigmatizing.

Ethical Consideration: The goal of this research is to find out whether labeling juveniles as delinquents leads to adult crimes. The questionnaire is to be completed on informed consent and participant's personal information is not required. The questionnaire will consist of a total of 10 questions and should take about 15 minutes to complete.

Discussion: According to labeling theory, official efforts to control crime often have the effect of increasing crime. If the offender is shamed rather than the offense, they are more likely to commit future crimes. The studies previously mentioned have investigated the usefulness of the Reintegrated Shaming Theory by explaining the delinquent behaviors and what will happen if the juvenile are not reintegrated back into society. According to two studies (Schwartz & Skolnick, 1962) legal stigmas effect employment chances, loss of social status, and bring further contact with law enforcement. This research will duplicate previous studies by focusing on the labeling theory using the RST and will specifically test the following hypothesis: Juvenile if labeled, as delinquents are more likely to commit adult crime. The researcher expects the outcome of the research to confirm the above hypothesis.

Enclosure 1

Labeling Juveniles as Delinquents

I am inviting you to participate in a research project to study the effects of labeling juvenile delinquency. I am asking you to look over the questionnaire and, if you choose to do so, complete it and give it back to me. It should take you about 15 minutes to complete. Thank you for time and help.

Formal Labeling Questions: Please circle yes or no to the following questions

Have you ever been taken into custody by a police officer? (Yes/No)

Have you ever been required to attend an adjudicatory hearing? (Yes/No)

Have you been on court-ordered probation? (Yes/No)

Have you ever been on court-ordered parole? (Yes/No)

Have you ever been on house detention? (Yes/No)

Have you ever had to pay a fine? (Yes/No)

Have you ever had to pay restitution? (Yes/No)

Have you ever been in a temporary holdover? (Yes/No)

Have you ever been to counseling? (Yes/No)

Have you ever been sent to counseling with your parents? (Yes/No)

Reintegrative Shaming Scale

Stigmatization: Where you treated in court as though you were likely to commit another offence? During the court case, were treated as though you were a bad person? Answers were measured on a 4-scale ranging from not at all to a lot. One measure of stigmatization was obtained by combining these answers.

Reintegration: At the end of the court case did people make clear to you that you could put the whole thing behind you? Answers were measure on a 4- point scale ranging from not all to a lot. One measure of stigmatization was obtained by combining these answers.

Procedural Fairness: Did you understand what your rights were? And if the court got anything wrong, did you feel you could correct this? Answers to these questions were measured on the same scale as the stigmatization questions.

Shaming: Level of public shaming was measured by asking participants what they knew about the offense thought of it offense thought of it. There were two other shaming variables: how many people knew about the offence, and whether one, both or neither of the participant's parents attended the hearing. All of the questions in this group of variable were derived from the questionnaire used in the Canberra Reintegrative Shaming Experiment (Sherman et al., 1997).