Examining Juvenile Delinquency Pathways and Preventive Interventions

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Criminologists over the years have engaged in research into the realm of juvenile delinquency. Additionally, their main agenda has been an impending need to discover both the underlying causes as well as implications resulting from juvenile delinquency. In spite of the enormous number of criminologists interested in this issue of juvenile delinquency, no one has ever come up with an a single impetus for adolescent involvement in delinquency. However, notwithstanding, this research wishes to analyze the various approaches to the study of juvenile delinquency with a view of discovering the ways in which one can efficiently solve cases of delinquent behaviors in society. Furthermore, it is argued that some of the people who engaged in violent and offensive behavior in adulthood have their origin in delinquent behaviors during their youthful stage. However, there is no straight link between criminals engaged in various offences with the youthful stage delinquency. This is because at some point, people undergo transformation and therefore, it is not easy to link between the two life stages. However, many factors do actually contribute towards youths' involvement in delinquent behaviors, ranging from family problems, neighborhood influences, school problems especially in relation to failure in various disciplines, the general gender issues such as masculinity and femininity, as well as social groups, and maltreatment cases, from both the caretakers and any other persons in the child's life.

Therefore, an inquiry into this area is, without doubt, vital owing to the fact that the initial stages of a child are important in the determination of the future behavior patterns. Moreover, it is within this youthful stage that an individual starts molding, his/her personality. Additionally, it is within this youthful stage, that an individual sets clear goals for his/her future career. Therefore, as the research progresses, it will be overtly expressed initial life stage behavior and the response to the behaviors in question, has a very fundamental significance in the future life of an individual.


The latest behaviors exhibiting antisocialism in various parts of the United States have led to a widespread debate on the policies regarding juvenile delinquency (Reid, Eddy, and Fetrow, 1999, p.484). For instance, the American statistical records regarding homicide rate cases point at 15 to 24 years males, who are cited to be four times more than the rates of other countries (World Health Organization, 1992). In addition, the arrested adolescents or young adults comprise juveniles below the age of 21 years (Reid, Eddy, and Fetrow, 1999, p.484). Moreover, most offenders in this category seem to be frequent criminals (Patterson and Capaldi 1997), and predictions are easily made when delinquency starts during or prior to adolescence (Patterson and Yoerger, 1997). Hence, studies have been conducted over the years based on longitudinal strategies, for children and/or adolescents, by following their behavior over time. Furthermore, these studies have been done on youths at high-risk areas, and are based on statistics, hence indicate a closer relationship with the population sample.

Such cases include the Denver Youth Survey, the Pittsburg Youth Study, and the Rochester Youth Development Study. There is however, no clear-cut line between restorative justice and punitive justice. In addition, in the due course of this research, major emphasis is given to the justice system that relates to behavior restoration in the case of juvenile delinquency. Whereby, it is argued that the major aim of detaining an individual after arrest is to restore good moral standards to a deviant person.

Concepts and Definitions

Juvenile delinquency is a term that is used to designate juveniles who engage in crimes. Similarly, juveniles are those individuals who have not yet attained maturity age (below 21 years, or in some cases, below 18). The pathways to juvenile delinquency refer to those patterns that lead one to admittance into juvenile delinquent behaviors. Finally, the preventive interventions are those responses given to juveniles at their early age in order to prevent them from engaging in behaviors of criminal magnitude.

Research Questions

The general question for this research is what is the best strategy for reducing juvenile delinquency in society?

Specific questions include:

What constitutes youth involvement in delinquent behavior?

What are the major risky contributing factors to youth involvement in juvenile delinquency?

What is the role of maltreatment in fostering juvenile delinquency?

What is the role of gang membership in promoting delinquency in youths?

What pattern does the involvement in delinquency follow?

Research Objectives

The general research objective is to find out the pathways and preventive interventions to juvenile delinquency in society today.

The specific objectives of this research include,

To find out the role played by maltreatment in fostering youths' involvement in delinquent behavior in society.

To find out the role played by gang membership in escalating juvenile delinquency

To find out the patterns that juvenile delinquency follow based on the key factors that promote it

To find out the efficient preventive intervention strategies that can be used in reducing the rate of juvenile delinquency.

To find out the relationship that exists between juvenile delinquents and the criminal offenders in the later stages in life.

Research Hypothesis

This research paper relates the discovery of the juvenile delinquency pathways with the preventive intervention mechanisms.

Null Hypothesis

An efficient understanding of the pathways to juvenile delinquency leads to development of efficient preventive intervention mechanism on youth delinquency.

Alternate Hypothesis

An efficient understanding of the pathways to juvenile delinquency is not sufficient to assist in the development of effective preventive intervention strategies.

Scope of the Study

The study is based on researches that have been conducted in the United States. This is because; it is in the US that we find expansive surveys on juvenile delinquency because of the increased number of cases of delinquencies in the United States more than other parts of the world.

Research Significance/Purpose

The research follows an inference that there exists a greater probability that juvenile delinquents in the earlier stages of life are likely to develop into serious criminals in the later stages of life. Therefore, as a preventive and intervention- mechanism, the researcher tries to understand the major contributing factor to youths involvement in delinquency, in order to come up with an efficient analysis on the way forward in reducing crimes in society.

Limitations of the Study

The scope of this study is limited to library materials especially relating to researches that have already been done, particularly in the United States. Similarly, the study is limited to the available time, because still more research can be done in order to verify the already set theories relating to juvenile delinquency. The study is also limited to the fact that the various studies that have been conducted on groups could not ultimately be take to be absolute in expressing views relating to juvenile delinquency.

Conceptual Framework

As a conceptual framework, this research postulates that a delinquent youth, when assisted in various ways (solution to family problems, school problems, educated on issues of gang membership, or assisted in cases of maltreatment), is likely to be a reformed person even at later stages in life. In addition, the contrary is possible.

Chapter II: Pathways to Juvenile Delinquency

Using the pathways model, juvenile delinquency begins with instances of minor aggression such as bullying or argumentations, and then proceeds to cases of fighting, coupled with gang situations, before graduating into higher violent behaviors, like rape and robbery (Loeber and Hay, 1997). In other words, delinquency tends to exhibit an orderly process of development. In addition to this, Loeber and Hay realized that delinquency pathways seemed to follow three pathways; that is, the "Authority Conflict Pathway" that is explained to have an onset in stubbornness as a child approaches twelve years, and then proceeds to defiance, and eventually avoidance of authority (Loeber and Hay, 1997). The second stage involves the "Covert Pathway" whose onset is covertness before 15 years, and eventually advances to the damage to property before entering into serious forms of delinquency (Loeber and Hay, 1997). The final stage is "Overt Pathway, whose onset takes place with instances of minor aggression before advancing to physical fighting, and extreme violence; this pathway does not have any minimum age ((Loeber and Hay, 1997).

Chapter III: Literature Review

Pathway Model of Delinquency

Researches were conducted on African American as well as white boys within the region of Pittsburgh comprising of three age samples (Loeber et al., 1993). Similarly, results obtained on samples comprising of African and Hispanic adolescent youths of Chicago as well as in a US representative sample of adolescents indicated that the pathways to delinquency exhibits a three state approach (Tolan, Gorman, Smith, and Loeber, 2000).

Therefore, as boys advanced in age, they developed into two or three pathways, thus showing that behavior problems worsened over time (Kelley et al., 1997; Loeber et al., 1993; Loeber, Keenan, and Zhang, 1997). Thus, as the pathway model explicates, one should not ignore earlier signs of disruptive behavior as they normally lead to attitude behavior (Kelley et al., 1997). Thus, using the pathway model, one could easily cite youths who stand a risk of developing into delinquents, hence enabling for earlier interventions to the problem.

Problem Overlap behaviors

This analysis tries to focus on youth behavior from the perspective of multiplicity of problems overlapping to push youths towards more advanced levels of delinquency. In other word, it postulates that youths engaged in grave offenses are at the same time were found to be experiencing problems in other areas as too. It thus tries to inquire on whether there exists a relationship between delinquency and mental health issues or school issues; also, it tries to seek whether those who seem to be experiencing mental problems or school problems are likely to be delinquents. According to further studies, and in line with the aforementioned inquiries, delinquency involvement or involvement in other forms of behavior could either be transitory or intermittent (Huizinga and Jokob-Chien, 1998; Huizinga, Loeber, and Thonberry, 1993). Consequently, it should be asserted that offenders admitted to juvenile systems tend to have undergone mental health or school related problems. Thus, it is very vital that one identifies various problems that offenders experience in order to successfully come up with means of promoting the justice system of the juveniles.

Chapter IV: Discussions and Analysis

It is very rational to attribute many situations of adult criminals to early cases of delinquency, with common cases starting with theft in children, while at a later youthful stage adolescents tend to be engaged in cases of rape and serious offenses of property crimes. Thus, an analysis of the causes as well as correlates studies is necessary to enter into the realm of understanding on the major contributing factors in the admittance to delinquent behaviors. However, in overall, the contribution of the manner in which the child's family functions, play significant role in admittance to delinquency. Other factors include the behavior of peers, the child performance at school, as well as the characteristics that exist in the neighborhood.

Children who undergo maltreatment, such as physical abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse, before turning into adults, are more inclined towards delinquency (Widom, 1989). However, children could be maltreated during childhood, while others could be maltreated during adolescence. Unfortunately, most studies conducted never took into consideration the class of youths being maltreated (children or adolescents). This therefore, led to problems in trying to explain the adolescent maltreatment, because some youths could be maltreated during childhood alone, while some are victimized during adolescence as well as during childhood stages. Therefore, this yields a serious problem in the development of proper explanation as per the role played by childhood maltreatment in explaining juvenile delinquency.

However, in the case gang influence on adolescents, the results of the Rochester project on Denver Youth Survey seem sufficient to explain this issue. According to the results, 30 percent of those investigated were discovered to have joined gangs at an age range of four years that is between 14 years and 18 years (Thornberry et al., 2003). In addition, gang membership virtually comprised of 32% for boys, and 29% for girls (Thornberry et al., 2003). Although gangs seemed to flee these groups, either after one year or after four years, gang membership was actually found to play a significant role in the lives of the youths.

Nevertheless, a question arises as to the relationship that exists between gang membership and delinquencies. In line with this question, it could be argued that youths who join gang groups, do so out of their inherent character of troublesome, no matter the fact that they joined the gang or not. Alternatively, it could be argued that gang groups comprise of youths who possess similar characters, and that, their involvement in these gangs pushes then into delinquency. Accordingly, therefore, the rate of delinquency increases with the rate at which youths engage in gang groups (Thornberry et al., 2003).

The main objective of this research involves inquiring into the preventive intervention mechanisms, towards juvenile delinquency. Furthermore, research on the influence of gangs seems to have indicated the high role gang membership plays in admittance into delinquency. Therefore, in the process developing an efficient preventive and intervention program is vital in relation to the instances of gang membership. This does not however imply that delinquent behavior is mostly committed while in groups, because it has been further argued that members from gang groups could also be engaged in offences even when they are alone (Huizinga, 1996).

Responding to juvenile delinquency is vital in order to reduce the number of cases of juveniles being involved in offences. However, in line with the Causes and Correlate studies, various strategies of curbing juvenile delinquency have been suggested. They include arrest, and the use of juvenile system services. For instance in line with studies conducted in relation to arrest, by the Denver group, it was discovered that it had no major impact on the subsequent behavior pattern, and in fact, it did actually aggravate matters in many instances, as it led to adult detention in later stages of life ( Klein, 1986: Sherman et at., 1997: Huizinga 2000). However, it is important that minor restrictive sanctioning, done within the safety of the public, coupled with close monitoring as well as support, could lead to reduced cases of delinquency.

The most effective method of preventing juvenile delinquency is the use of utilization services, in which case, some agencies of service-providers can dramatically lead to a decline in the rates of delinquency both in families and in delinquency centers. Examples of these agencies include, juvenile justice system, schools, as well as in social centers. These centers could lead to a great and dramatic improvement in the behavior of juveniles especially owing to the fact that they promote behavior patterns, which are socially and morally acceptable. However, most parents tend to seek professional help in juvenile justice systems mostly when the delinquency is serious. In addition, in cases where parents sought help from professionals, research indicated that half of them were successful, and a quarter of them were helped from mental health institutions (Stouthamer-Loever, Loeber, and Thomas, 1992).

Chapter V: Conclusions and Recommendations

This research has centered greatly on the concept of juvenile delinquency with special attention being focused on both the pathways as well the preventive interventions towards juvenile delinquency. The research has put to use various researches that were developed by different groups and thus summarized the results in an attempt to provide an operational overview of the role key factors play in influencing delinquent behavior. Therefore, after going through the various pathways, it is important to note that developmental pathways knowledge is very crucial in designing proper interventions because it enables professionals to associate behavior within context. In addition, by understanding the patterns of delinquent behavior and their pathways, one is able to come up with mechanisms that assist in the elimination of future trends of offences. However, according to Garbarino (1989), there are few treatment programs for victims of adolescent nature, in addition to the problems that exists in trying to enroll adolescent victims in juvenile delinquency systems. Hence there is need for more focus on adolescents and maltreatment cases in view of coming up with a proper method of reducing delinquency in society. However, the role of gang membership should be taken serious because gang groups have been found to contribute a lot towards the number of delinquent children, especially in the American society.