Juvenile Delinquents Are Becoming A Large Criminology Essay

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Juvenile Delinquents are becoming a large concern in the United States today. Today, the year 2013, the United States as a whole are neglecting the kids of the future, the juveniles. Since the economy is upside down many parents are forced to work two even three jobs. Even schools and their extracurricular activities are taking funding cuts. Also many parents can't afford child care or any after school programs. Never the less, divorce rates are also at rise; and if they are a single parent with a less popular career job they really have to be compelled to make ends meet. There are young adults who are at home by their selves, with no one to watch after them or no one to check and see what activities they are undertaking and if they are negative or positive activities. With all this going on is there really time to have family bonding? Is there time to really be concerned about a child being a delinquent?

I know the difference a family setting can make. I lived in a "complete family" for 8 years of my life. A complete family is what the world sees as both a mother and father with a number of children all living together. However, in the last twelve years I now know the difference of a complete family and a broken home. My mother is now a single parent and she works two jobs trying to make ends meet for my younger sibling. When my mother was at work we got into all types of trouble. We stole bikes, we got into fights, we ran from police and my mother rarely found out about any of those negative activities we were in. It wasn't because we wanted to commit delinquent acts, it was because we didn't have anything else to do. When my siblings and I did live in a complete family setting, we didn't have time to be involved in any delinquent acts because someone was home all the time and we didn't want to get into any trouble. When the economy was better and budgets weren't being cut, we were in all types of afterschool programs and even programs on the weekend. Therefore, we had a full schedule, we didn't have time to play around in the streets and be involved in delinquency also.

According to an article titled, "The Effect of After-School Programs (ASPs) on Routine Activities and Unstructured Socializing," by Amanda Cross (2007) ASPs may alter criminal opportunities by influencing adolescents' routine activities, especially the amount of time they spend socializing with peers away from adult guardians. Research has established a clear link between the amount of time youths spend socializing without direct adult supervision and increased delinquency (Osgood & Anderson, 2004). During periods of unstructured socializing, lack of adult supervision prevents informal social control of adolescents while presence of peers provides an audience for whom delinquents "perform". Preventing unstructured socializing among teens is the stated goal of many advocates for increased availability of ASPs. Responding to a rash of robberies committed by teens a deputy police chief in Fairfax, Virginia stated, "We've got a lot of unsupervised youths… and not enough after-school activities. Where do they go? They hit the street [and] get into trouble." (Washington Post, January 11, 2007). Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton said of ASPs, "An after-school program is an extremely powerful anticrime weapon. California and the federal government must commit the resources to keep teens off the streets during the crucial after-school hours. It's a matter of public safety" (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2004). Former Secretary of Education Rod Paige said, "While we know that there are some good after-school programs, we also know that there are not enough of them. Every kid that needs one does not have one. We need more and we need better" (U.S. Department of Education, 2003).

Past Research

Number of juvenile convictions seems to keep occurring more and more each day. There are five theories that I believe may propose the rise of juvenile delinquency. Many researchers believe that labeling theory, anomie theory, strain theory and routine activity theory may directly relate to the number of juvenile convictions and delinquency as a whole.

Labeling Theory

What is labeling theory? According to the authors labeling theory is the basic assumption is "perceived negative societal reactions lead to the development of negative self-conceptions and greater delinquent involvement," (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, and Ray, 2003, p. 171). In the labeling theory the theorists have "stressed the importance of both formal and informal labeling," (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, and Ray, 2003, p. 171). As stated in this article, the difference between formal and informal is as followed: "formal labels are those obtained through contact with social control agencies, whereas informal labels are generated by parents, teachers, and peers," (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, and Ray, 2003, p. 171). Which group is more effective formal or informal? The authors stated that the social control agencies are believed to "stigmatize" juveniles.

According to the article titled "Labeling and delinquency," by Mike S. Adams, Craig T. Robertson, Phyllis Gray-Ray and Melvin C. Ray (2003), they believe that labeling juveniles can lead to delinquency; which will eventually make the number of juvenile convictions rise. The authors believe that juveniles and people in general become "stabilized in criminal roles when they are labeled as criminals," (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, and Ray, 2003, p. 174). When people constantly here that they are a delinquent then they start to play the part. The article goes on to explain Lemert (1951) basis of this theory. There are "three groups of significant others included in the models were parents, teachers, and peers. Teachers and peer labeling were the only significant predictors of general and serious delinquency," (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, and Ray, 2003, p. 182). It is safe to say that delinquents seem to react negatively to what their teachers and peers tell them. "Parents, as opposed to teachers and peers, are more inclined to react inclusively instead of exclusively to primary deviance," (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray, and Ray, 2003, p. 182). The labeling theory is not the only theory based on juvenile convictions. Based on the Cambridge Study this data set goes further than just the labeling theory.

Anomie Theory

The anomie theory was originated though Merton, Rosenfeld and Messner. The anomie theory is typically known as the "American dream strain." This theory however also relates to juveniles as well. When someone cannot obtain their American dream the correct way they then turn to a delinquent and deviant lifestyle. According to the text book, Criminological Theories: Introduction, evaluation, and Application, by Akers and Sellers (2009); they explained the anomie theory as particularly focuses on economic, political, family, and educational institutions (p. 195). From this we can assume that many delinquents become delinquents based on the failure of the American dream from both their family and them. This can be caused by educational failure. Looking at the article titled, "Social Structure and Anomia in a small city," the authors stated that the anomie theory can reflect on delinquency in the school setting (Mizruchi, 1960).

Strain/ General Strain Theory

The definition to the strain theory is simple. According to Agnew and White (1992), they explained strain theory as "when individuals cannot obtain success goals, they experience strain or pressure" (p. 476). Under certain conditions, they are likely to respond to strain through criminal behavior, (Agnew and White, 1992). "Adolescents are pressured into delinquency by the negative affective states-most notably anger and related emotions-that result from these negative relationships" (Agnew and White, 1992, p. 476).

Strain theory is directly related to delinquency and can be explained as followed: "adolescents learn delinquent values from others, receive reinforcement from delinquency, and are exposed to delinquent models" (Agnew and White, 1992, p.476). Adolescents come from delinquency in a fundamental way; this theory focuses on negative relationships and to argue that adolescents are pressured into delinquency too (Agnew and White, 1992). Lastly, "according to Agnew, strain is the most likely to lead to delinquency when (1) the constraints to nondelinquent coping are high and the constraints to delinquent coping are low and (2) the adolescent has a disposition from delinquent coping" (Agnew and White, 1992, p. 477). "A wide range of variables affect the constraints to coping and the disposition to delinquency, including the adolescent's temperament, problem-solving skills, self-efficacy, self-esteem, level of conventional social support, attributions regarding the cause of strain with delinquent peers," (Agnew and White, 1992, p.477)

Environmental Routine Activity Theory

Guardians play a large role in the theory of environmental routine activity. "The absence of a formal or informal guardian who could help deter potential offenders" (Akers and Sellers, 2009, p. 35). Encounters happen in a situation where there are no effective guardianship are present. The article titled, "Unstructured socializing and rates of delinquency" by Osgood and Anderson (2004) believe that "although it is individual adolescents who engage in delinquent behavior, delinquency is not strictly an individual-level phenomenon" (p. 519). Osgood and Anderson (2004) stated that "s neighborhood might be plagued by delinquency because a high proportion of its youth have risk-prone personalities (p. 520). The example used in the article was as followed: "for instance, a neighborhood's high rate of delinquency could stem from a shared norm encouraging it, such as if residents generally agreed that fighting and stealing are good ways for adolescent males to prove their manhood" (Osgood and Anderson, 2004, p. 520). All in all, "they found that controlling for peer delinquency did not reduce the relationship of unstructured socializing with delinquency, and the strength of the relationship did not depend on having delinquent peers. Indeed delinquency was as strongly related to unstructured socializing as it was to peer delinquency" (Osgood and Anderson, 2004, p. 521). Routine activity theory relates to the environment of the juvenile as opposed to just the characteristic of the juvenile.

Social Bond Theory

Travis Hirschi's conceptualized control theory suggests that social bonds serve as the primary inhibitors to delinquency and that personality-based self-control (PBSC) is not relevant. He also indicates that the number of inhibitors, multiplied by their salience, influences the perceived costs of delinquency. (Intavia, Jones and Piquero, 2004, p.1182). Official and self-report studies over a long period of years show that involvement in delinquent behavior tends to be a companionate activity. In theoretical writing for the last fifty years the influence of companions has been seen as an important source of delinquency involvement. A crucial aspect of the influence peers are thought to exert is the nature and quality of the bond between the young person and his associates. The prevailing view has held that the more closely the young person is tied to delinquent associates the more likely it is that he will be involved in delinquent behavior. Recent research has brought this view into question. Current delinquency theories also disagree as to why ties to peers should be either weak or strong. Cultural and subcultural delinquency theories suggest that weakened or non-existent ties to conventional adults (e.g. parents, teachers) lead to greater reliance on, and strengthening of bonds to, peers. (Chapman, 1986, p. 479).

A study by conducted by Johnson, Jang, Larson, and Li (2001) examined the social bond theory. Four variables from the bonding theory were included attachment to family, beliefs, attachment, and commitment to school. Another variable included was peer association with delinquency. This variable is considered to be under the social learning theory. According to the authors, "The effects of religiosity on delinquency are found independent of the theoretical and statistical controls while being partly mediated by nonreligious variables of a social control and socialization. They also find some evidence of bidirectional causal relationships between religiosity and other predictors of delinquency." (Johnson, Jang, Larson, & Li, 2001, p. 22). For this study the authors used second-hand data from the National Youth survey. Therefore, this makes it so that the study is limited; it was unable to determine why religiosity has a deterring effect. The authors are not sure on whether it is because of shame or if it strengthens their moral values (Johnson, Jang, Larson, & Li, 2001).


The youth is so important because the youth is our future and if we all let them be sucked into delinquency who do we have to depend on. We have to provide and equal opportunity for the youth to survive. While being at my internship I've seen a lot of youth kids being out in the street roaming not going to school or they are living in single parent home where their own mother can't control them. Most kids are now growing up having a juvenile rcord they have that street life embedded in their head and they don't know anything but that.

Work Cited

Akers, R, & Sellers, C (2004). Criminological Theories.Los Angeles: Roxbury

Publishing Company.

Chapman-William-Robert. (1986). Delinquency Theory & Attachment to Peers.

Cross, A. (2007). The Effect of After-School Programs on Routine Activities and Unstructured Socializing. Conference Papers -- American Society Of Criminology, 1.

Intravia, J., Jones, S., & Piquero, A. R. (2012). The Roles of Social Bonds, Personality, and Perceived Costs: An Empirical Investigation Into Hirschi's "New" Control Theory. International Journal Of Offender Therapy & Comparative Criminology, 56(8), 1182-1200. doi:10.1177/0306624X11422998

Wallace, L. H., Moak, S. C., & Moore, N. T., (2005) Religion as an Insulator of

Delinquency in Schools. American Journal Of Criminal Justice, 29(2), 217-233.

Johnson, B. R., Jang, S. J., Larson, D. B., & Li, S. D., (2001). Does Adolescent Religious

commitment matter? A reexamination of the effects of religiosity on Delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38(22). Retrieved April 2, 2009, from http://jrc.sagepub.com.