Looking At The Factors Of Juvenile Delinquents Criminology Essay

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According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2007 2.18 million of the arrests made in the United States were of minors, individuals under the age of 18. This number was only 2% less than the previous year. This information is based on the annual Crime in the United States that is compiled of crimes known to officers and the arrests that were made during that calendar year. Some of the arrests and crimes included murder, forcible rape, robbery aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, simple assault, weapons law violations, and drug abuse violations. The top five arrests for juveniles in 2007 were arson, vandalism, disorderly conduct, robbery, burglary, and theft.

"Juveniles accounted for 16% of all violent crime arrests and 26% of all property crime arrests in 2007…In 2007, 11% (1,810) of all murder victims were under age 18…The juvenile murder arrest rate in 2007 was 4.1 arrests per 100,000 juveniles ages 10 through 17"(U.S. Department of Justice). Between 1994 and 2007, the juvenile arrest rate decreased by nearly 50%. With the increase number in juvenile arrests in 2007, it is believed that the United States is on the brink of a juvenile crime wave.

Society can cause social changes, which can create anxiety and disappointment for teenagers. As a result, they start to begin to express deviant behaviors. A person under the age of 18 years of age is considered a juvenile but once he or she commits a crime they are then considered a juvenile delinquent. Normally, juvenile offenders are tried in different courts than adults. This is mainly because juveniles are not fully developed mentally to understand the severity of the crimes that they commit. Many common juvenile crimes are acts of vandalism, theft, drug related activity, arson, and/or other anti-social behavior. In some criminal situations, juveniles could get the same punishment that an adult would receive. A crime that a juvenile could commit whereas he could face adult charges or be tried as an adult is murder.

Researchers have come to believe that the behavior patterns of juveniles are often influenced by what goes on in their environment in which they live. Many factors contribute to delinquency such as family, friends, other juveniles or peers, what is observed, and what is heard, whether it is heard in person or on the radio or television. Juvenile delinquency is not an inherent human condition, but rather is learned. Being popular, having materialistic things, new trends, peer pressure, money and many other things also contribute to juvenile delinquency. The demands of needs and wants in a certain society cause for a higher mobility, social change, and more material things.

Ballou believes that discouraged children, or children who do not feel useful or can only see little constructive opportunities, behave the way they do because instead of having the common goal of other children of being recognized and belonging, they have the mistaken goals of "(a) excessive desire for attention, (b) inappropriate need for power, (c) pursuit of revenge, and finally (d) assumption of a position of inadequacy"(Ballou, p.156). Discouraged children believe that it is better to excel at being bad than to fail at being good. Some also believe that achieving the goal of being a delinquent is better than not attempting to achieve any goal at all.

Adlerians believe that humans should be viewed holistically. They believe that humans are socially embedded with goals and these goals that they create with their own logic are centered on the themes of love, work, and friendship. These themes give people aspiration, hope, conviction, and inspiration. A person's meaning in life is created as they achieve these goals. Adlerians believe that it is the parent's responsibility to be aware of when their child is off-course and intervene when they notice that their child is working toward a mistaken goal. Some of the child-rearing principles or techniques that Adlerians use to achieve this is promoting logical consequences, encouraging, and the "democratic family." Children should be aware of the consequences of the decisions that they make or could make, they should be encouraged when doing the right thing and/or encouraged to do the right thing, and they should be allowed to express themselves and have an opinion in the choices that they make.

In most cases when a child does something bad, the finger is pointed at the parent. It is believed that we cannot always place the blame on parents when a child becomes a juvenile delinquent; at times children just want to follow the crowd. We have to look at the juvenile delinquents from a different prospective: such as their age, their sex, the type of crime they committed, and quality of single parent to child relationship.

Girls tend to be juvenile delinquents when they have lost that emotional touch with their family or someone whom close to them. Most girls are arrested for sexual offenses, running away, and gang related activities. Having to deal with parents going through divorces, the kids have to deal with the separation of the two parents. That leads to mothers working, which results in the children having raise themselves or being left long hours at daycare centers, with neighbors, or even left home alone. "Delinquency appears to be much more common among youths from homes in which parents have separated or divorced than among those from homes in which a parent has died, suggesting the parental conflict may be a key element in causing delinquency…It is parental disharmony and conflict in lieu of a stable home life that appears to be an important casual variable" (Butcher et al, p. 564).

However, in the early stages of a juvenile delinquent's life, they tend to start out with small isolated traits, such as lying or petty theft. They have "apparent indifference to the feelings, expectations or pain of others, defiance of parents, teachers and rules, continually in trouble and unresponsive to threats of punishment, persistent aggression, bullying and fighting, truancy, hurting or killing animals, early experimentation with sex and vandalism and setting fires" (Britton, 2010).

Other things that have served as casual factors in juvenile delinquency are genetic determinants, brain damage, and psychological disorders. Some research has shown that there are genetic determinants of antisocial behavior. "Genetic factors in individual differences might operate through an effect on hyperactivity and inattention, impulsivity, and physiological reactivity rather than through aggression" (Butcher et al, p. 563). Individuals who cannot control their hyperactivity and inattention, impulsivity, and physiological reactivity are bound to end up breaking the law in some way or another. In about 1% of delinquency cases, it was found that "brain pathology results in lowered inhibitory controls and a tendency toward episodes of violent behavior" (Butcher et al, p.563). Once again, someone without control is more likely to participate in violent behaviors.

The mental health of a juvenile also contributes to the likelihood of that juvenile becoming a delinquent. There are many disorders such as Conduct Disorder (CD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED); to name a few, that have symptoms of violence and/or aggression. CD is a childhood disorder that is characterized by aggressive and destructive activities. ODD is a disorder found mainly in children and adolescents. Individuals with ODD have negative, disobedient, and defiant behaviors that more severe than that of a 'normal' child. IED is a disorder that consists of impulsive acts of aggression. IED is not to be confused with planned violent attacks. Individuals diagnosed with IED experience unmotivated acts resulting from involuntary impulses.

Knowing the mental health of an individual is an extremely important. It is important to know an individual's mental health status and if they are being treated, therapeutically or medicinally. A juvenile who is diagnosed with a mental health disorder is may be more likely to act especially if they are diagnosed with a mental health disorder that has symptoms of aggression and violence.

"Although mental health screening is increasingly common in juvenile justice services, most youths with mental health problems in this system are not thoroughly assessed and provided with specialized treatment unless they display severe symptoms or have a history of past mental health treatment" (Grijalva et al, p.154), so even mental health treatment is not always available.

The punishments of committing crimes have become more severe but the willingness to help the individuals become better people have not. "For over 30 years, criminal just policy has been dominated by a 'get tough' approach to offenders. Increasing punitive measures have failed to reduce criminal recidivism and instead have led to a rapidly growing correctional system that has strained government budgets…A better option for dealing with crime is to place greater effort on the rehabilitation of offenders" (Andrews and Bonta, p. 39).

The need principle suggests that the factors associated with criminal behavior should be targeted in treatment. "The need principle is based on subset of risk factors-dynamic risk factors or criminogenic needs. Dynamic risk factors are changeable features of the offender and his or her situation that are associated with criminal behavior, such as pro-offending attitudes aspects of antisocial personality, poor problem-solving abilities, substance abuse, high levels of hostility and anger, and criminal associates. These dynamic factors are assumed to result in criminal behavior" (Ward et al, p. 183).

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory- Adolescent or MMPI-A is a measure of personality used in the psychological evaluation of juvenile delinquents. This personality inventory is used to determine the probability of recidivism, relapsing in crime or an unacceptable behavior, in offenders. Previous research has shown that the excitatory levels determined in taking the MMPI-A has been beneficial to determining whether or not a person is a delinquent or a non-delinquent. The scales used in determining the excitatory level include Psychopathic Deviate, Adolescent-Conduct Problems, and Adolescent-Cynicism which all help determine recidivism. The MMPI-A is the most common clinical assessment for adolescents and could be used as a pre testing measure for the juveniles to determine their likelihood of committing another crime and then later as a post testing measure to compare the scores to see if there was any improvement.

While there are behaviors, environments, personalities, gender qualities, parenting skills, and many other contributing factors that may determine the likelihood of a child being a juvenile delinquent, there are still some unknown reasons why juveniles may choose a life of delinquency. Even with tests to measure the likelihood of recidivism, unless all factors, such as age, gender, environment, parenting, mental health, peers, etc, are taken into account, it is nearly impossible to predetermine the likelihood of an individual being a delinquent and/or whether or not they are likely to reoffend. There is no one factor that determines if someone will be a juvenile delinquent.