Physiological Theories The Area Of Adolescent Development Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

"Adolescences is not simply a continuation of childhood, it marks the real transition from dependence of childhood to the independence of adulthood" (Carlson 2004 216). Peter is at a later stage of his adolescent development and will have already completed a lot of the physical changes associated with puberty. Harris and Butterworth discuss how adolescence is marked by new forms of thinking especially in terms of wisdom, moral and ethical ideals. They also describe adolescence as a time of preoccupation arising from the consequence of systematic thinking that is now possible with their new capacity for abstract thought.

There are a number of physiological theories in the area of adolescent development including Paget's Formal operational thinking stage, Freud's Genital stage and Erikson's stage of Identity v role confusion. Erickson uses Freud's theories of development and as described by Thompson Erickson has significantly built upon them to develop the eight stages of man. Peter would be at the stage 5 of this theory Identity v role confusion. As stated by Lipsitz (no Date) when discussing Erickson adolescence have seven different stages of conflict to resolve before this stage of development is complete.

"Not until adolescence does an individual see himself as having a past and a future which are exclusively his" (Lipsitz: no date:4)

According to Freud (2001) we all have unconsciously repressed tendencies that are at odds with societies norms, for example urges towards criminality. Freud further discussed how these tendencies are controlled by our upbringing and our social norms given to us by our parents. Wrightsman (2004) confirmed these views in his findings, concluding that anti-social behaviour and criminality are more likely to develop in children and young adults who are poorly socialised and of low intelligence. While it is acceptable that our parents and upbringing play a huge role in outcomes for young adults such as Peter it is also important to consider environmental factors. Stern (2005) discusses the external social environment factors including where a young person grows up and the influences of this area including peers and education being as significant as the influence of parenting.

One of the obvious manifestations of the adolescent stage is the importance they place on their peer group as they clearly align themselves with friends and invest in relationships. The importance of peer group to young adults has been accepted in much literature related to behavioural and physiological influences. Wrightman 1994 & Stets 2005 discuss how young people gravitate towards being accepted into a group of likeminded peers and therefore the behaviour of an individual will be driven by the dominant group members.

Youth crime and anti social behaviour have been widely publicised and described on occasion as a new phenomenon, as described by Cunningham 2008 threats to society by a new generation of anti-social, disaffected young people. There is no doubt this is a real fear and many young people are caught up in this behaviour for the reasons outlined in this essay, it is however arguable that this is not a new phenomenon nor is it worse than in previous years. Muncie 1999 argues that these fears are over stated and that the reporting of issues and media influences are making the crime seem on the increase.

Peter has been caught shoplifting which would be classed as petty crime there is no indication from the case study that there are any previous offences so we will assume this is the first. Peter is 16 and the main aim of the criminal justice system in this case would be to avoid custody and depending on the severity of the theft a consequence may be decided upon without a court appearance.

In Northern Ireland we saw the introduction of the Youth Justice Agency in 2002 with new and innovative ways of dealing with young offenders aged 10 - 18. One of which is the Youth Conference. Using a restorative justice model it gives the young person the opportunity to make recompense for the crime they have committed. Examples include meeting the victim and talking about the impact the crime has had on them or the young person may be given the opportunity to participate in a local community initiative as discussed later in this essay.

Cunningham when discussing petty crime in the context of moral underclass discourse, he explores the possibility that the cause of youth offending could be as a result of 'liberal' criminal justice policies which he describes as

"having removed the threat of deterrence and effectively absolved young criminals of responsibility for their actions" (Cunningham:1799:2008)

When considering Peter, it is clear these external influences are overriding the wishes of his mother and the way in which she wants him to behave. Peter no longer responds to his mother and is responding to environmental factors and norms that are laid down by his peer's i.e. anti-social behaviour.


The physical and economic conditions that exist within the local community are an example of sociological factors pertaining to Peters well-being. For example it is well known there is a tendency for housing conditions to be less adequate than private housing especially within a tower block complex. Housing estates are built and often owned by the authorities they often consist of people on lower incomes who cannot afford to live in more affluent places of higher rent. Particularly in relation to tower blocks historically lack of attention to issues such as maintenance and overcrowding has led to current decline in adequate living conditions. As stated in Housing Association 2005 until recently, the levels of capital investment in these estates has been much lower than in affluent areas of local communities.

Living in these conditions for Peter will have a significant physiological impact upon him and in terms of his physical environment is likely to invoke a lower level of respect from him and other young people in the area leading to a raise in anti-social behaviour. Turner (2006) discusses young adults having lack of respect is driven by the negative emotions they feel about the conditions that they are living in and their lack of value they believe they are in society. These groups form and as we have seen in the media youth gang culture becomes apparent. As outlined in reports produced by Home Office (2010) and ENCAMS (2007) within local communities groups such as these raise concerns about gang culture and increasing anti-social behaviour. Peter is certainly displaying behaviour that at his age needs an intervention to break the cycle of his behaviours such as truanting from school and recent criminal activity.

Local community initiatives have been set up within disadvantaged communities with the aim of restoring community pride. The government ring fenced money which was then allocated out to communities through different accountable bodies. The Upper Shankill Area Project in Belfast was granted this money through the Peace and Reconciliation Fund 2006 and as outlined in their annual report 2006 they usedthe money for a community project to restore young people's pride in the community. Young people similar to Peter were targeted graffiti was removed by the young people and seating designed and created by them erected giving the young people pride and ownership of their community. This particular project was a great success and was developed into projects including young people and elderly people. However, over the year's community funding such as peace and reconciliation money has taken heavy cuts and with the government's current budget plans young people's projects such as this will be further cut, despite the evidence to suggest these projects are preventative in terms of youth offending and reducing anti-social behaviour.

When studying this area is seems that a good way to break the cycle for peter would be through education. Education in Great Britain is compulsory until the completion of G.C.S.E exams, however research would show us that young people with peters background do not attain well within our education system. Cussen and Kingdon 2007 outline in their report the correlation between free school meals and the strong association with low education achievement which is significantly true of white males. Also outlined in the report is strong links between young people from areas of high unemployment and lone parent families and their tendency for low educational achievement, all of such factors apply to Peter.

"Adolescence do not fit neatly into these institutions, as we learn so painfully every day" (Lipsitz: no date: 7)

Peter has been truanting from school and is disengaging with education. The threshold for Education Welfare Services to become involved is once a young person's attendance drops below 70 %. Make the Most of Education (BELB) states Education Welfare services aim to provide a way to reengage young people in education firstly through supporting them with issues leading to non-school attendance and as a last resort they also hold powers of prosecution both for parents and young people. However Peter, because of his age is very likely not to receive this service at this stage, although Peter is not the legal age for leaving school he is in his final year and is likely to be let go until he is the legal age for leaving. This decision like so many others in relation to social policy will be resource lead instead of needs lead and the financial implications of trying to reengage Peter at this stage will override that of what he needs.

On reflection and as outlined in this essay Peter's current position does not go well for a bright future. It would appear Peter is at a crossroads with choices to make about his life. There has been no mention of services in Peters life and the reality Is considering the presenting information and due to resources of agencies being very little Peter would probably not be classed as a child in need. A crime however has been committed and this will insure the services of the criminal justice system who as outlined have had positive results from preventing further youth offending.