Juvenile Delinquency


Remember doing something mischievous or wrong when you were
a kid and getting the label "delinquent" slapped on you ?
Did you ever wonder what it meant ? That is what my topic
for today is . . . juvenile delinquency. In this report I
will: define juvenile delinquency, give the extent of
juvenile delinquency, give some suggestions on what causes
juvenile delinquency, and what is being done in various
communities to deal with this growing problem. The legal
term juvenile delinquent was established so that young
lawbreakers could avoid the disgrace of being classified in
legal records as criminals. Juvenile delinquency laws were
designed to provide treatment, rather than punishment, for
juvenile offenders. Young delinquents usually are sent to
juvenile courts, where the main aim is to rehabilitate
offenders, rather than to punish them. But the term
juvenile delinquency itself has come to imply disgrace in
today's society. A youngster can be labeled a delinquent
for breaking any one of a number of laws, ranging from
robbery to running away from home. But an action for which
a youth may be declared a delinquent in one community may
not be against the law in another community. In some
communities, the police ignore many children who are
accused of minor delinquencies or refer them directly to
their parents. But in other communities, the police may
refer such children to a juvenile court, where they may
officially be declared delinquents. Crime statistics,
though they are often incomplete and may be misleading, do
give an indication of the extent of the delinquency
problem. The FBI reports that during the early 1980's,
about two-fifths of all arrests in the United States for
burglary and arson were of persons under the age of 18.
Juveniles also accounted for about one-third of all arrests
for larceny. During any year, about 4 % of all children
between the ages of 10 and 18 appear in a juvenile court.
The percentage of youngsters in this group who are sent to
court at least once is much higher. A third or more of
those boys living in the slum areas of large cities may
appear in a juvenile court at least once. Girls are
becoming increasingly involved in juvenile delinquency.
Today, about one of every five youngsters appearing in
juvenile court is a girl. In the early 1900's, this ratio
was about 1 girl to every 50 or 60 boys. Sociologists have
conducted a number of studies to determine how much
delinquency is not reported to the police. Most youngsters
report taking part in one or more delinquent acts, though a
majority of the offenses are minor. Experts have concluded
that youthful misbehavior is much more common than is
indicated by arrest records and juvenile court statistics.
Many studies have been made in an effort to determine the
causes of delinquency. Most of these have focused on family
relationships or on neighborhood or community conditions.
The results of these investigations have shown that it is
doubtful that any child becomes a delinquent for any single
reason. Family Relationships, especially those between
parents and individual children, have been the focus of
several delinquency studies. An early study comparing
delinquent and nondelinquent brothers showed that over 90 %
of the delinquents had unhappy home lives and felt
discontented with their life circumstances. Only 13 % of
their brothers felt this way. Whatever the nature of the
delinquents' unhappiness, delinquency appeared to them to
be a solution. It brought attention to youths neglected by
their parents, or approval by delinquent friends, or it
solved problems of an unhappy home life in other ways. More
recent studies have revealed that many delinquents had
parents with whom they did not get along or who were
inconsistent in their patterns of discipline and
punishment. Neighborhood conditions have been stressed in
studies by sociologists. Many of these inquiries
concentrate on differing rates of delinquency, rather than
on the way individuals become delinquents. A series of
studies have shown that delinquency rates are above average
in the poorest sections of cities. Such areas have many
broken homes and a high rate of alcoholism. They also have
poor schools, high unemployment, few recreational
facilities, and high crime rates. Many young people see
delinquency as their only escape from boredom, poverty, and
other problems. Social scientists have also studied the
influence of other youngsters on those who commit
delinquencies. For example, they point out that most
youngsters who engage in delinquent behavior do so with
other juveniles and often in organized gangs. Studies
indicate that the causes of delinquency also extend to a
whole society. For example, delinquency rates tend to be
high among the low-income groups in societies where most
people are well-to-do. The pain of being poor and living in
slum conditions are felt more strongly in a rich society
than in a poor one. Many efforts have been made to develop
programs of delinquency prevention. There is little
evidence, however, that any of these programs is truly
effective. Some programs provide counseling services to
youths who appear to be on the verge of becoming
delinquents. Other programs draw youngsters into clubs and
recreational centers in an effort to keep them away from
situations in which delinquency is likely to occur. In
recent years, many efforts have centered on improving the
educational and work skills of youngsters. For those
juveniles who have already become delinquents, there are
programs designed to prevent them from committing future
delinquent acts. Probation services are offered through
juvenile courts in an effort to provide guidance for
delinquent children. The more progressive institutions for
juveniles attempt to provide treatment programs for
offenders--work experiences, counseling, education, and
group therapy. However, many other institutions provide
little more than protective custody for juvenile
delinquents. In conclusion, I have defined juvenile
delinquency, explained the extent of juvenile delinquency,
gave some suggestions on what causes juvenile delinquency,
and what is being done in various communities to deal with
the problem of juvenile delinquency. 


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