The Causes of Juvenile Delinquency in the United States
In the United States there are about 75 million juveniles and 1 out 9 of them are at risk of becoming delinquents. A juvenile is a young person that is, in the eyes of the law, someone who is under the legal adult age, which is 18 in most states but they go on to vary from state to state. When a juvenile becomes a delinquent or does delinquent activities, they have a tendency to commit crimes even though most of them are minor, they can get up to a point where the crime becomes major.
Out of the 75 million juveniles, around 2.1 million of them are arrested during a single year in the United States. In 2016, law enforcement agencies in the United States made more than 856,000 arrests of persons younger than 18. 43% of delinquency cases in 2014 involved white youth, 36% involved black youth, 18% involved Hispanic youth, 2% involved American Indian youth and 1% involved Asian youth (Charles 2018). Urban areas have the highest juvenile violence rates while rural areas have the lowest. While all neighborhoods and communities are not excluded from delinquent activities, it is believed to happen more in areas that make children feel they need to commit a crime in order to prosper.
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More than a quarter of delinquency caseloads involved females. Juvenile courts handled 269,000 cases involving females and 705,100 involving males. In 2017, a study showed that female juveniles were given more lenient sentences than males depending on the complexity of the crime. Males are shown to become delinquent due to to lack of protection and guidance. The type of crime can also vary, as well as the consequences for it. The most common of crimes amongst adolescents are theft, vandalism, alcohol offenses, disorderly conduct, and assault. Latest research shows that “In 2016, there were an estimated 134,180 juvenile arrests for larceny-theft. About 4 in 10 (41%) of these arrests involved females, more than a quarter (27%) involved youth younger than 15, and 60% involved white youth” (Charles 2018). Most violent crimes committed by juveniles were most likely to occur in the hours immediately following the close of school on school days because after school youth tend to hang out with their friends, where they are most likely to get in trouble or commit crimes. Urban areas have the highest juvenile violence rates while rural areas have the lowest. Addressing many of these issues at an early age, adults could be able to put a decline in the amount of delinquent activities amongst youth.
The major causes of juvenile delinquency in the United States are peer pressure, dysfunctional families and poor school attendance. The first cause of juvenile delinquency is peer pressure. Peer pressure results in an influence from someone’s group of friends in a negative or positive way. The wrong kind of peer pressure can result in a child becoming a delinquent first hand and committing criminal acts. The pressure that most youth face can impact them in their adult lives and play a role on whether or not they will grow up and still live a life of crime. “Adolescents expand their peer relationships to occupy a central role in their lives, often replacing their parents and family as their main source of advice, socializing, and entertainment activities” (Health and Peer pressure).
Peer pressure has a greater impact on youth than adults because of the fact that youth spend more time in schools, classrooms and social settings where they are exposed to other children around the same ages as them, where they can start spending more time with friends and less time with family, where they are not constantly being told what to do and how to act. 1 out of every 5 teenagers experience some form of peer pressure, whether it’s positive or negative but the amount of peer pressure that has negative effects have risen 45% since 2011.
Youth are products of their environments and act how they were shown to act. If they grow up in areas that are known for violence and gangs, then they are more prone to feed in to peer pressure. Most of the time they often feed into peer pressure because of the fact that they want to fit in it or be liked and worry about children making fun of them or thinking they are not cool just because they do not want to feed into it but that varies from child to child. In the article, the author states, “Some kids give into peer pressure because they want to be liked, to fit in, or because they worry that other kids may make fun of them if they do not go along with the group. Others may go along because they are curious to try something new that others are doing. The idea that ‘everyone is doing it’ may influence some kids to ignore their better judgment or their common sense.”
Children often group themselves based on the interests they have in common with each other and one of them can introduce new concepts to the others because of a “everyone is doing it so lets do it too” kind of attitude. Latest research shows “surely students’ learning experiences are greatly influenced by their teachers and classmates”. Being around other peers can also impact the kind of person a teen becomes in their adult life. Peer pressure happens within students of all races, backgrounds and religions in any area of the United States. Youth can be pressured into smoking, drinking, sexual activity and theft. When peer pressure gets to a point where delinquent activities become a constant behavior. Existing research suggests that the extent of peer effect is usually stronger among students of same gender and racial background. Similarly, in schools where classroom assignment is based on students’ academic achievement, we would expect that peer effects will be stronger among students with similar academic levels. (Peer effects and juvenile delinquency).
A second cause of juvenile delinquency is having or coming from a dysfunctional family. The type of family you grow into can have many positive and negative effects on how you act and behave as you get older. Children growing up in dysfunctional families often lack the basic structures of love, communication and support they need. Having poor communication skills can lead to isolation and this stops a child from being able to communicate properly and display emotions. It is important for a child to have a reliable adult in their lives. Having a strong bond with an adult can help influence a child’s mind and actions that is going to help guide them through what is wrong and right. Displaying emotions and communication is an important part of child development because not being able to express your feelings can lead to having an aggressive temper. In the article “The Effects of Growing Up in A Dysfunctional Family,” Martin writes, “In dysfunctional families.
Adults tend to be so preoccupied with their own problems and pain that they dont give their children what they need and crave – constituency, safety, unconditional love. As a result, children feel highly stressed, anxious and unloved” (Martin and Lcsw). A dysfunctional family can be displayed in more ways than one, and most of the time it’s not realized as some parents try and convince themselves that their the best family or that they do not want to admit that their family lacks coherence. Dysfunality can consist of parents who drink or do drugs, controlling parents, parents that work a lot and don’t make enough time for their children, and abusive parents. Children of alcoholic parents are much more likely to become alcoholics than children of non-alcoholics.
The reasons behind dysfunctional families varies between a few different factors. Those beings, finances, a history of dysfunality in the family or religious belief systems. When a family begins to experience low finances, everyone begins to become anxious and disorganized, which leaves gaps for a family to begin to shift in structure and lose their coherence. Families in more urban areas where the poverty levels are higher have children that are twice as likely to show delinquent behavior as a way to subsist with the situation. Families that have a history of being dysfunctional are likely to pass that down in their way of teaching to their children. Since children and young adults pick up on behaviors and practices around them, they give back what they receive.
A child who doesn’t feel loved or appreciated in their families won’t know how to or might have a difficult time loving and caring for someone else. In a family that has strong religious beliefs can tend to be stricter on their children and leaves no room for them to question and develop an understanding for why their parents are being strict first of all, which leads to dysfunality.
Youth that come from violent homes and backgrounds are more likely to take that violence and run with it. They develop a “do not care” kind of attitude which can also lead them to get in trouble more easily. Often you can tell how aggressive a child will be around the ages they attend kindergarten and preschool. In the article “Juvenile Delinquency- family Structure it states, “Single parents often find it hard to get assistance. If they must work to support themselves and their families, they are likely to have difficulty providing supervision for their children. Poor supervision, like alcoholism and criminality, seems to generate delinquency”. Some childhoods are more difficult than others, and families tend to contribute to it. Due to juveniles lacking appropriate parental controls and attention, children will try and find it elsewhere, which could mean getting into trouble and acting out just to get a reaction out of someone.
The third cause of juvenile delinquency in the United States is poor school attendance. Going to school is an important part of childhood years. Missing a significant amount of school can impact a child’s performance and ultimately set them up to fall behind. Missing school has been linked to delinquent activity as well as having a negative impact on them in their adult lives because of their lack of structure and support. Research shows that “kids who are allowed to miss school when they’re young are more likely to skip school when they’re older. And that can lead to other consequences”. Students who struggle academically might miss school because of the pressure of not being able to grasp the criteria. Each day a child misses school in a row, it leaves room for them to fall behind and not be able to catch up, especially if they were already struggling. Students missing lots of school days have a higher chance of performing unsatisfactorily as the years progress.
Students have different reasons for missing school, whether they are excused or not. A few of those reasons being a lack of transportation, being bullied, unsafe conditions, poor health and lack of aid, having to look after younger siblings, housing, whether or not you are a English-Language Learner and whether or not a student had a disability or not. Garcia and Weiss states, “Hispanic ELLs (English language learners) and Native American students were the most likely to miss three or more days of school (24.1 and 24.0 percent, respectively, missed more than three days of school), followed by black students (23.0 percent) and Hispanic non-ELL and white students (19.1 and 18.3 percent, respectively). Only 8.8 percent of Asian non-ELL students missed more than three days of school” (Garcia & Weiss 2018).
Missing school during the day has been linked to more daytime robberies and vandalism. Children who feel like their parents don’t show enough interest in their child’s education were likely to not care too much for it either. Children who are not influenced to get up every morning and prepare themselves for school everyday can establish multiple bad habits, which is why it is a good idea to install a morning routine into your child that would help them practice good habits. The type of school a child attends also plays a role in whether or not they will commit delinquent acts. If children are in a school setting where everyone is doing what they want, a child might feel like they don’t have to listen either. Jacob and Lovett states, “For younger students, research has shown that chronic absenteeism in kindergarten is associated with lower achievement in reading and math in later grades, even when controlling for a child’s family income, race, disability status, attitudes toward school, socioemotional development, age at kindergarten entry, type of kindergarten program, and preschool experience” (Jacob and Lovett, 2017).
Schools that do not get the proper funding are more likely to lack order, guidance and discipline. Having an active adult in the lives of children during school times can motivate them into working hard as they are likely to be congratulated and feel like what they are doing is a good thing. Latest research shows, “When students are absent for fewer days, their grades and reading skills often improve—even among those students who are struggling in school. Students who attend school regularly also feel more connected to their community, develop important social skills and friendships, and are significantly more likely to graduate from high school, setting them up for a strong future” (Absences Add Up, 2019).
In conclusion, Juvenile delinquency in the United States is greatly impacted by their surroundings and the type of people they have in their lives. Peer pressure, dysfunctional families and not having the appropriate educational background can lead to people living lives of crime. Making sure a child feels loved, appreciated and supported is very important because it might not affect them today or tomorrow but soon enough it will. The rising rates as well as the reason behind juvenile delinquency is because of the lack of parental guidance and kids pick up on the actions that are being displayed by their parents, communities and peers. Juvenile delinquency is a widespread issue, while they vary from case to case because every child is different, every household is different and every child’s guidance or role model is different.
Peer pressure influences children to think about making choices for themselves and whether or not those choices are going to benefit them or destroy them. The likelihood of a juvenile giving into pressure increases with the amount of pressure that is being displayed. Families and delinquency go hand and hand and when there is a lack in structure or family connection, there’s going to be a lack in structure for a child which leaves room for them to act out and misbehave. Missing school has important impacts on a child’s way of living. It teaches them skills that will be useful later on in life as well as making sure they are prepared for a more beneficial life.