A Juvenile may be defined as a young adult who has not yet become of age. Legally a juvenile refers to a young person who has not yet attained the age of majority.
A juvenile can also be said to be a minor of tender age. The issue of Juvenile justice has been discussed over the years without reaching a possible consensus. The issue of juvenile justice is always tied with yet another controversial issue of juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency refers to acts that are criminal in nature which is committed by a young person who has not attained the age of majority.
Crimes committed by the youth have been on the increase over the last century. Although researchers have come up with various explanations as to why this trend is on the rise so much of the increase in the vice has been attributed to the way and means in juveniles have been dealt with whenever they brush shoulders with the law. In simpler terms, the punishments and sentences awarded to the juveniles when they commit crimes have contributed greatly to the increase in the vice as is the situation today.
Delinquency may be denoted to mean a series or a sequence. A juvenile delinquent, therefore, is a young person who commits crimes habitually. Various theories have been put forward to attempt to explain the causes of juvenile delinquency. The rational choice theory argues that committing a crime is more of a choice or decision as opposed to being influenced by the environment.
According to this theory a criminal, whether usually will put on the balance the advantages of committing a crime and the disadvantages weigh them and then conclude which of the two carries more weight. It is however unclear even from the theory why it is always an option for any to want to engage in crime and more so why young people always resort to it. This theory is also deficient because it does not take into account the fact young people are prone to peer pressure and influence. Due to the mentioned deficiencies, this theory is therefore considered weak and inadequate.
Social disorganization theory on the other hand focuses on the environment that a young person has grown in and therefore exposed to. This theory argues that the criminal activities that young people engage in are a direct influence on the external environment. The proposers of this theory argue that the condition that characterizes the environment in which a young person is exposed contributes greatly to the young person’s engagement in crime especially if the environment has some criminal connotation. It is therefore believed according to this theory that the criminal mind is not anything that is within the control of a person but more so a direct influence and pressure from the external environment.
Strain theory which was developed by Robert Merton argues that criminal activities are a result of general frustration in the day to day life. According to Robert, there are set ways in any given society to become prosperous in life. He, therefore, argues that some people who are for some reason not able to follow that particular “path of success” end up being frustrated and resort to crime due to the frustration. He, therefore, attributes a crime to among other factors, poverty.
He further explains that these people result in crime as an attempt to attain the same level in life as everyone else in society. Merton has even attempted to break down these individuals into various categories. The first category is of those who accept that there is a set way of doing things in that particular society but unfortunately lose focus and sight and therefore end up engaging in crime. The second category is of those who though aware that there is a set way of doing things attempt to invent a new system of doing things contrary to the standard and known way of doing things. The third category is of those who do not accept that there is a set way of doing things.
The fourth category where most criminals may be placed is of those who accept that there is a set goal in every society that everyone aspires to achieve but do not conform to the set way of achieving those goals thereby end up engaging in crime. The only deficiency with this theory however is the fact that it is not elaborate on the cause of violent crimes like robbery with violence and murder. Its explanations and arguments are therefore also not adequate.
The sub-cultural theory is said to have some relation to the strain theory. The inability of young people to achieve set goals in life forces them to form groups within which a different culture and system of doing things slowly develop. This culture may be tied to crime as most of the time will differ from the ordinary and set the standard of achieving the set goals. Different association theory focuses on peer pressure and influence. As the name suggests most young people engage in crime due to association with different people of different characters. According to the theory, it is through this kind of association the young people get to learn various things including criminal activities.
Labeling theory is yet another theory that attempts to explain the cause of juvenile delinquency. It asserts that the labeling or constant calling of child names that carry a criminal connotation is likely to eventually cause that child to eventually turn to criminal activities. Scientists have been at the forefront and have backed up this theory saying that criminal activities are psychological. They, therefore, claim that the constant labeling of a child as a criminal gets to the mind of a child and eventually he turns to crime.
Another very interesting yet alarming observation is that juvenile delinquency is more tilted on the male gender than the female. This has however been attributed to masculinity, strength, and aggression which the female gender lacks. It could also be that the male gender is treated in a manner likely to push them so much to the wall leaving them no option other than engaging in crime. Proponents of this theory, therefore, advise parents to be careful not to be the cause of their children engaging in crime.
As may have been mentioned earlier juvenile delinquency has troubled the minds of many in an attempt to establish the cause to possibly find a way of reducing the rate of juvenile delinquency or eliminating it. Various proposals of eliminating the vice have been put forward but have not borne much fruit.
Some people have argued that severe punishment for young offenders will work quite well to prevent this vice. Recently there have been passed statutes and legislation requiring juvenile offenders to be treated as adult offenders, receiving the same kind of punishment in terms of severity as adult offenders as a way of stopping them from engaging in crime. This method has however proved futile and impossible and has seen this vice go up at a very alarming rate.
It must however be realized that the prevention of juvenile delinquency is very crucial in any society and is an obligation of every member of the society as it enhances general security in the society. It should not be forgotten that the young offenders eventually mature into real criminals and they become a threat to the security and general welfare of society. To prevent juvenile delinquency children or young people must be given recognition which they deserve in society.
They must not be seen as a nuisance or burden in the society but instead they should be incorporated in the activities of the society and further be allowed to voice their opinions. It is also important to ensure that constructive opportunities for the youth are provided to prevent idleness among the youth. Such opportunities include educational opportunities. Correctional or rehabilitation facilities for those already engaged will also help so that they may not influence others into engaging in the vice.
It is also very crucial to establish policies, statutes, and legislation that properly govern the prevention of juvenile delinquency. The policies should be accommodative and should not appear oppressive to the juveniles. In conclusion therefore it must be remembered that each and every person in society has a responsibility to prevent juvenile delinquency. As already mentioned, it is of utmost importance to prevent this vice as the young offenders will turn out to become major criminals who shall become a threat to the general welfare of society.
Ferdinand Theodore. Juvenile Delinquency: Little Brother Grows Up. California. Sage Publications, 1977.
Roucek Joseph. Juvenile Delinquency. London. Ayer Publishing, 1958.
Robinson Sophia M. Juvenile Delinquency: Its Nature and Control.Michigan, Holt, 1998.
Sanders William B. Juvenile Delinquency: Causes, Patterns and Reactions. New York Hort, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.
Siegel Larry, Brandon Welsh. Juvenile Delinquency. The Core. London, Thomson Wadsworth, 2004.