Juvenile Delinquency: Causes and Effects



Given the widespread family, societal, community, and individual costs that come with high rates of juvenile delinquency, one cannot help to wonder what the government is doing about it. It is also everybody’s concern that the government may not be doing enough to make a difference.

It is important to note, at this point, that one can effortlessly appear non-delinquent after a correctional program, while deep inside him/her the delinquent characteristics are intact. Delinquency programs for the youth have continually focused on individual behavior while ignoring community, family, and neighborhood factors, which are the most critical factors contributing to delinquent behavior.

It is common knowledge that the problem of juvenile delinquency is immense in the society, and thus a change of tact is critical if the society is to overcome this problem. This paper will explore other various factors that lead to juvenile delinquency, and propose solutions to this problem.


Delinquency refers to the violation of a law by a child. It is analogous with the commitment of a crime by an adult. Juvenile delinquency is an issue of great concern in law enforcement, and correctional circles.

Every state in the U.S. is aiming to reduce the number of juveniles being recruited to delinquency, and the number of juvenile delinquents recidivating.

Despite the efforts taken in a bid to reduce the number of delinquents and recidivists, the U.S. continues to record high numbers of juvenile offenders in juvenile correctional facilities. This, therefore, calls for a nuanced approach in the issue of juvenile delinquency.

It is critical to understand the extent of growth of juvenile offending. Statistics released by bureaus in various states indicate that the rate of juvenile offense is increasing. Offending patterns among groups that have, in the past, been described as risk groups for juvenile delinquency are worsening, or at least, unchanging.

There is therefore, the need to analyze the causes of Juvenile delinquency, evaluate the effects that delinquency has on the society, and come up with interventions that can lead to a reduction in the rate of delinquency, and recidivism, among juveniles. This paper describes the problem of juvenile recidivism, and suggests ways in which the rate of delinquency can be reduced.

Juvenile delinquency statistics

A substantial percentage of arrests made each day in the U.S. comprises of people below the age of 18. It is estimated that the percentage for violent crime arrests currently stands at about 17 % (Barker 1). “Juveniles accounted for 16% of all violent crimes arrests and 32% of all property crime arrests in 1999. They accounted for 54% of all arson arrests, 42% of vandalism arrests, 31 % of larceny arrests, and 33% of burglary arrests” (“Juvenile Justice” 1).

The number of juveniles engaging in delinquent behavior in various states is dependent on racial disparities. Currently, black juveniles constitute the highest number of youths being held in residential custody. Their number is almost twice the number of Hispanics held in residential custody, and it is five times the number of white juveniles held in residential custody in the United States (“Juvenile Justice” 1).

In a number of cases, Juveniles are tried in adult courts. In fact, the Kansas and Vermont states in the U.S. have statutory provisions that allow the trial of juveniles as young as 10 years of age in adult courts. This situation may need review. This is because youth who are held in adult prisons tend to have a higher rate of recidivism than those in juvenile systems (“Juvenile Justice” 1).

In the United States, more than 1.7 million juvenile delinquency cases were disposed in the year 1997. Two thousand of the aforementioned cases were criminal homicide. Forcible rape constituted 6,500, while aggravated assault cases totaled 67,900. Out of the 1.7 million, 180,000 were cases were drug-related (“Juvenile Justice” 1).

The statistics outlined above show the seriousness of the issue of delinquency in the United States. Given the effects that delinquency has in the society, it is vital to understand the causes of delinquency. It is also critical to come up with solutions and prevention strategies for delinquency.

Causes of juvenile delinquency

There has been heated debates world over among criminologists, psychologists, and sociologists concerning the possible causes of delinquency in juveniles. The causes that are included in the following discussion are those that have been proven through practical research.

One of the leading causes of delinquent behavior among juveniles is peer influence. Research shows that young people who form relationships with positive individuals and groups that pursue positive commitments tend to shun delinquent behavior. On the other hand, juveniles can engage in activities that do not have concrete objectives and commitments.

These kinds of activities are likely to lead to volatile relationships that may encourage delinquent behavior. Examples of these behaviors include drinking and smoking. Other behaviors without commitment that juveniles may engage in include watching television, and spending too much time watching movies.

Despite the fact that most people attach no harm to these activities, research has proven that the more time peers spend time watching television, the more likely they are to engage in delinquent behaviors (Mandel 1).

Another factor that has been proved to contribute to juvenile delinquency is family influence. It is even suspected that family influence contributes to delinquent behavior more than peer pressure. Research has proven that families in which there is no strong emotional bonding tend to have juveniles who turn out to be delinquent.

This is because the juveniles may develop psychological problems like rejection and low self-esteem, which may lead to delinquent behavior. Other causes of psychological problems like trauma and low self-esteem are also linked to delinquency. The two can originate from sources outside the family.

Children who are abused or exposed to family violence are likely to be delinquents. Some studies have linked genes to delinquency, arguing that children who are raised by criminals and drug addicts are likely to become delinquent. Another risk is a family in which there are no effective communication channels. Children who are raised in this kind of a family may have issues that they want to address, but they may lack audience.

This is likely to make them result to delinquent behavior. Non-traditional families like reconstituted families and single parent families may also be a factor. Research has shown that children who are raised by single parents or divorcees tend to be more delinquent than their counterparts who are raised in traditional families are (Mandel 1).

Race is a significant factor in predicting delinquent behavior. The main reason why race is a determinant factor for delinquency is that minority groups are not accorded the same treatment as other races. This makes them to live disgruntled lives, which may make them have delinquent behavior.

Once the trend of delinquency is set in a certain race, the peer influence then fuels recidivism and fresh offense. It is important to note that numerous scholars argue that race is not the factor, but racism is (Mandel 1).

Effects of juvenile delinquency

Juvenile delinquency is a big problem that not only affects the victims of the delinquents, but it also affects the juvenile delinquents themselves, their family, and even the society as a whole. The juvenile delinquents may not be able to predict the effect of their crimes on themselves, but, as stated, they are seriously affected by these crimes.

Most of these crimes make the juvenile to lose his/her freedom because he/she may be placed on probation, or even incarcerated. This will also have an effect on the academic welfare of the juvenile because he or she will miss academic activities that will take place during the probation or incarceration.

In cases where the juvenile is placed in a residential center for detention of juveniles, he/she may be influenced by more experienced juvenile delinquents (Barker 1). This will make the juvenile more likely to recidivate, and suffer the consequences of re-offense. The delinquency of the minor may even dictate his or her career choices in the future.

The trauma of having a juvenile delinquent in a family can potentially create instability for other members of the family. The family has to meet the needs of the juvenile in trouble, and raise lawyer’s fees. The family also has an ethical obligation to the victim of the delinquent. Families are required to attend counseling sessions as a group. This is normally costly and disruptive (Barker 1).

Juvenile delinquency is closely related to sexual behavior, drug use, gang involvement etc. All these have a negative effect on the community because they make the community unsafe, and they make the government to spend colossal sums of money in school safety and law enforcement.

As stated, juvenile delinquency has serious effects on a number of societal groups. It therefore affects the society negatively by affecting the community, families, individuals etc. The problem also challenges government agencies, organizations, educators, faith communities, and politicians alike (Barker 1).

Prevention of juvenile delinquency

Due to the contribution of family influence to delinquent behavior in juveniles, it is vital to ensure that families influence children positively. This can be achieved by ensuring that there is strong emotional bonding in the family, and laying out effective strategies for communication.

Children being raised from families that do not conform to the traditional family should especially be closely watched to curb the development of delinquent behavior. Schools should also ensure that they know the backgrounds of children in order to fill the gaps that may be left by the parents (Saminsky 1). For instance, teachers can help to counsel a child who witnesses violence at home, or a child whose parent is a criminal.

Parents should ensure that they closely monitor the kind of company that their children keep. They should ensure that their children engage in productive social activities (Saminsky 1). This will help reduce the chances of their children becoming delinquents. In school, teachers should keep a close eye on pupils to ensure that they know their activities.

Pupils should be appropriately searched in school to ensure that they do not carry guns and drugs. This will ensure that delinquent pupils do not influence others. It will also help in identifying delinquent children so that they can be counseled, or even sent for correctional services.

Another way of preventing delinquency, though controversial, is reducing or eradicating racism. This will target the delinquents in minority groups. It will help reduce the number of juveniles in these minority groups who commit offenses because they will not commit racism-inspired crimes.

It will also help to boost the self-esteem of teenagers in these minority groups, and thus instances of offenses caused by low self-esteem will be limited in these minority groups (Saminsky 1).

Solutions to juvenile delinquency

The best way to reduce the number of delinquency cases is by using the preventative measures that have been outlined in the paragraph above. The preventative measures should be holistic in the sense that they should include all the people in the lives of the juveniles.

The juveniles should be monitored and guided while at home, and they should be counseled and monitored while in school. Juveniles who are at high risk of developing delinquent behavior should be watched closely and given special treatment so that they do not end up offending (Rose 1).

Another way of reducing the number of delinquency cases is by reducing the rates at which juvenile delinquents recidivate. This can be achieved by having legislation in place that ensures that juveniles are corrected differently, and in facilities different from the ones used for adult correction.

This is because, from the statistics section, juveniles who are corrected in the same facilities with adult offenders are more likely to recidivate than their counterparts who are held in juvenile facilities. The recidivism rates of young offenders can also be reduced by having a program for the correction of delinquents. This is most appropriately implemented while the delinquents are in custody.

The program should be holistic and thus it should consist of counseling services offered by a psychologist, recreational facilities, and training (Rose 1). The counseling services will give a platform in which the juveniles can freely share their experiences, and thus their healing process can be sped up.

The recreational facilities will give the juveniles alternative hobbies that will occupy their time after they are released from custody, and thus they will have less time to consider reoffending. Lastly, the training will equip the juvenile who may have quit school with entrepreneurial skills that they can utilize to make money after they are released from custody. This will therefore, help to reduce the number of cases where juveniles re-offend due to financial problems.

Juvenile delinquency can also be reduced by effective policing that will ensure that juveniles are not recruited into crime by community criminals. It is common to hear of schoolchildren being used by gangs to market drugs, and carry assault weapons. This practice should be discouraged by vigilance on the part of parents and teachers, and effective community policing.


From the discussion above, it is clear that delinquency is an enormous problem in the society. Juvenile delinquency is caused by a number of factors that include peer influence, influence by the family of the juvenile, race, and other related factors like low self-esteem and trauma.

The effects of delinquency are far-reaching and they therefore, affect the community, victims of the delinquent, the society as a whole, and even the delinquents themselves. It is therefore vital that this issue is addressed with a view of reducing the rates of offense and re-offense.

A number of interventions can be used to prevent, and reduce delinquency and recidivism. These interventions can be implemented in the family, at school, or even in correctional facilities. School and family-level interventions are mainly aimed at preventing recidivism, while the interventions implemented at correctional facilities are aimed at reducing recidivism.

It is thus vital that these interventions are taken seriously, in order to reduce the number of delinquents in the society. This will in turn reduce the number of delinquency victims, the number of affected families, and the amount of resources that the government will spend on law enforcement and correctional services. This will therefore lead to a better society.

Works Cited

Barker, Leslie. “”. Ehow.com. 2011.

Juvenile Justice. “Basic Statistics”. Pbs.org. 2011.

Mandel, Sharon. “” Filthylucre.com. 2008.

Rose, Nancy. “”. Public.asu.edu. 2010.

Saminsky, Alina. “: Early Intervention and Comprehensiveness as Critical Factors”. Studentpulse.com. 2011.

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