Sample Criminal Justice Essay Paper on Amy Watters case study

Amy Watters case study

Delinquency among children and youths is an increasingly important issue facing societies in modern times. The book by Bartollas and Schmalleger (2016) investigates the effects of social and community environments around children on their likelihoods to commit a crime. The efforts of researchers to find explanations for juvenile delinquency have yielded findings that both biological and social (nature and nurture) elements have considerable influence on the problem. In particular, the researchers have found that the direct relationships that children have with specific social groups and elements in a society, such as family, friends, and the local community or neighborhood, have a vital influence on their predicate involvement in the crime. The implication is that the environmental influences of peer pressure, the family, and the community or neighborhood have a significant effect on juvenile delinquency. This assessment is evident in the case study of events in the life of Amy Watters in the book.

The most significant influences in the young life of Amy that may have contributed to the path that her life took are the loss of her mother shortly after Amy’s birth and the occurrence of a strong hurricane when her mother was 8 months pregnant with her. The significance of these events in the path of Amy’s life relates to research findings that the lack of a mother’s affection, care, and warmth in a child’s life fosters an inclination towards hostility, anxiety, and distress later in life and that pregnant mothers’ experiences of stressful events could have lasting impacts on fetal development (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016). The significance of these events is evident in Amy’s sense of being different from other kindergarten children on the first day of school. While the other children had their doting mothers accompanying them to school, Amy’s father only dropped her off and left swiftly for work. If her mother had not died, Amy could have experienced her love, affection, care, and warmth, and had someone to dote on her. This experience would have minimized her susceptibility to anxiety, hostile behavior, and distress. Without the occurrence of a category 3 hurricane during her mother’s pregnancy, Amy would have had normal and healthy fetal development, which would have prevented a lasting adverse impact on her psychological and cognitive health.

While the concept of rationality assumes individuals’ capacities for free will and to control their emotions, the lack of self-control in Amy relates to a way of coping and solving problems in response to pressures in life. Owing to the lack of warmth, love, care, and affection from early in her life after her mother’s death, Amy is susceptible to struggles with perceived control over her life, evaluations of herself, and perceptions of rejection from others. Lacking the security that a mother’s warmth, care, affection, and love provide, Amy tends to derive short-term pleasures from delinquent behaviors and tendencies (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016). The implication is that a lack of social security fosters Amy’s lack of self-control. To assist in building their self-control, adolescents could focus on knowing and understanding themselves and the causes of their low self-esteem, such that they can take active measures to address the problem. They could also train themselves to look at “the bigger picture” of things, rather than concentrating on the small steps or issues that are frustrating their lives.

Amy’s resentment of Jordan, her older sister, was the result of Amy’s own insecurity and sense of being unwanted owing to the absence of her mother’s affection in her life. This lack of her mother’s affection had promoted a sense of personal responsibility in her situation, such that she developed a sense of personal inadequacy and rejection. In this context, she perceived herself as unlovable and undeserving of affection, care, and warmth, such that she misinterpreted her sister’s care, oversight, and responsibilities towards her in a negative light, rather than in terms of their real significance and value in her life (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016). To lessen the stress between the girls, Amy’s father could enroll them in therapy aimed at promoting their knowledge and understanding of the source of their feelings and perceptions of one another. In particular, this therapy could aim at addressing the impact of their mother’s loss in their lives, especially on the sense of personal inadequacy and rejection in Amy’s life. This would empower them to take an active role in countering their negative feelings and improve their relationship. Amy’s choice to turn to a “tough” crowd” relates to her desire to belong to a group that could address her sense of personal inadequacy and rejection, and hence foster a sense of personal respect (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016). She thought that she could acquire personal adequacy by associating with the group. Alternatives that she could have pursued include joining groups with a positive influence on her life, such as sports groups or volunteer groups.

From an emotional perspective, Amy’s discovery of the hidden camera in her room set off her anxious and insecure predisposition, especially because the investigation by friends led to her father as the person responsible for setting up the equipment. In her mind, the incident breached her perception of her father as a caregiver and responsible parent. Rather than a trustworthy person and a part of the solution to her problems and challenges, Amy now perceived her father as a part of the problem, such that she felt abandoned and vulnerable to the only person on whom she had relied in her mother’s absence. The positive relationship with her father could be recoverable if she understood her father’s reason for setting up the equipment from his perspective, or if she forgave him and they reconciled. The fact of Amy’s female gender exacerbated the event because of the potential for sexual exploitation. Rather than running away, Amy could have focused on confronting her father and learning the reason for his action, or seek the help of a close relative to investigate and address the matter.

Amy’s early sexual activity related with other forms of delinquency in terms of the lack of preparedness to deal with potential social, behavioral, and emotional consequences of her actions. Sexual activity brings with it the feeling of being an adult, such that one feels capable of doing the things that older kids do, including delinquency. In Amy’s case, she was likely to accept and adjust to the delinquent lives of older adolescents, such as Damon, after having early sexual relations (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016).

The structure of a school environment is essential in protecting children from bullying. To protect Amy from bullying, the school environment ought to have featured the active involvement of teachers and other adults to reduce the opportunities of peer approval. This model would involve the engagement of these adults in supporting students through guidance and acquisition of feedback about students’ experiences in the school environment. Aspects of the high school environment that contribute to delinquent activity include the prevalence of gangs, sales and uses of drugs, and the trends of peer approval and support that reward bullying behavior (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016).

Amy’s father is an inappropriate role model because of his failure to provide adequate and effective guidance and care to her daughter following her mother’s death. He had displayed drunken behavior openly to Amy and offered her alcohol. Rather than demonstrating love and care to Amy, especially in the context of her emotional and psychological vulnerability, he chooses to set up a secret camera to spy on her in her bedroom, which ultimately damages their relationship irreparably. Alcohol consumption and delinquency relate closely owing to its creation of social and emotional circumstances that facilitate delinquency through neglect of the needs of children for emotional care, love, warmth, and affection. Use of alcohol in family or social settings influences parents’ neglect of these needs among children, while its use by adolescents influences their loss of cognitive capacities to make decisions and take responsibility for their decisions (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016).

Amy’s decision to confess was partly the result of ignorance because she believed that her actions had caused little or no harm. She considered the fact that she had not taken money “for anything” as an indication of her not being too guilty to warrant an arrest and eventual prosecution for involvement in drug dealing at her school. If she had not confessed, Amy would have preserved her right not to incriminate herself. She would have had access to a lawyer and obtained legal assistance in a trial of her guilt in the case. Had she been an adult, the courts would have prosecuted Amy for the crime, rather than purely the delinquent act of engaging in drug dealing, and set up a public trial by jury, rather than only an adjudication hearing in which a judge hears and rules on whether she engaged in the juvenile act. Finally, she would have been subject to a sentence of punishment, rather than one of rehabilitation (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016).

Community-based services would apply in an effort to offer Amy and her family resources in the stage of rehabilitation. These services would include the provision of intercessory education to address the drug problem, such as the provision of drugs education in schools (Bartollas & Schmalleger, 2016). Had Amy enrolled in a group home where I work, my principal objectives in working with her would be cognitive and rehabilitative in nature. I would focus on promoting her understanding of the impact of her early childhood experiences, particularly the lack of motherly care and a positive family environment, on her anxiety problems and emotional and psychological vulnerability. Secondly, I would seek to influence her recognition of the role of her thoughts and perceptions in influencing her behavior. These objectives would empower her to take a positive path towards enhancement of her self-concept and the active decision to improve her life and determine its course, rather than relying on others to evaluate her worth and value.


Bartollas, C., & Schmalleger, F. (2016). Juvenile delinquency (Second Edition). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.