Prevalence of Juvenile Delinquency
Juvenile delinquency refers to the habitual character that teenagers or youths form of committing criminal acts with the biggest population being those below the age justifiable under a criminal court (Kubrin & Wo, 2016). A number of factors have been considered as triggers or contributors to the increased involvement of teenagers in crime at an early age. Among the widely considered factors are psychological triggers that are escalated by the background or childhood of these children. At the same time, changes in lifestyle and neighborhoods where these children live have also contributed to a great percentage in the prevalence of these offenses. The actual figures of the teenagers involved in crime is worrying with statistics pointing out considerable results that have to be considered in determining best approaches to preventing development and prevalence of this vice. This paper discusses the prevalence of juvenile delinquency and also relates the theory that best defines juvenile delinquency.
Prevalence of Juvenile Delinquency
At the age of adolescence, it is natural for youths and teenagers to start showing antisocial behavior that either ends at the time they reach 18 or becomes a cause of delinquent behavior. It is common that some children and youths will commit an offence at one point of their teenage life and prevent the same character from being a long-term character that sticks with them in their lives. However, there are also cases where the juveniles choose to continue this character based on their satisfaction with the act, pressure from friends or groups, the benefits they think the act offers them such as quick cash, and influence of older individuals in their lives.
Siegel and Welsh (2016) mentions that the occurrence of delinquent behavior is mostly due to group/ gang formation among the youths with approximately two-thirds or three-quarters of the juvenile offences linked to groups. A survey report of the rate of juvenile offences by the OJJDP (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention) presented an estimate of the number of juvenile delinquency crime rates compiled from 2000 to 2016 (OJJDP, 2016). In 2000, the number of arrested juveniles that were involved in any form of crime was 2.2 million. However, with the increase in juvenile delinquency prevention measures over the years, the numbers have dropped significantly from 2000 to 2016 with the number of juvenile arrests made in 2016 being 856,130.
Among the theories that strive to explain the development and prevalence of delinquency among the youths is the strain/ institutional anomie theory also called the Mertonian Anomie or the Social Class theory (Bernburg, 2014). The Mertonian Anomie theory was developed by Robert Merton, a sociologist who based his argument on the American economy as a trigger for the prevalence of juvenile delinquency. According to Merton, the American culture has instituted the culture of freedom, opportunity, and prosperity, which collectively is referred to as the ‘American Dream.’ The adoption of this setting has established a dichotomous hierarchy where people are divided into different classes/ categories, which also defines what is expected of the people in these groups and the possible reach they can attain. However, even with these opportunities in the different stages/ categories, inequality in social status has led to the development of imbalances in opportunities that trigger the need to meet these expectations especially among the young who are still growing. The youths have the knowledge of the ‘American dream,’ but do not know the means of attaining this dream, which increases recidivism especially among the youths.
Bernburg, J. G. (2014). Anomie and Crime. In Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice (pp. 76-86). New York: Springer.
Kubrin, C. E., & Wo, J. C. (2016). Social disorganization theory’s greatest challenge: Linking structural characteristics to crime in socially disorganized communities. The handbook of criminological theory, 121-136.
OJJDP. (2016). Juvenile Arrests. Retrieved from Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention : https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/qa05101.asp?qaDate=2016&text=yes
Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. C. (2016). Juvenile delinquency: The core. Ontario Canada: Nelson Education.