It is easy to shake our heads in astonishment and disappointment when we hear the evening news headlines which are increasingly featuring the same old crime stories but with younger perpetrators. Juvenile delinquency has become a widespread, national, and even global issue as people under the age of 18 are committing more crimes in number, and which are unfortunately increasing in their heinousness. The days when children were punished or scolded for throwing a couple of snowballs at passers-by are long gone, and adults have to contemplate punishing kids for adult crimes such as molestation, drug abuse, and even murder. In fact, sociologists conclude that almost 60-70% of young men and women take part in juvenile crimes.
Sociologists named five main reasons behind juvenile crimes which are childhood trauma, low self-esteem, race and gender, social and family background, and peer groups. Most children who have suffered abuse or molestation are more likely to be defiant because, in most cases, the child’s trust is violated by relatives and friends he or she trusts. This in turn leads to lowered self-esteem which motivates them to act negatively in order to attract attention, even if their actions are not positive. Through such actions, they are trying to restore their positive self-regard.
Also, race and gender are imperative factors because, according to research, young males commit the majority of crimes due to their aggressive natures and the male standard they have to live by in the society. The minority races in an area usually have higher crime rates because of the reactions of injustices against them. Mandel states in her research article, “Although minority youth constituted about 32% of the youth population in the country in 1995, they represented 68% of the juvenile population in secure detention.” Research currently shows that Black and Latino teens make up the majority of juvenile offenders in America.
As for family and social class, poorer families have more drive for negative behaviors in children which is explained by the fact that the poor social status negatively influences the family. Family members are not as close because of constant stress and unequal opportunities with limited resources such as lower education standards. Even more, families with abuse and violence only teach the same to young children. Perhaps the biggest reason for juvenile delinquency is the negative peer pressure a child faces which leads him or her to crimes one would never suspect. It is usually because of friends that people experiment with drugs and crimes as they get encouragement and assistance.
When a community works to prevent juvenile delinquency, people point to varying opinions as solutions. The two opposing views are boot camps and intervention facilities. The boot camps are military style arrangements with strict routines and focus on discipline whereas the interventions involve rehabilitation centers and counseling. Boot camps are not effective in the long run as they are simply providing kids with a tough image, and the rehabilitation centers along with detention facilities aim to fix the problem at its roots. If a society fails to intervene and help juveniles, it is essentially weakening its own foundation for the generations to come. The teens and kids of today are tomorrow’s leaders and, if there is no proper investing in them, entire communities will become vulnerable to attack.