Causes and Effects of Juvenile Crime
One of the biggest problems that the United States is faced with in the present day is juvenile crime. Juvenile crime does not only affect the individuals who commit the crime, it also affects the victim of the crime. This also affects the juvenile in their adult lives as the crime can be on their record as long as they live. Experts still have not found the main reason why juveniles commit crimes. However, they have come up with a number of reasons of why, which I will be discussing in this paper. The largest, and most common risk factor is the demise of the family life and the increase in family violence. Some say that the manner in which you are raised determines how you will be when you grow up. So, doesn’t it make sense to say that if you were raised poorly, you would be more prone to run into problems such as crime as you grow up?
Between the 1970’s and early 1990’s, the number of juveniles living in poverty has grown largely for a number of reasons. This factor alone has caused a noticeable increase in crimes by juveniles. Many of these juvenile criminals also said to have been abused or neglected. Most of them grew up in a single parent household. Research has found that the majority of these children are more likely to be arrested, and are much more likely to commit a violent crime as an adult, than their counterparts who did not suffer such abuse (Juvenile Crime). The reasoning for this is that psychologists have determined that the symptoms of child abuse are "high levels of aggression and antisocial behavior". Another factor that has greatly attributed to juvenile crime is something that the children have no control over. This is improper parental care. Mothers who drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke cigarettes, and do other such things while they are pregnant are putting their children at high risk for problems (Bernstein, Nell). These drugs keep the babies from getting the nutrients they need which, in turn, causes disorders in the babies. This problem is not as large now as it was twenty or thirty years ago when there was not as much known about these potential problems, but it still is a major concern when linked to the effects of using these chemicals while pregnant. The use of the products I mentioned has been linked to delinquency as the babies grow up with learning disorders. Certain parts of the juvenile’s brain won’t fully develop and impairs their ability to learn things such as the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, and so on. This is a problem that leads them to be juvenile criminals. Also, drug use among the juveniles themselves leads to higher crime. Alcohol use is widely known to cause certain people to become violent, which leads to crime. Drug use can cause the same effects, but also violence can occur as the juvenile needs to support their habit with money.
One factor that hasn’t been recognized up until the past five or ten years as a reason for juvenile crime is media violence. In America, the average child will witness over 200,000 acts of violence on television, including 16,000 murders before the age of 18 (Gangs and youth subcultures). It is pretty convincing that heavy exposure to televised violence is one of the causes of aggressive behavior, crime and violence in our society today. I remember reading a story a few years ago in a newspaper that involved a stabbing because of a movie. In a Philadelphia movie theater, when the movie Scream 2 first came out, a teenager stabbed another teenager while watching it. That movie was based on a serial killer who would stab his victims to death, which is pretty convincing evidence that media causes violence among young people. Another example involves a shooting of a police officer in Texas about seven years ago. When asked in court why the teen shot the officer he replied something like "Tupac’s music made me want to kill somebody". Tupac Shakur was a rap artist whose music frequently involved profanity and killing. Television violence affects youngsters of all ages, genders, economic levels, and all levels of intelligence. I know from experience that this is true. I can remember when I was younger, I would see a movie with violence and then want to imitate and do the things that the star in the movie did. Long-term childhood exposure to television is a casual factor behind one half of the homicides committed by juveniles in the United States. The increased availability of guns has also played a big part in escalating the number of crimes committed by juveniles. In Los Angeles, juvenile delinquency cases involving weapon violation grew by 86 percent from 1988 to 1992, which was more then any other type of juvenile offense (http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/sen-rpt-104-20.txt). According to a Michigan State University study, it was found that 270,000 guns accompany secondary school students to class daily. This is especially startling because it shows how many juveniles are actually carrying guns. Also, juvenile use of guns in homicides has increased from 65 to 80 percent from 1987 to 1991. The possession of firearms plays a big cause in the delinquency of children and is playing a bigger role in the crimes in which juveniles commit.
While there is no doubt that all of these things can cause juveniles to become delinquent, and the effect being that they go on to commit crimes, there are ways to deter this type of behavior. Many doctors and other experts say that focusing on early intervention and prevention as the key to reducing juvenile crime. Also, giving the offender the appropriate punishment along with the rehabilitation services needed to encourage former criminals can help lead productive lives. The problem ahead now is getting the court to enforce the laws and use the centers available to help out these problem juveniles.
As we have discovered, juvenile crime affects everyone from every race and background. In time we will discover the best way to prevent crime and as we grow to maturity we will discover within ourselves the reasons for our actions.