Effects that the Enviroment Have on Juvenile Deliquency
I researched the effects that the environment has on juvenile delinquents. This paper describes the literature that I read on the topic, and the findings of many different researchers. I describe the effects of the family, peers, gender, race, environment etc. There are many different beliefs of why children are delinquent. Some theorists say that it is genetic, or it is because of their upbringing, or peers and so forth. In this paper I will attempt to answer some of my questions and some of the questions others have asked about this thing called delinquency. I want to know the effect that ones environment has on them when it comes to delinquency. In this paper I will attempt to try to answer this question.
Juvenile delinquency is a frequently discussed subject. Theorists and researchers have been trying many different methods, theories and projects to help extinguish and explain delinquency. The fact of the matter is that there have been great ideas and good movements, but results are at a minimal (meaning we have found some ways to slow down or stop delinquency for the moment, but we, as people have not found a permanent cure). We as peers, parents, siblings, family etc. have not found a cure or a set way to slow down this thing we call delinquency. We slow it down for the moment but it still occurring. There are many different variables that contribute to juvenile delinquency. Variables such as gender peers, race, rural settings, urban settings, environment, family, school, and justice system. There have been many attempts to research all of these variables, and there has been a great attempt to improve the research that has been done before.
In regard to gender, the assumption is that girls are non-violent, and boys have violent tendencies. The fact is that girls are involved in violent acts also, it is just that they are not discussed/mentioned that much (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.277). There is a considerably amount of controversy over the adequacy of current theories about female deviance. A girls aggression is often subject to censure in the form of either condemnation or a warning to behave like a lady, which ultimately produce feelings of guilt and anxiety about aggression among females than males (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999,p.283). Most likely delinquent females engage in more survival strategies, and they leave home or runaway. The females who depart from traditional "lady like" actions by engaging in violence are labeled more deviant than aggressive males (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.283). But on the other hand girls who accept the traditional gender definition role given by society should be unlikely to engage in physical aggression and violence (Rhodes and Fischer, 1993). For the girls who believe in the society norms, violent delinquency would be viewed as double deviant, and would be a violation of law as well as their beliefs. Some research showed that the females or girls who believed in this (meaning society norm) were less likely to be involved in delinquency (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.283).
The family and peers of both genders of the juvenile can help lead the juvenile or child to a life of delinquency. If the family atmosphere is not in good standards it could help lead to delinquency. Girls are more likely to a have stronger emotional bond with the family than boys do, so that helps in the family aspect (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.284). Heimer and DeCoster (1999) also state that the girls also experience a higher level of familial control than do boys. Now when it comes to boys, mothers expect their sons more than their daughters, to conform to external standards, hold more punitive orientation towards raising sons than daughters, and they also discourage the expression of affect more in sons than in daughters (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.285).
When it comes to peers, siblings and friends, they (peers, siblings, and friends) are a key in the learning of different acts. People tend to conform to their peers behaviors/expectations, so if their peers are acting out delinquent acts, it is more than likely that they will too (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.286). A fact is that boys are more likely to have aggressive peer/friends than their female counter parts (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.285). But this could be different in the sense that if a female is in a gang where they are controlled and around more aggressive boys, they will probably conform to the behavioral expectations of those boys (Agnew and Brezina, 1997).
The link between race and crime has produced a hot and lengthy debate among theorists and researchers. Criminal justice theorists and scholars have often claimed that there are large and relatively stable differences in crime and delinquency rates across racial groups, particularly black and whites (Lardiero, 1997, p.14). "Although Congress in 1988 amended the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act (JJDP) to address the disproportionate incarceration of minorities, the situation has worsened. Between 1985 and 1994, the number of delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts increased 41% with in that same time frame, delinquency cases involving black and other nonwhite youths rose 78% and 94%, respectively, while delinquency cases involving white youth rose only 26% and since the population of 10-19 year olds is expected to increase by 30% between 1995-2005, juvenile crime likely will continue to rise" (Lardiero, 1997, p.14). Some official statistics have suggested that racial disparity in committing juvenile crime is very noticeable among blacks. But on the other hand, self-report studies show quite differently the magnitude in the amount of acts between whites and blacks. Hensley, Tuang, Xu, Gray-Ray, and Ray (1999) gives us some great statistics: juveniles were involved in 15% of murder arrests, 16% of forcible rape, 26% if robbery, 15% of aggravated assault, 34% of burglary, 44% of motor vehicle theft, 23% of weapon, and 23% of drug law violent arrest. Hensley et al., (1999) also suggests that studies such as self-report surveys do not reveal racial difference in juvenile delinquency, in fact they found that if self-report is used that the prevalence of black delinquency exceeded the white delinquency by only 5%. Recent self-reports have found that there is little if any evidence of racial disparity (Hensley et al., 1999, p.1).
Hensley et al., (1999) has an explanation why blacks get involved with delinquency. They argue two theories, subculture theory of violence and the self-control theory. Most theories that have introduced the black-white differentials in juvenile crime tend to focus on economic deprivation, subculture adaptations, self-esteem, intelligence, family structure, and the legacy of racism and discrimination on behavior (Hensley et al., 1999, p.2). The most prominent explanation for the involvement by blacks in violence is the subculture of violence theory. Wolfgang and Ferracuti developed this theory in 1967. "The theory assumes that a subculture of violence develops in peer groups (example, gangs) when they tend to lose acceptable cultural values. These groups often develop a subculture of values and norms that legitimizes the use of violence in various social situations" (Hensley et al., 1999). Because of the close proximity of people in cities, the urban areas provide ideal conditions, which these subculture values are passed. Lower class young black men supposedly get the effects of subculture more. Young, black, lower-class males from non-intact families have a greater chance to commit violent crimes because of their negative peer influences than are whites who live in urban centers (Hensley et al., 1999). The self-control theory (self-control meaning the tendency to consider or ignore long-term consequences of one’s acts) is the stabilizing force; therefore, it is at the heart of some theoretical explanations for juvenile delinquency. According to Hensley et al., (1999) a Major theme running through both social control and self-control thesis is that social bonds and self control are logically interconnected because both have the same familiar origin, which is that they are acquired through early experiences with effective parenting.
A person’s emotional background can lead to delinquency. Caspi, Moffit, Silva, Stouthamer-Loeber, Kruegur, and Schmutte (1994) discovered that negative emotionality is a tendency to experience aversive affective states such as anger, anxiety, and irritability. It is likely that individuals with high levels of such negative emotions perceive interpersonal events differently than other people, which could lead to misunderstanding, which then leads to violence (Caspi et al., 1994, p. 187). If a person has low self-esteem the negativity is going to be more prevalent (Ross, 1995, p.558). Education and schooling can help self-esteem (Ross, 1995, p.558). For blacks, attending a predominantly white school enhances their self-esteem (Ross, 1995, p.556). Ross (1995) also makes it clear that when children have low self-esteem they eventually start to earn poor grades or generally withdraw from academic activities. Also he found that kids who start school with low self-esteem report more delinquent acts during that year, than does those who had high self-esteem (557-58).
When it comes to demographics, the information is very straightforward and clear. There is really not much of a difference. Poverty and ethnic heterogeneity leads to higher delinquency rates because they interfere with community members ability to work together in socializing and supervising children (Osgood and Chambers, 2000, p.84). Osgood and Chambers also state that most theories of crime and delinquency are likely to apply to rural settings even though they were developed in reference to urban setting (p.82). I found some new demographic information by looking in the UCR. I found that the larger the population is in any area the higher percentage of crime. I also found that in 1999 according to the UCR 22.5% of juveniles were handled within the department and released, 69.2% were referred to juvenile court jurisdiction, .8% were referred to welfare agency, 1.0% referred to other police agency, and 6.4% were referred to criminal or adult court (see appendix for the charts of Police Disposition of Juvenile Offenders Taken into Custody in 1995-1999 according to the UCR).
Petrosino (2000) has 4 ways for dealing with juvenile delinquency. First he suggests that we need to promote an increase in the number of good studies. Promoting good studies is something we have been saying for years, but it seems as if nothing is being done about it at times and in certain areas (Petrosino, 2000, p.635). Money is always the issue when it comes to schooling (Petrosino, 2000, p.636). Second he says that we need to do a better job of accumulating and examining evidence already available. Just like I am doing now. Third, he states that we need to understand more about how research gets used, or ignored, by decision-makers at all policy, program, and practice levels. Then finally, decision-making in the area of juvenile crime, particularly at upper policy levels, is sometimes driven by high-profile murders. We want decision-makers to take action in response to a crisis that is why they are elected. Sometimes, however, in enacting laws in response to emergent situations, the scope of the law is drawn too broad (impacting far too many) or too narrow (failing to address the original problem) (Petrosino, 2000, p.636). We need more careful analysis of policy by murder, leading to helpful guidelines to assist policy makers and others who must act and react in difficult, real world setting (Petrosino, 2000, p.636). Overall all of these researchers, and theorist say that if we have a commitment to conventional activities, involvement in school, recreation, and family activities, and beliefs in values and morals will lead to less juvenile delinquency (Petrosino, 2000,p.636).
To get my data, I used books and the library; I picked up many articles from the Expanded Academic Research Engine on the library computers. They gave me great academic journals. There are still a few journals that I haven’t gotten in from inter library loans, but it is too late now. I encountered great difficulties in getting information on demographics. I went back to the library and tried to search for more journals or books on or pertaining to demographics. I also want to get some statistics on demographics and crime rates. I found some information on demographics and crime rate but they were for adolescents and my study is about juveniles, so I felt that the information was not useful to me. I found some statistics on juveniles and included in the other part of my paper. If I were to do this study over again I would definitely try to try to get to other libraries and see what kind of information they have. Also I would recommend that maybe if someone was to do this study over they would try to get some demographics on juveniles. I tried to find some but most of the useful information for my study was dealing with adults. If I were researching adults a lot of the UCR information would have been real useful. That information was still useful though. If I could do the research over I would have not waited so long to put some of my loans in like I did, knowing that my schedule doesn’t give a lot of time to go off campus or to get to the library period.
Differential Association theory proposes that people whose environments provide the opportunity to associate with criminals will learn these skills and will then becomes a criminal. If the necessary learning structures are absent of criminal skill and actions, then they will have a better chance of not becoming a criminal. Some of the actions of the criminal become acceptable because of situations and circumstances in their eyes. "A strength of the differential association theory of crime is that it addresses the role of social structure as well as culture. A core assumption of the theory is that society is characterized by normative conflict over the law, wherein some groups define crime as always wrong and others justify it under some circumstances" (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.279). When you have some group or groups with a high rate of crime, these are the ones whose norms, values, and practices aren’t consistent with the norms of society. "Differential social organization affects the behavior of individuals through a cultural process, differential association, in which individuals learn definitions (example, attitudes, rationalizations) and techniques favorable and unfavorable to law violation through interacting with significant others and reference groups" (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.279). According to the differential association theory:
Interactions with others and social structural context are important because they shape the learning of violent definitions, which in turn affect the likelihood that youths engage in violent delinquency. This will be the case regardless of gender, and both males and females will be more likely to behave violently when they have acquired high levels of violent definitions. The gender gap in violent delinquency, therefore, likely reflects a gender difference in levels of violent definitions- boys tend to acquire more violent definitions than girls do on average. Consistent with this, empirical research indicates that boys are more likely than girls to approve of aggression. Moreover, from a feminist perspective, greater acceptance of violent definitions among males is associated with their privileged under patriarchy. (Heimer and DeCoster, 1999, p.282)
The point of all of this is basically that males report significantly more involvement in delinquency, and females probably just have minor crimes and status offenses. When it comes down to the family, the more control (positive control) the family has the less likelihood of delinquency. For males the differential association explanation states that we should focus on three key aspects of familial controls, which we expect to influence the learning of violent definitions which is supervision, discipline, and emotional bond to the family. In the cases of girls research shows that girls are supervised more closely and attentively than boys are.
Due to the research and the information that I found, I have come to the conclusion and realized that demographics and geographical location has little to do if any with the dictation of delinquency. The differential association theory supports that culture, environment, and surroundings are what tend to lead to delinquency. If a person is surrounded by negativity, brought up around delinquency and criminal acts, taught the tricks and the trades, then it is more than likely that this person is going to become a criminal. If the person is brought up in a positive environment and raised the right way. Meaning that their peers are positive, and that no family members are teaching them the tricks and trades of the criminal game. Then there is a less likely chance that this person will become a criminal and lead a life of crime. There are some other factors that can be taken into consideration. A factor such as poverty, because people who are poverty stricken may have no ch!
oice but to do criminal acts to survive and put food on the table for their family. They do whatever it takes to survive day by day. They do not have the same resources as others. All they are worried about is survival. So in short, the upbringing, culture, surroundings, environment and status of a person can influence which route or what route in life they will take. Every person does not get the same cards thrown their way; we are each dealt a different hand. How we play that hand is dictation of which route we are going to go. Life is not as easy as some make it seem we all do not have the same supporting cast as other does, some have none. So if you have a lot of the positive aspects in life such as a good upbringing, non-poverty stricken, family support, peer support and all the other good things that follow then the chances of you being a criminal is less likely.
Based on my research I would recommend the policy that all juveniles receive a background check, seeking information on their upbringing, their family, parents, peers, their hometown, schooling, teachers, and all the other factors that help make up a human being. I would also recommend that the child not be labeled, because that not going to help the child get through. I know from experience because I was labeled until I changed high schools and moved to Virginia. When you are labeled no one really wants to help you and there is no way to get ahead because anything you do you is going to be seen as bad. I feel instead of labeling a child maybe we should lend a hand to that child and try to reach him/her. That might be all that they need. Sometimes we as parents, friends, peer, teachers, mentors, etc. need to help that child or go the extra mile, because a lot of the times the problem is that the are not getting any encouragement at home. They are not getting any attention at home so they are searching for some. Why not be the source of attention, why not be the helping hand. One day I am going to make a difference, because I feel that if I can reach out and touch one child then that is one less future juvenile or adult murderer, burglar or something that we have to worry about. Imagine if everyone's goal were to reach out and help at least one person how much better the world would be. The world would not be perfect but it would be a whole lot better than what it is now.