JUVENILE DELINQUENCY- A multi- facet analysis


Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A(Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D

Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India


In recent years, it has become very clear that juvenile delinquency is the most important aspect of the subject matter of criminology. Delinquent behaviour has assumed serious forms among the juveniles, which is a sign of sick society. The disorder and destruction due to deviant behaviour, a worldwide phenomenon, is assuming alarming proportions.

The word delinquency is derived from the Latin word “delinquere” meaning de i.e. away and linquere i.e. to leave thus, meaning to leave or to abandon. Originally, the word had an objective meaning as it referred to parents who neglected and abandoned their children. In present day, it is used and applied to those children who indulge in wrongful and harmful activities.

Juvenile delinquency is a term used to describe illegal actions by a minor. This term is broad in range and can include everything from minor violations like skipping school to more severe crimes such as burglary and violent actions.

Juvenile and minor in legal terms are used in different context. Juvenile is used when reference is made to a young criminal offenders and minor relates to legal capacity or majority. The habitual committing of criminal acts or offenses by a young person, especially one below the age at which ordinary criminal prosecution is possible.

Juvenile can be defined as a child who has not attained a certain age at which he, like an adult person under the law of the land, can be held liable for his criminal acts. The juvenile is a child who is alleged to have committed /violated some law which declares the act or omission on the part of the child as an offence.

Delinquency is an act or conduct of a juvenile which is socially undesirable. Juvenile delinquency generally means the failure of children to meet certain obligations expected of them by the society.  The juvenile delinquent has even been defined as “a child trying to act like a grown up”.

Juvenile delinquency refers to conduct by minors that is disruptive, destructive, or illegal. These usually consist of less serious crimes . Often these acts are associated with the minor not attending school or “cutting class” in order to perform such deeds. As such, they are often associated with both legal as well as academic consequences.

Definition of Delinquency

In fact there is a haze of vagueness and confusion surrounding the definition of juvenile delinquency and there is no single definition that may be acceptable to all.

The concept of delinquency also varies with the point of view of the people who feel challenged by it.

According to a social worker, “delinquency consisted of socially unaccepted acts”. A psychiatrist suggests that delinquent behaviour is activity which deviates from the normal. And a lawyer would say juvenile delinquency is what the law says it is.

In the words of W.H. Sheldon, it is “behavior disappointing beyond reasonable expectation”.

Cyril Burt says, delinquency occurs in a child ‘when his antisocial tendencies appear so grave that he becomes or ought to become the subject of official action.

According to Robison Holt, “we use the term delinquent as we sometimes use the term ‘love’ as though it were a simple concept whereas it actually embraces complex patterns of behaviour.”

Delinquency, it is clear, is many things to many people. The man in the street is concerned chiefly with behaviour that interferes with his property, his person and his rights. He believes that the official label of delinquency is attached only when the behaviour is really harmful and has occurred repeatedly.

Frederick B. Sussmann presents a summary list of acts or conditions included in delinquency definition or description, viz, violation of any law or ordinance, habitual truancy, association with thieves, vicious or immoral persons, and incorrigible beyond control of parent or guardian and so on.

Thus the term delinquency does not have a fixed meaning. However, there are two generally accepted approaches to the interpret ation of the term, viz the sociological and the legal.

The sociological view is well expressed by the definition given by Clyde B.Vedder who says, ‘juvenile delinquency refers to the anti-social acts of children and of young people under age. Such acts are either specifically forbidden by law or may be lawfully interpreted as constituting delinquency, or as requiring some form of official action. It means deviation from the normal behaviour.

It will also include a child who is homeless, destitute and neglected. In short, delinquent in the sociological view is a child whose activities cause concern and alarm to parents and teachers and others responsible for his care and education.

According to Robison the legal term “delinquency” is an umbrella for a wide variety of socially disapproved behaviour that varies with the time, place and the attitudes of those assigned to administer the law. This behaviour may include such acts as , incorrigibility, disobedience, lying, running away from home, frequent visits to the cinema, visiting places of ill repute and coming home late at night, habitually remaining truant from school, habitually using vile, obscene or vulgar language in Public Place, immoral conduct around school.

Contributing Factors to Delinquency

Individual factors- Individual factors that include antisocial behavior at a young age, poor cognitive development, hyperactivity, and emotional factors such as mental health challenges.

Family  factors -Family risk factors linked to delinquent behavior include poverty, maltreatment (includes neglect), family violence, divorce, parental psychopathology, familial antisocial behaviors, teenage parenthood, single parent family, and large family size.

Poor School Attendance-Poor school attendance is one of the top factors contributing to delinquency. School is not only a place to learn and grow; it is also a structured routine that provides children with a goal to accomplish each day.

The routine of getting up, getting prepared, attending school, completing the work, and returning home each day establishes a routine that is a basis for good choices in the future.

Failure to accept the routine of attending school actually instills in children that they do not have to comply with societal norms and that they can do as they please.

Poor Educational Standards-The type of school that a child attends may also contribute to their delinquency. Overcrowded and underfunded schools tend to lack discipline and order.

The chaos often experienced in these schools lead children to act more defensively because they are scared by their surroundings.

Violence In The Home-One of the largest contributing factors to delinquency is violence in the home,

Lashing out at others for the violence they experience at home is very common.

Children subjected to violent actions, or those who witness it to others, are more likely to act ut their fears and frustrations. They often have a “don’t care” attitude and this allows them to get into trouble more easily.

Violence In Their Social Circles-If the neighborhood is in which a child lives is violent, the children will have a tendency to be more prone to delinquency.

Many people describe this as street survival methods because the child gets into trouble as a way to stay out of trouble from area gang members or violent people.

Peer Pressure- Peer factors that include rejection by peers and association with peers who break the law and get into trouble. Having a delinquent peer group is the strongest risk factor for delinquency during the pre-teen years.

Peer pressure from direct acquaintances can have an effect on how a child reacts to bad situations. If all of their friends are committing delinquent acts, the child may feel pressured to do the same to be accepted.

Socioeconomic Factors-Juvenile delinquency is more common in poorer neighborhoods. While all neighborhoods are not exempt from delinquent activities, it is believed they happen more in areas where children feel they must commit crimes to prosper.

Substance Abuse-Substance abuse in a home or by the child is a very common cause for delinquency. Children who are exposed to substance abuse often do not have the necessities they need to thrive and are forced to find these necessities in other ways. Others, who become dependent on a substance may also need to commit crimes to sustain their habit.

Lack Of Moral Guidance-Parental or adult influence is the most important factor in deterring delinquency. When a parent or other adult interacts with the child and shows them what is acceptable behavior and what is considered wrong, the child is more likely to act in a way that is not delinquent.

It is very important for a child to have a bond with a good adult who will influence their actions and show them the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

Classification of Juvenile Delinquency

Different classifications of the juvenile delinquency and delinquents have been given by various authors. A few important classifications are noted below.

Hirsh delineated the following kinds of juvenile offences:

(1) Incorrigibility, which includes keeping late hours, disobedience,and so on.

(2) Truancy, which can be from home or school.

(3) Destruction of property, which includes both public and private property.

(4) Violence which is perpetrated against the community by using such means as knives and guns.

(5) Sex offenses which can range from homosexual activity to criminal assault and rape.

Eaton and Polk classified the delinquents by the following types of offences they have been involved in:

(1) Minor violations which include disorderly conduct and minor traffic violations.

(2) Property violations which include all property thefts except automobiles.

(3) Major traffic violations which include automobile theft and drunk driving and any other offence that would involve an automobile.

(4) Human addiction which includes sex offenses as well as alcohol and drug addiction.

(5) Bodily harm which includes homicide offenses that involve sexual deviation,; such as rape, and generally, all other acts of violence against a person.

Ferdinand presented two categories of juvenile offenders as under:

(1) Neurotic Offenders-They are the offenders whose delinquency is the result of powerful unconscious impulses which often produces guilt which in turn, motivates them to act out their delinquency in their community so that they will be caught and punished. The delinquent act is sometimes considered symbolic. For example, if they steal, it is done for love and not for a material gain. To such delinquents, delinquency is a way of handling their internal problems by externalizing the problem within the environment.

(2) Character Disorder Offenders- This type of offenders feel very little guilty when they commit the acts of delinquency. Because of a lack of positive identification models in their environment, they have failed to develop self-control and do what they want to do when they feel like doing it. They are unable to sublimate their impulses in a socially acceptable manner. They have not developed an adequate conscience structure or superego.

Schafer emphasized on psychological typologies and psychological dynamics of personality as the basis of classification of juvenile delinquents. The following types have been envisaged by him.

(1) Mentally Defective- This is an individual who has an organic problem and who has difficulty in controlling himself because of it. This category also includes mentally retarded youngsters.

(2) Situational Offenders- They are similar to the accidental offenders but, in these cases, there are more contributing factors. Their delinquency is precipitated by a crisis or by some external event which they are unable to handle. In other words, they do not necessarily go out looking for trouble but because of tempering circumstances, they do not use good judgment.

(3) Psychotic Offenders- A small number of youngsters do not have contact with reality. They may be classified as schizophrenic or may be given some other psychiatric label. As a result of dysfunctional thought patterns, they may hallucinate, have delusions or “hear voices” that command them to become involved in certain types of delinquent behaviour. The incidence of psychotic oriented delinquency is minimal in relation to the other forms.

(4) Cultural Offenders- Youngsters in this category have either emulated a faculty identification model or they live in an economically and socially deprived environment. Cultural offenders are considered normal members of a deviant sub-culture and their patterns of behaviour are often accepted and called normative in their own environment.

Theories of Delinquencies

Generally, three major approaches are Biogenic Theory, Psychogenic and SociogenicSome of the theories are briefly discussed below.

( A) Biogenic Theory

Biological determinists maintain that the physical qualities which people inherit or develop may cause them to violate the law. Physical make-up separates the deviant from the non-deviant.

Ceases Lambroso is regarded as the profounder of this theory. He declared “a criminal to be an atavistic phenomenon, a biological throwback since the somatological characteristics of criminals resemble those of primitive men. According to Cessare Lombroso, a biologist with an outstanding contribution to the science of criminology, “there exists a group of criminals born for evil, against whom all social cures break as against a rock.” Criminality according to him is in-born. A typical criminal, says Lombroso, has

certain physical characteristics as low forehead, hairy body, red eyes, ear deformation, receding chin, big and protruding jaws, and an extreme sensitivity or nonsensitivity  to pain.

Gall was a Viennese physician, “noticed that some of his fellows with pronounced characteristics had certain head configurations. He asked himself why people had “such different faces and such different natures; why one was deceitful, another frank, a third virtuous”. In attempting to answer these questions he made it a point of his life to examine every head he could find. He haunted medical laboratories, he visited prisons and lunatic asylums, his fingers fairly “itched” to measure the bumps and inequalities of the skulls he found. He thought he discerned a relationship between head “Knobs” and certain propensities and character traits, to which he gave fancy names. In this manner phrenology launched itself upon a world eagerly waiting toreceive it.

(B) Psychogenic Theory

These theory stresses the psychological pathology of the delinquent. There are  many researchers who have stressed the Psychological and Psychiatric variables to be highly related to delinquency

Glueek and Glueek Theory of Social Condition

Held that physically a delinquent is mesomorph in constitution. In attitude he is hostile, defiant, resentful, suspicious, Stubborn adventurous, unconventional and non submissive to the authority.

The criminal is a product of society. The impact of sociological factors is so great on individuals that they either shun criminality or embrace it, depending upon their environment and immediate social conditions

Sutherland and Cressey Theory of Differential Association.

Felt that criminal behaviour is not inherited and one who is not already trained in crime does not indulge in criminal behaviour. Rather, criminal behaviour is learned in interaction with other person especially within intimate personal groups. This, would mean that impersonal agencies such as movies and News papers play a relatively important part in the genesis of criminal behaviour. “Differential association” varies in frequency,duration, priority and intensity.

Akers’s differential reinforcement theory

Akers’s differential reinforcement theory integrated differential association and the learning theory of operant conditioning. Operant conditioning holds that behaviour is controlled by the consequences of that behavior.

Everyone receives positive and negative reinforcements for behavior. According to differential reinforcement theory, a positive reinforcement is a reward and is designed to increase the behavior being rewarded. On the other hand, a negative reinforcement is a punishment designed to decreasethe behavior.

Therefore, behavior is controlled by the rewards and punishments people receive for their behavior.  If a positive reinforcement is given after a person commits a delinquent act, the person has received a reward for that behavior. It is to be expected that the person will continue the behaviour.

Learning theorists argue that rewards are more powerful than punishments in shaping behavior. However, in some cases, a juvenile may be expecting to receive a reward (positive reinforcement) for behavior, but the reward is withheld. If this occurs, the person has received an indirect punishment for the behavior, and the behavior is less likely to continue. For example, if a young male commits a robbery but fails to obtain any money or valuables, he has received an indirect punishment, and he is less likely to continue the delinquent behavior.

A juvenile may also receive negative reinforcement for a behavior. If this occurs, the juvenile has received a direct punishment and is less likely to continue the behaviour.

If a juvenile receives rewards from his or her peer group for committing delinquent acts, that delinquency may continue—even with punishment by the juvenile justice system. A juvenile may also anticipate that a punishment (negative reinforcement) is going to occur after delinquent behavior. If no punishment follows, the juvenile has received an indirect reward for the behavior and is likely to increase the behavior.

Sykes & Matza Theory of Social Interaction

Delinquent behaviour like most social behaviour, is learned in the process of social interaction. Both feel that the family of the delinquent will agree with respectable society that delinquency is wrong even though the family may be engaged in a variety of illegal activities. They say that a delinquent is partly committed to the dominant. Social order in the he frequently exhibits, quilts or shame when he violates its prescriptions, accords approval to certain conferring figures and distinguishes between appropriates and inappropriate targets for his deviance.

(C) Psychoanalytical and Psychiatric Theory

Airchorn asserted that there must be something in child himself which environment brings out in the form of delinquency. Delinquents behave as they do because they are in some way “Maladjusted” persons. Airchron’s statement indicates further that the environment may function as a precipitating force, but never as primary force in causation.

(D) Medico-Biological Theory

This theory has been advanced at many times and in many ways and often in combination as “Medico biological” thesis of causation. Here this theory would include the hereditary factors, chemical balances within the physical organism, and certainly the influence of physical illness on behaviour. The biological explanation, concerned primarily with inherited characteristic.

(E) The Classical Theory

The classical theory of free will advocated that man is a free moral agent who chooses to do wrong. On the assumption of free will, the Classical theorists maintained that the criminal is morally guilty and responsible, he should; therefore, receive a punishment proportionate to that moral guilt. Thus, there were set penalties according to the moral turpitude involved in the offence

Some have looked for explanations in physical and mental health, others in emotional attitudes and still others in general social environment. The Classical theory was attacked since it treated all men as mere digits ignoring their individual natures or the circumstances under which they  committed the crime. It subjected to the same punishment the hardened criminal, the accidental and the habitual.

(F) Multi-causal Theory

According to Abrahamsen, “a criminal act is the sum of a person’s criminalistic tendencies plus his total situation divided by the amount of his resistance.” He rendered the multiplicity of causal factors into a mathematical formula.

This shows that the root of the delinquency lies in both in nature and nurture.

Recent sociologists, psychiatrists and criminologists agree that delinquency is a result of a number of factors. Burt enumerated no less than 170 causes which were conducive to delinquency.

According to him, “crime is assignable to no single universal source nor yet to two or three: it springs from a wide variety, and usually from a multiplicity of alternative and converging influences. So violent a reaction, as may easily be conceived, is almost everywhere the outcome of a concurrence of subversive factors: it needs many coats of pitch to paint a thing thoroughly black.”

No one factor is the sole cause of delinquency. It is a result of the interaction between the individual and his immediate and economic factors like poverty, slums etc. The natural factors are biological, mental and emotional. Geography and climatic conditions are indirect contributors to delinquency.

(G) Subculture theories

A subculture is a set of values, norms, and beliefs that differs from those within the dominant culture. According to subculture theory, delinquent youth hold values, norms, and beliefs in opposition to those held in the dominant culture. Therefore, youths who behave in a manner that is consistent with the values, norms, and beliefs of their subculture will often be in conflict with the law.

Three subculture theories are: Cohen’s delinquency and frustration theory, Cloward and Ohlin’s differential opportunity theory,  and Miller’s lower-class focal concern theory.

(I)Cohen’s delinquency and frustration theory,

Albert K. Cohen believed that individuals from the lower class had different values, norms, and beliefs than those held by the middle class.   The goal of lower-class youths is middle-class membership. However, lower class youths face developmental handicaps that place them at a disadvantage in obtaining their goal of middle-class membership. These developmental handicaps include the lack of educational preparation and inability to delay gratification

The primary means of becoming a member of the middle class is education. These youths, who have been socialized to be part of the lower class, frequently have difficulty in school because teachers and administrators are members of the middle class and hold the values, norms, and beliefs of the middle class. The standards and values used in school to evaluate youths, which Cohen calls middle-class measuring rods ,  include ambition, responsibility, deferred gratification, courtesy, ability to control aggression, constructive use of time, and respect for property.  Essentially, lower-class youths are being evaluated by measures grounded in middle-class values and norms to which they are not accustomed. These middle-class measuring rods make it difficult for lower class children to succeed in school.

If lower-class students fail at school, they will not be able to attain their goal of middle-class status. Inability to fulfil this goal is known as status frustration . Frequently, students who are not performing well in school seek others like themselves with whom to associate. In other words, these young people may associate with others like themselves who are failing in school and are facing status frustration. These young people form delinquent subcultures and gangs. In gangs, youths develop new norms, values, and beliefs; they also establish new means to obtain status.

This delinquent behavior is actually a protest against the norms, values, and beliefs of the middle-class culture.

(II) Richard Cloward and Ohlin’s differential opportunity theory

Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin focused on serious delinquency committed by urban, male gang members.   Status frustration  Occurs due to a person’s inability to obtain the goal of middleclass status. Youths who had little ability to achieve these goals through legitimate means would form delinquent subcultures/gangs in an effort to obtain the goals.

Cloward and Ohlin believed that illegal opportunities, like conventional opportunities, are stratified unequally.  This means that there is an illegitimate opportunity structure just as there is a legitimate opportunity structure for success. The legitimate opportunity structure involves education, hard work, and a good occupation, and not everyone has access to this opportunity structure to obtain economic success. Not everyone has access to the illegitimate opportunity structure, either.

The illegitimate opportunity structure includes criminal enterprises in neighbourhoods where there are criminal mentors to assist youths in becoming successful criminals. Although there are illegitimate opportunity structures in many neighborhoods, not everyone has equal access to these structures.

Neighborhood structures such as established criminal enterprises and criminal mentors that lead youths to become criminals. When delinquent subcultures/gangs are established with a different set of values, norms, and beliefs, the type of delinquent gang that develops will depend on the neighbourhood in which the youths live and whether they have access to illegitimate opportunity structures.

(III) Miller’s lower-class focal concern theory

Walter B. Miller basic tenet was that society is composed of various social groups, each with its distinctive subculture.

Miller identified six focal concerns that describe six values of a lower-class subculture.  These focal concerns differentiate the lower class from the middle and upper classes.

  • . Excitement —value of thrill-seeking through gambling, fi ghting, and getting intoxicated
  • Autonomy —value of personal freedom resulting in an active disdain of authority.
  • Fate —value or belief that most things that happen to people are beyond their control
  • Smartness —value of the ability to be streetwise and to con people
  • Toughness —value of physical strength, fi ghting ability, and masculinity
  • Trouble —value by which people are evaluated on the basis of their involvement in trouble-making activity

(H) Walter Reckless Containment Theory

Walter Reckless believed that both internal and external forces operate when juveniles make decisions to avoid or commit delinquent acts. Some internal forces inhibit people from committing delinquent acts while others encourage delinquent behavior. The same is true for external forces; some inhibit while others encourage delinquent acts.

Reckless identified four motivating and restraining forces for delinquency.

1. Inner pressures and pulls lead juveniles toward committing delinquent acts. Inner forces include an individual’s desires, needs, and wants. These  include feelings of restlessness, hostility, and the needfor immediate gratification.

2. Inner containments inhibit delinquent behavior. Inner containments are internal personal controls that lead someone to not commit delinquent acts. These include self-esteem, strong sense of responsibility, internalized moral codes, tolerance of frustration, and positive goal orientations.

3. Outer pressures  may lead to delinquency include the influence of one’s peer group, unemployment, and living conditions. External forces also include the rewards for committing delinquent acts such as status and financial gain.

4. Outer containments inhibit delinquent behavior. These include forces that provide discipline and supervision including parents, police, schools, and the juvenile justice system.

Inner containments are more effective at inhibiting delinquent activity than are outer containments. Outer containments are not always present prior to the commission of delinquent acts, while inner containments such as internalized moral codes are. An individual’s self-image and self-esteem are also major predictors of which of these forces will dominate behavior.

(I)Travis Hirschi Social Control /Social Bonding Theory

According to Travis Hirschi, people usually do not commit delinquent acts because they fear that this behavior will damage their relationships with their parents, friends, families, teachers, and employers; thus, individuals do not commit delinquent acts because they are bonded to the larger society. When these social bonds are broken or diminished, delinquency is likely. Hirschi stated that there were four elements of the social bond  including attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief.

• Attachment describes the emotional and psychological ties a person has with others. It includes sensitivity to and interest in others as well as a sense of belonging. Hirschi believed that attachment to parents is more important than attachment to peers and school. Attachment is the most important element of the social bond.

• Commitment involves the time, energy, and effort expended in conventional action.  Therefore, the more conventional assets people have—such as an education, job, and home—the less likely they are to commit crime.

• Involvement means significant time and attention spent in conventional activities, which leaves little time for illegal behavior. People who are busy working, going to school, are far less likely to commit crime. They do not have the spare time to indulge temptations to commit crimes.

• Belief describes the acceptance of moral legitimacy of law and authority, with an understanding that the law should be obeyed

Delinquency Prevention

Understanding why a minor commits a crime is essential to preventing future crimes from happening. Addressing the issues that has led to the choices that the minor child has made can help them change their actions in the future.

The juvenile delinquency is expression of unsatisfied desires and urges. For a delinquent, his deviant act is a normal response to his inner desire. Like a non delinquent a delinquent is also conditioned by various attending and prevailing circumstances around him. A juvenile delinquent is a person who has been so adjudicated by a judicial court though he may be no different from other children who are not delinquent. Delinquency is an act, conduct or interaction which is socially undesirable.

By addressing many of these issues at an early age, adults may be able to stop juvenile delinquency from starting. If delinquency has already occurred, addressing these issues and building protective barriers may allow the child to develop in a more secure environment and avoid problems in the future as well as when they are adults.

Delinquency Prevention Programs

It is established that

(1) high-quality activities  can make a measurable difference in problem behavior, and

(2) activities known to be effective do not work if poorly implemented.

These factors contribute to high-quality delinquency prevention activities:

  • Activities are highly structured, programs are scripted, and both follow manuals and implementation standards and use quality control mechanisms.
  • Activities are integrated into the regular school program.
  • Activities are selected from a wide variety of sources, including outside experts.
  • Program activities are supervised at all levels.
  • Programs are locally initiated and run by school insiders, researchers or govt personnel but are not necessarily locally developed. Externally developed programs tended to be of higher quality than locally developed programs.
  • The school principal supports prevention programs and is perceived by staff as an effective education leader.
  • Training is extensive and of high quality.

Implementing the program is a formal part of the implementer’s job. Activities are a regular part of the school program, do not depend on volunteers, and are conducted during the school day (not after school or on weekends).

Preventing Delinquent Behavior

The presence of a  factor is no guarantee delinquency will occur. Most children in foster care never break the law.

Protective Factors
While there are no magic solutions for preventing delinquency, understanding and building up protective factors is a good place to start. Protective factors are traits or experiences that help counteract  factors.

These protective factors may reduce the likelihood of delinquent behavior:

Youth resilience. “Resilience is the process of managing stress and functioning well even when faced with adversity and trauma” .Youth resilience include:

  • Hopefulness,
  • Motivation, sense of purpose,
  • Positive future orientation,
  • Positive view of self, overall positive attitude,
  • Realistic belief in one’s ability to succeed,
  • Spirituality,
  • Taking responsibility for oneself.
  • Trust in others, sense of empowerment,
  • Attends religious services;
  • Committed to school;
  • Does well in school; extracurricular activities; positive school climate.
  • Friends who disapprove of antisocial behavior;
  • Supportive relationships with parents and other adults;
  • Warm,
  • Kindness to oneself when confronted with personal failings and suffering,
  • Personal strengths (e.g., hard work, gratitude, respect, integrity) .
  • Realistic belief in one’s ability to succeed,
  • Self-esteem,
  • Spirituality, personal goals,
  • Thinking about consequences of one’s behavior,
  1. Social connectedness. Connections to people and institutions help youth increase knowledge and skills, have a sense of belonging, and find meaning in their lives . Signs of social connectedness include:
  1. Concrete support. Youth need concrete support and services that address their needs and help minimize stress. Youth have concrete support when social workers, foster parents, and others take steps to ensure they receive basic necessities as well as specialized academic, psychoeducational, health, mental health, legal, and/or employment services .
  2. Cognitive and social emotional competence. Signs that youth have cognitive and social emotional competence include:

So if you are caring for a child or youth who has risk factors for delinquency,

Connect with your child. Building a strong relationship takes time and effort but pays rich dividends: a caring, supportive relationship with an adult is the single most important protective factor for children who have experienced maltreatment.

Be clear about rules and expectations. In a friendly, clear way, explain to children in your home what you expect of them. Hold family members accountable consistently and respectfully. Respond to misbehavior in a way that is proportionate. For example, unless there is imminent danger, if a child’s behavior becomes unruly your first call should be to the child’s social worker, not law enforcement.

Build your behavior management skills. Due to past trauma, children in foster care sometimes have difficulty behaving appropriately. Teaching them to manage their own behavior will help them succeed in life and stay out of trouble. There are many resources to help you learn to do this, including this article from Fostering Perspectives:

Increase your knowledge and understanding of adolescent development. This is particularly important given the recent advances in the fields of neuroscience and developmental psychology. What you know affects how you interpret teen behavior and how you respond.

Know where your child is and who they’re with. Make your home a place your child’s friends want to be. This will help you monitor what’s going on and get to know the friends.

Don’t go it alone. Have frequent, candid conversations with your child’s social worker and your licensing social worker about your parenting successes and concerns. This is important. They want to be sure the child is getting his needs met and is staying out of trouble. Supporting you is one of the best ways to achieve these goals.

Be informed, supportive, and present. This is especially important when it comes to your child’s school, any therapy or treatment they receive, and extracurricular activities.

Prevention & Early Intervention

Juvenile delinquency follows a trajectory similar to that of normal adolescent development. In other words, children and youth tend to follow a path toward delinquent and criminal behavior rather than engaging randomly.

Early Intervention= Early intervention prevents the onset of delinquent behavior and supports the development of a youth’s assets and resilience.3 While many past approaches focus on remediating visible and/or longstanding disruptive behavior, research has shown that prevention and early intervention are more effective. 4

In essence, intervening early “not only saves young lives from being wasted,” but also prevents the onset of adult criminal careers and reduces the likelihood of youth becoming serious and violent offenders. This in turn reduces the burden of crime on society, and saves taxpayers money.5

Positive Youth Development= One positive youth development model addresses the six life domains of work, education, relationships, community, health, and creativity. The two key assets needed by all youth are

(1) learning/doing and

(2) attaching/belonging.

When the necessary supports and services are provided to assist youth in the six life domains, it is expected that positive outcomes will result.6

Effective Programs= Effective programs are those that aim to act as early as possible and focus on known behavioral development of juveniles.7 In general,  the following types of school and community prevention programs be employed:

  • Classroom and behavior management programs
  • Multi-component classroom-based programs
  • Social competence promotion curriculums
  • Conflict resolution and violence prevention curriculums
  • Bullying prevention programs
  • Afterschool recreation programs
  • Mentoring programs
  • School organization programs
  • Comprehensive community interventions

In general, when implemented with a high degree of fidelity (effectiveness), these programs demonstrate effective positive results


Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1969.

Eaton, J. W. and Polk, K., Measuring Delinquency. Pittsburg; university Pittsberg Press,1961.

Hirschi, Travis. Causes of Delinquency,

Hirsh, N., Dynamic Causes of Juvenile Crime. Cambridge; Mass, Sci-Art Publisher, 1937.

K. Kusum, ‘Juvenile Delinquency- A Socio-legal Study’(1979) Published by KLM Book House, New Delhi 22

Kvaraceus, W. C. and Miller, W.B. Delinquent Behaviour; Cultuer and The Individual.

Sellin, T. and Wolfgang, M., The Measurement of Delinquency. New York; John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1964.

Washingoton; National Education Association,1959


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