Adolescence and Delinquency

I couldn\'t begin to cover all the possible reasons that may cause an
adolescent to become a "juvenile delinquent." During my research, I found
that the term juvenile delinquency is defined a number of ways. Mosby\'s
Medical Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary summed up juvenile delinquency
best with this definition; "resistant antisocial, illegal, or criminal
behavior by children or adolescents to the degree that it cannot be
controlled or corrected by the parents, endangers others in the community,
and becomes the concern of a law enforcement agency"(1994).
I found that most theories about what causes delinquency in children and
adolescents originate with families and parenting. Many statistics and
studies have been conducted comparing the number of youths that had chosen a
delinquent life style, with single parent households, or parents who were
drug and alcohol dependant. It is my belief that three out of four parenting
styles that we have studied in our text, when taken to extremes, can be just
as damaging to an adolescent as a parent suffering from drug or alcohol
addiction. Parents who exhibit an indifferent parenting style send the worst
possible message to their children. "When permissiveness is accompanied by
high hostility, the child feels free to give rein to his most destructive
impulses"(Craig, 1996, p.316). And where exactly in the question of
causation does nature Vs nurture fit in. What about the child who seemingly
has balanced, consistent authoritative parents, and still chooses a
delinquent lifestyle.
I\'m going to address some of these issues in the pages to follow, beginning
with an external factor that may influence some of our younger children; TV.
The impact of television violence has been debated since TV first arrived
in America. According to a study highlighted in US News and World Report,
the more violent TV programs children watch, the more likely they are to
commit violent crimes. "The greatest impact is on pre-adolescent children
who do not yet have the capacity to gauge what is real and what is not"
(Zuckerman, Aug. 2,1993). The theory states, that combined with a lack of
parenting by "plugging" children into the TV, these children later in life
will be conditioned to violence, regarding it as exciting, charismatic, and
effective. Opponents of this theory argue the "solution to the problem of
television violence may be to reinforce the traditional institutions of
church, family and neighborhood, which provide the moral armor against bad
influences from other sectors of society" (Bender @ Leone, 1997,p.57). These
advocates sort of differentiate between good and bad violence on TV. One
example is the popular television show Law and Order, which is divided into
two sections. In each episode is the depiction of a crime, followed by a
trial of the accused.
Probably the most controversial focus of juvenile delinquency causation
can be attributed to the breakdown of families, giving rise to a large number
of single parent households. According to Robert L. Maginnis, a link does
exist between single parent families, juvenile delinquency and crime.
"Children from single-parent families, he argues, are more likely to have
behavior problems because they tend to lack economic security and adequate
time with parents" (Maginnis, 1994). "Children from single-parent families
are two to three times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems
than are children in two parent families" (Bender, Leone, 1997 p.64). This
report goes on to say these children "are more likely to drop out of school,
to get pregnant as teenagers, to abuse drugs, and to be in trouble with the
law." Bender and Leone cite a study from the Journal of Research in Crime
and Delinquency that reports the most reliable indicator of violent crime in
a community is the proportion of fatherless families. Fathers typically
offer economic stability, a role model for boys, greater household security,
and reduced stress for mothers. " When compared to children from two-parent
families, children from single parent homes are more prone to crime:
· They use drugs more heavily and commit more crimes
throughout their lives.
·They are more likely to be gang members.
·They make up 70% of juvenile delinquents in state reform
·They account for 75% of adolescent murders.
·They are 70% more likely to be expelled from school" (Bender @ Leone,
p.64). Bender and Leone