Juvenile Delinquency Essay, Research Paper
The issue of juvenile delinquency and the social environment is one of major concerns to schools and society as a whole. There has been an influx of juvenile delinquents in today’s society, ranging from school violence, to gangs. Juvenile delinquency is prevalent across the nation, it is cross cultural and cross racial, it knows no colors. Juvenile crimes has increased in numbers and in severity. There is no doubt that various experts can give us many theories as to the causes of juvenile delinquency, including one’s background, and delinquent peer groups, however, I feel that the number one cause of juvenile delinquency is the breakdown of families, including lack of parental control over children. It is ironic in America, today one must have a driver’s license to operate a vehicle, but one does not have to have training or a license in order to become a parent. Today many parents have already contributed to the ever increasing problem of juvenile delinquency simply by not knowing how to be parents.
There are many reasons for the widespread crisis in families today. Below are some of those causes:
Changes in the Social Environment- Their have been many changes in our social environment over the last twenty five years (”About parenting,” 1996, p. 3 ). These changes have made a risky environment over today’s youth. Children and teenagers spend more time with peer groups than ever before. Illicit and explicit sexuality and violence are the main subjects of choice in the media, and the impact of media influence has widened(”About parenting,” 1996, p. 3 ).
Changes in Family Structure and Functioning- The prevalence of divorce and the increasing number of adults who provide interactions, structure and supervision in a child’s life(”About parenting,” 1996, p. 3 ).
Confusion About Parent Roles and Parent Control- When children reach adolescence, conflict
between parents and teens normally increases as teens need to distance themselves from parental identity to establish their own identity(”About parenting,” 1996, p. 4 ).
There are many parenting styles, but experts say that there are generally three parenting styles that conflicts during adolescence. Below are the three parenting styles that contribute to juvenile delinquency:
The authoritarian parent tends to emphasize rules with very harsh consequences(”About parenting,” 1996, p. 7 ). There is little room for discussion or negotiation(”About parenting,” 1996, p. 7 ).
The indulgent parent tends to spoil the child and expects little or no responsibility at home, choosing to clean up after the child both at home and in his social misbehavior(”About parenting,” 1996 p. 7 ).
The indifferent parent is so preoccupied with his or her own life and activities that little time and energy is given to either involvement or structure(”About parenting,” 1996 p. 8 ).
The type of parenting that is said to work is simply called authoritative parenting. This type of parent assumes a role of authority in the child’s life, but the rules and structure are sensible and flexible to accommodate the child’s growth towards adolescence and young adulthood(”About parenting,” 1996 p. 8 – 9 ). The parent’s intelligent explanations of rules plus reasonable enforcement help to maintain a steady reduction of control as the child matures.
Studies have been made to determine the causes of juvenile delinquency. Many of the studies
have focused on family relationships. In one study, comparing delinquent and non-delinquent youths, by Lotz in nineteen eighty-five, showed that over ninety percent of the delinquents had unhappy lives and felt discontented with their life circumstances(p. 55 ). Only thirteen percent of the non-delinquent youths felt the same(p. 55 ). This particular study is what brought about my conclusion that the breakdown of families is the number one cause of juvenile delinquency.
The issue of school violence is not a new phenomenon. Traces of school violence can be dated back as far as the 1950s, when the problem was not discipline(Shaw, 1969 p. 20 ). During the fifty’s a disagreement between two students most likely would have been settled the old-fashion way, with a fist fight. Today the possibility that a disagreement among students will be settled with some type of with some type of weapon rather than a fist fight. A major difference between violence in the schools in the fifty’s and the ninety’s is the presence and use of weapons, especially guns. We as americans in today’s society have noticed that the lives of many innocent adolescents and adults have been taken in the hands of other students at school. Violence in schools is not unique to public schools or to the nations urban communities. It has been striking in the past years due to the fact that it is beginning to hit suburban communities right at home. According to the US Department of Justice, public, private, and nonsectarian schools have all experienced an increase in school violence( Stencel, 1998, p. 887). In there studies they have found that nine percent of public, seven percent of private and six percent of nonsectarian school students have reported being victims of school violence, and it is increasing daily (Stencel, 1998, p. 887 ). The percentage of students that are afraid to attend school on a daily basis has increased in every community across the nation, with twenty four percent of urban students,
twenty percent suburban students(Stencel, 1998, p. 887 ). In the late nineteen ninety’s the US Department of justice have found that being victimized in school is something that not only plagues the junior high and high school students, but it is something that is affecting the elementary age students as well(www.ed.gov). Studies have shown that twenty-nine percent of elementary students have been victims of school violence(www.ed.gov).
Weapons, how do they find there way into the hands of our children. In the last two academic years there were one hundred and five cases of school associated violent deaths. These cases ranged from homicides to suicides, eighty- five of these cases were homicides and twenty were suicides(www.nscu.edu). These events occurred in elementary and secondary schools and firearms were used in seventy- five percent of the incidents(www.nscu.edu). Children feel that they have to bring weapons to school for protection, because they fear being a victim of school violence. Today’s society have seen the high profile cases across the media, such as Columbine where over ten students and a teacher were gun downed by other students. These are the types of guns that found there way into the hands of those students: Tec DC nine, sawed off- double barrel shotgun, and 9 mil meter semiautomatic riffle.
Preventing school violence is a problem that the entire nation has to solve as a whole. The Federal Buearu Investigation conducted a report on what to look for in a potential shooter. The profiling report is said to help school officials and guidance counselors in preventing school violence before it strikes. These are some of the characteristics to look for:
If a child has tantrums and angry outburst; resorts to cursing or abusive language; has serious
disciplinary problems at school and in the community; has witnessed or been a victim of abuse or neglect in the home; tends to blame others for difficulties and problems one causes oneself; prefers reading materials dealing with violent themes, rituals and abuse, reflects anger and dark side of life in school essays or writing projects, and is often depressed (www.cnn.com). Those are some of many characteristics of spotting a potential shooter. It has been said that this report may cause some stereotyping of students, by officials, because this is not the case with every student. Bruce Hunter, a lobbyist who represents school superintendents for the American Association of School Administrators, said that profiling is not the answer to school violence(www.cnn.com). Hunter believes that profiling can be very biased and cause some officials to act without cause, making kids potential criminals (www.cnn.com).
Americans believe that tighter security and tighter justice system would control the problems that plague our schools. Society feels that youth that commit adult crimes should be tried as adults. Many Americans are angry after the Jonesboro shooting where the two shooters were ages eleven and thirteen, could not be tried as adults and would only do time until the age of twenty-one. The juvenile justice system should be the same nation wide instead of varying state by state. If one commits a crime, one should be punished equally. We need more resource officers in the school system and more money needs to spent on metal detectors and school uniforms. The legislature not only profiles victims, but they profile its school districts, meaning that they think these things are only needed in the urban areas and that is not true. School violence knows no district by its size. School violence does not pick and choose where it will hit next, it is like a hurricane it changes its path in split seconds. If there is a price to pay for committing a crime, there should be a price to pay for preventing crimes from happening in our
school systems. The need for tighter gun control in the United States is a must as well. Congress might have created and passed the “gun-free school zones,” in the early nineties, but that did not make gun control tighter. If one is going to own a gun they should be required to buy a certain type of storage case, such as on made of cast iron, that would be difficult for children to gain access to. Congress needs to pass a law that the gun owner should be punished as well as the child, if the gun is used by a child in a crime.
Gangs are three or more persons who share a common identity, adopt or use signs and symbols (Sanders, 1994, p. 6). The key is that they engage in criminal activity, ranging from murder to selling drugs (Sanders, 1994,p. 6). Gangs aren’t something new in americas society, they have been in existence for decades, but in the last ten years they have become dramatically more developed and more violent. Americas society have realized that what they use to call peer groups, are now called gangs and they are committing more crimes than ever, especially with the rise of drugs in this nation. The presence of gangs date back as far as the sixty’s, when fifty Chicago street gangs united into a single organization called the Black P- Stone Nation, and other gangs followed to form the Black Gangster Disciple Nation, which are still in existence today (Sanders, 1994, p. 34). The main reason these two nations formed, was the Chicago drug trade (Sanders, 1994, p. 34). From there these gangs became bitter rivals. The two most common gangs in today’s society are the Bloods and the Crips, which are in high population in the state of California, but have managed to migrated throughout the country. Today these gangs are known to take new recruits through an initiation process, which have went from getting beat up in the old days, to serious crimes like murdering someone, like a cop.
Each nation has it’s own characteristics, which separates them from the other, this began in the prison system in the eighties. Gangs target no certain race, there are many gangs across the nation ranging from Hispanic Gangs, to Black Gangs, to White Gangs. Hispanic gangs tend to glorify the gang, black gangs tend to glorify the gang or individual, while white gangs glorify Punk and Heavy Metal groups(Saunders, 1994, p 48 ). Even thou gangs hit no certain race, they tend to do cultural things. For example hispanic gangs tend to use a lot of Spanish when they do graffiti.
We often wonder where do we find gangs, research shows that gangs tend to form up in
low income, urban areas (Stencel, 1998, p. 892 ). How do we know that a gang exist in our neighborhood is another question people tend to ask. There are many gang identifiers ranging from the color of clothing that they wear to the graffiti on the wall. Gang members are not dumb people they are very smart individuals, they have invented their own alphabet, codes and symbols. One of the first indication that a gang activity is in your community, is graffiti. Gangs use graffiti to warn intruders and even policemen of their presence, and to let them no that they are not wanted. The first thing one should do if graffiti is noticed in the community is to remember the four R’s of Graffiti, which are below:
Read- read the graffiti to determine the gang(s)involved. If you are unable to interpret what is observed, find someone who can (Sanders, 1994, p. 170-178). In this process you are able to gather the gangs name and pending wars.
Report- the local law enforcement should be contacted, so that they that gang activity is in the area (Sanders, 1994, p. 170-178).
Record- use a still video camera to record the graffiti for possible later use.
Remove- remove all graffiti as soon as possible after it is discovered. When removing graffiti paint the entire wall in white(Sanders, 1994, p. 170-178 ). Other gang identifiers are colors of clothing, crips tend to wear blue and bloods tend to wear red. Gangs can easily be identified by culture, just simply knowing the things that each praises. The things that gangs praise will be written in graffiti. Black gangs are usually heavily involved in making money, so they tend to use dollar signs(Sanders, 1994, p. 153-155). White gangs use devil worship symbols(Sanders, 1994, p. 153-155). Persons of all races have been affect by their youth joining gangs. Psychologist say that today’s youth have fallen in the hands of gangs to fill an emotional void in their home lives (”Teen behavior,” 1996, p. 4 ). Youth get that needed love and attention from gangs,
when it lacks in the home. Parents need to provide their children with much needed love and become involved in their child’s life. There are several ways that parents can help protect their children from gangs, such as getting to know the friends that they hang out with, as well as the parents of those kids (Saunders, 1994, p. 58-70). Parents need to make sure that their child is supervised after school and are engaged in some meaningful activities (Saunders, 1994, p. 58-70). They also need to get involved with schools and hold informational meetings for the students and other parents about gang recruitment, identification, and gang activities (Saunders, 1994, p. 58-70).
Several years ago, before I came into the military and I was a lot younger I went to visit my aunt and cousin for the summer in Miami, Florida, in an area called Liberty City. Every night I watched the news and saw where gang members had driven by someone’s house and started firing thinking, not knowing, just thinking that someone had “Dissed” them or that was a member of a rival gang was in the house. They didn’t know for sure that the person that they
wanted to shoot was there or not so they just fired into a house and more often than not, someone that didn’t have anything to do with the situation was shot, an innocent bystander. Not a gang member, not a person that commits crimes or deserves to get shot, but someone’s mother, brother, father or sometimes someone’s infant baby. This is not a reasonable thing to happen, but the gang members do not care, because it did not affect them. I watched that every night for one whole summer while there in Liberty City. I watched and listened and even saw it happen, at least what I thought was it. We were ridding down the rode, when I saw someone run up to another person in the street and shot them in brood daylight. Things like this are happening all the time and gangs are moving all the time to new cities, don’t be surprised if it happens in a general area. Maybe if the rest of the United States adopt the law that Florida has against gang members the nation would be better. Florida has a law, where if you are a gang member and you commit a crime such as a misdemeanor it becomes a felony. So instead of a year in jail you may get five years. I think this is the most outstanding law that the state of Florida could have came up with.
While doing research for my paper, I interviewed a licensed clinical social worker, Captain White. Before entering the military Captain White worked as a clinical social worker, for five years. She worked in the juvenile detention area , at Lakeview Mental Health Clinic, in Florida. While working at Lakeview Mental Health Clinic, Captain White came in contact with juveniles that suffered from many disorders, ranging from Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD), and those with Conduct Disorder(CD). Captain White stated that she had to do in home visit with her clients and through observation
she noticed that most of her clients came from dysfunctional families. During our interview Captain White discussed her worse client with me, again the client came from a dysfunctional home. This particular thirteen year old male client had been diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The client would fight and the only thing that would help was to keep him busy all the time. The child had to go to talk therapy class, nothing seem to help him and eventually ended up in the juvenile detention center, which was like an adult jail. After in home visits Captain White began to be more involved in the juvenile detention area. She describes the detention center as a mini jail. This particular detention center was attached to the county jail, so the juveniles were treated like career criminals, they wore orange suits, they looked like regular
convicts. Everything was structured in this juvenile detention center, unlike others
throughout the country. I asked Captain White what was the youngest and the most dangerous child that she had worked with in her five years of experience. Captain White said that the youngest she had worked with was ten years old and that the most dangerous was a sixteen year old, who had committed murder. This kid had murdered his own father, while he was sleeping. This young boy was the most respected among the other kids, because he had committed the worse crime. In her research she observed that seventy- five percent of the juvenile detention center were males and the other twenty- five percent were females. The kids that she had worked with were kids like other children, with the exception of the dysfunctional family. The children had lack of parental support, the parents were never criminals, they just failed at giving their children attention and that added love and affection.
In conclusion, I would agree there are many causes of juvenile delinquency, however, the
most important cause and one that needs to be addressed and corrected is the breakdown of families. Parents who care responsibly for their children will help them avoid the other causes of juvenile delinquency. Children both young and old, have the right to expect strong family morals and values. Children have the right to have their parents show a sincere interest in both their school work and their activities away from school. They have a right for parents to sit at the dinner table and ask about their day. They have the right for respect and they also have a right to effective parenting. If the parents that are in today’s society would restrict their kids access to media violence, monitor their peer groups, explain and inform them of the negative effects of school and gang violence, prevent their access to firearms, provide them with a stable family and discipline them with love and consistency, the basic values of life would come naturally and reduce the number of children involved with delinquency.
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