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Juvenile Delinquency: Psychological Concepts

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1680 words Published: 2nd Aug 2018

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The following essay will be used to depict the psychology of a juvenile delinquent in comparison to that of an individual that is considered to be “normal.” Various perspectives will be taken as well. For example, there will be a direct comparison between the male and female population of certain age groups in regards to delinquency. Aside from gender, which will be the initial comparison, other factors such as race and location of upbringing will be evaluated. Ideally, the essay will prove that delinquency is directly correlated to surroundings and upbringing. This will focus particularly on the age group of 12-17.

There will be many different sources of statistics. Some will show that many delinquents have endured traumatic, life-changing events that contribute to these irrational and usually dangerous behaviors. Possible motives will also be questioned (for example: revenge, adrenalin rush, gang affiliation, etc.).

There will be a portion dedicated to evaluating the brain itself and which parts are affected during the course of certain activities. There are some theories that state delinquency is based upon genetics and acquired at birth, as opposed to a learned behavior. This will be addressed and, ideally, disproved.

And finally, the psychology of different types of crimes will be taken into account. For example, one that has partaken in gun violence most likely has a different psychological mindset than a teen that stole from a store.

Ultimately, the paper will conclude reminding the reader of the most valuable statistics to suggest that there are many contributions to juvenile delinquency, and that these must be taken into account, should a young person make a mistake in his or her life.


“Throughout history people have tried to explain why a person would commit crimes. Some consider a life of crime better than a regular job- at least until they are caught” (Bettmann/Corbis). Is It true to say that more often than not, such behavior as an adult began when one was merely a teenager or even younger? Certainly. In what is noted to be the “cycle of violence,” the causes of delinquency are adopted and continued throughout generations of a family. In this “cycle of violence,” neglected and abused children show signs of delinquency and later become criminals as adults. Because of this, these acts of violence must serve as an outcry to s psychological disorder (as opposed to a personal decision).

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Scientifically speaking, researchers have discovered a correlation between neurochemicals of the brain and criminal behavior. Those who commit crimes have lower levels of serotonin- which tends to calm a person- and higher levels of dopamine (which expresses aggression). Therefore it is inaccurate to claim that juvenile delinquency (or all crime, for that matter) is nothing more than someone’s irresponsible decision based upon factors such as money and gang affiliation.

When a child grows up in a poor family environment, he or she will often turn to a gang instead. Receiving nothing at home, the young individual seeks a gang, where he or she may acquire different level of “respect” from the other members. Gangs, which in actuality are only based upon a desire for materialism (drugs, alcohol, money, etc), always require crime to be committed. Because a young individual finally feels a degree of acceptance, he or she will not turn down a request to commit a crime and risk losing position in the gang. These behaviors and gang involvement follow one throughout their lifetime, once more continuing the “cycle of violence.” These teens are unknowingly making criminals of the future generations of their families by being in gangs themselves.

Statistical Overview

Despite the fact that juvenile delinquency is still problematic in the United States, there have been statistical declines since the 1990s (particularly in instances of violent crimes). Between 1994 and 1999, there was a thirty-one percent decline in rape, a fifty-three percent decline in robbery, and a thirty-nine percent decline in correlation to arrests for weapon violations (Archer, 240).

These numbers decrease into the early twenty-first century, as well. Between 1992 and 2001, there was a sixty-two percent decrease in the rates of manslaughter among adolescents, a forty percent decrease in burglary, and a fifty-one percent decrease in auto theft (Archer, 240).

However, despite the fact that overall crime was decreasing, the rate of crime among the female population has skyrocketed. Since the early 1990s, the rates of female court cases have increased approximately eighty-three percent. Majority of these offenses are not related to violence, though. On the contrary, most adolescent females are arrested for either running away from home or for prostitution.

Behavior in Regards to Delinquency

The hereditary and environmental factors play a considerable role in the development of delinquent and criminal behavior. As the individual grows older alongside the influences of his or her “norm,” negative behaviors may develop as well. Those that tend to commit crimes tend to show signs of traits such as aggressiveness or constantly acting impulsive. Such traits demonstrate the desire to defy authority, which is obviously evident in every criminal.

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Aside from those characteristics, one who becomes a delinquent is typically more socially withdrawn and reserved. More often than not, these are caused by a traumatic event or series of events in the delinquent’s childhood. As he or she grows up, he will be characterized by a sense of defiance and with skewed vision of the social norm. Because the delinquent is not, socially speaking, similar to others, becoming social or talking to others is greatly difficult. However, this is irrelevant, for many delinquents avoid unnecessary social contact altogether. Many criminals are centrally based and disregard the well-being of others (tied tightly into the idea of solitude), Aside from this, he or she will be very self-centered and focusing on one’s own well-being.

Despite behavioral patterns that may be going on for generations, there is a way to alter these mental standings in certain people in order to help them stray away from the negativities of a life of crime. One of the most significant therapeutic methods is to find a way to help the delinquent comprehend and relate to the idea of nurturing, beneficial social connections with other people. This is the final result of a potentially long process of assisting a delinquent to help with his or her mental state of being.

Other Factors Regarding Delinquency

A study done within the Psychology department of the University of South Carolina at Charlotte shows that cases of insomnia result in a deterioration of inhibitions and an increase of reckless behavior.

However, aside from this, one of the most significant contributions would be the social relations of one’s life. “According to the social learning theory, processes occurring in daily social interaction provide the proximal nexus at which these casual factors converge to exert their influence” (Lahey, 27).

Rationality for the Juvenile Legal System

It is greatly debated whether children and teenagers caught committing crimes should endure the same extents of punishment that an adult committing the same crime would receive. Some rationalize that the brain of adolescents are not fully developed, and therefore not completely responsible for juvenile delinquency. It is possible that there is a scientific, chemical relation to an adolescent’s inhibitions (Corriero, 48).

There are many areas, however, that disagree. In many states, a young child may go on trial at the age of 13 and may be tried for murder as young as the age of 14 (Corriero, 35). In Oklahoma, for example, a child as young as the age of seven may be held accountable for crimes, no matter what the degree of severity. This is highly arguable and debated in many states. On one hand, the child is personally responsible for the crime. As a result, he or she should be punished just like anyone else would (if for nothing else, then for the sake of learning). On the other hand, the child should not be held accountable for wrongdoing, for he or she does not have a brain that is fully developed. Putting a youngster in jail or forcing them to deal with the law at such a young age may prove to me highly unbeneficial. He or she does not have a fully developed mind and may therefore be manipulated by dark experiences, thus increasing one’s chance of repeated delinquency at a later date.

All states hold trials against the young quite harshly in all states. In the United States, there are 200,000 youth younger than the age of eighteen that are tried as adults. Of this statistic, approximately twelve percent of the delinquents are under the age of sixteen (Corriero, 35).

In older times, children were punished as brutally as adults. However, as time progressed and psychological studies deepened, it showed that much of the traditional actions were ineffective. In its place, a greater concern was being directed towards delinquents. As opposed to punishment in itself, those imprisoning or looking after delinquents must make sure that the child see the error of his ways and acquire a substantial knowledge of the differences between right and wrong. The offended was not meant to only be imprisoned and isolated, but reformed. This significant change within the American courts ended up changing the psychological studies of delinquents for the remainder of time. Delinquents are often given probation as opposed to jail time, for many within the court system felt they must endure the real world to better learn to establish themselves.


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