To tackle this topical issue, it is fairly relevant to first of all define some key terminology employed in contextual jargon as regards the question at hand. At the fore, a juvenile can be said to be a minor of such age as may be stipulated by a particular state, usually below the age of sixteen (16) or seventeen (17) years, who may be in the frame of mind to willfully conceive criminal intent whilst perpetrating a crime, be it in the form of a robbery, murder or assorted other criminal acts.
Along the same line, ‘juvenile crime’ denotes several offences committed by the said minors (less than 18 years), infamously referred to as juvenile delinquency, and may include acts which would be considered ‘crimes’ if committed by adults, and misbehavior like disobedience to parents and authorities or even instances of truancy. As may be warranted by prevailing circumstance, such youthful offenders may be put to trial as either full-blown adults or simply in a capacity as juveniles, as influenced by a variety of factors, inclusive of the severity of the crime in question. For the more weighty crimes, the juvenile offender may be tried in either a juvenile or adult court, then subsequently incarcerated among the adults or juveniles, as the presiding judge may deem fit. More serious criminal offences may even spell out prison sentences for the ‘minor’ (Stafford, 1991).
However, the root causes of juvenile delinquency remain a baffling mystery, as clear-cut reasons are yet to be outlined for the same. However, it is clear that the major causes of delinquency are the use of alcohol and abuse of drugs and substances. Some theorists pen a myriad of intervention mechanisms to aid in arresting this situation before it grows into being the downfall of youths the world over. In this reaction paper, I endeavor to handle each of these issues, one at a time (Shaw, 1942).).
Drug trafficking has become the major source of violence in the country with rival gangs engaging in extreme violence that sometimes leads to fatality. Drug abusers sometimes results to crime in order to acquire money to satisfy their addictions since drugs are expensive. Furthermore, drugs alienate one from reality and leads to aggressive behavior which results to violence or misdemeanor. A lot of attention has been given in this area and extensive findings exist. However, it is clear that there is room for more to be done since this existing literature has not resulted to a dramatic decrease from behavior that is considered wrong in society. Furthermore, there seems to be little or inadequate research on the effect of to younger siblings if their older counterparts are abusers of alcohol and drugs (Kuntsche et al, 2009).
Diverse theories have been put forth as relates to the chief reasons why there is the onset of juvenile tendencies in the first place, and why this eventually metamorphosis’s into criminality in the long run. Among those advanced include schools of thought which are modeled around historical and modern – day scenarios. These theoretical traditions range from deliberations on;
– Early theories – these peg the juvenile tendencies to the forces of nature, for example, spiritual beings and even demons. Key aspects in this arena include deliberations on naturalism (the science relating human affairs and eventual behavior to interactions with the forces of nature) and spiritualism, whereby deviance and criminal tendencies can be pegged to influences of nature, and the perpetrator’s inappropriate connection with supernatural powers that be. In this theory, offenses were considered to be against nature itself
– The Classical theory, which goes on to rationalize personal choice, brings to focus the issue of humanitarianism. Theorists here are of the stance that proven perpetrators ought to be held personally accountable for their delinquent acts, and that punishment was best administered accordingly. This was based on the premises that humans are by nature reasonably rational, criminality being morally wrong and outlawed in society, and also that the civil society would play its role of disciplining wrong-doers as a form of deterrent mechanism, with such punishment being proportionate to the crime at hand (Loeber, 1989).
– Biological theories, which detail the physiological developmental traits of juveniles, in relation to their physical development, mental (under) development, or even hereditary characteristics, and their eventual impact on human behavior. It holds that some people are naturally-inclined toward being deviant, and that it is woven-into their genes, with little or no chance of altering this state of being. The point of note here is that delinquency and its roots are traced to a person’s physical/ physiological predisposition, as opposed mainly to the question of free will.
Chief among these are theories dealing with
– hereditary issues (heredity),
– evolution of man and his characteristics (atavism), as well as,
– The development of certain bodily traits that are common amongst people already oriented toward behaving in a particular manner (somatotyping), to name but a few.
– Psychological theories – these touch on psychopathic personalities, correlation between dysfunctional and/ or troubled childhoods and the prevalence of the juvenile mannerisms in individuals. These also ascribe deviant behavior to one’s surrounding environment, as may be influenced by chemical interplay in the brain, or an assorted number of reasons. Here, it is necessary to point out that delinquents may not have a sense of right or wrong as they go about their deviant actions, and that not only can’t they control themselves, but also, their personalities border being christened ‘abnormal’, and the root of such can be re-traced back to their age as little children. These include; Psychopathology, which relates one’s lack of a viable conscience to deviant mannerisms and also, the dys-functioning of given personalities, conditioning, which details the response to stimulating factors prevalent in the environment, and Psychoanalysis, dealing with incomplete development of one’s personality.
– Sociological theories – serve to link deviance to societal interactions and also the already existing caste structures, not to mention the inherent disparities in existence between the level of achieving goals and objectives and actually being in a position to go about the same. These include;
– Differential Association theory, which deals with ways in which we as humans have the tendency of picking up all manner of behavior from those around us. It further posits that delinquency is an acquired behavior that is adopted from lifestyles of varying criminals.
– The Structural/ Social Ecology theory, as pertains to structural conditions in a given area that may play a pivotal role in shaping the mental framework of individuals inhabiting that area. These include; overcrowding, unemployment, poor housing, poverty, sub-standard sanitation, and last but not least, illegitimate births.
– Strain and anomie theory; anomie details the aspect of lack of norms in society, especially in instances where there may be experienced some upheavals like wars and the like. When this materializes, the traditional customs and regulations are no longer abided by. Conversely, Strain refers to a situation whereby there already exists a standard set of acceptable goals and means of achieving the same. The inherent problem however, is that not all members of society have the necessary resources to go about meeting this end, thus, a scenario of need is created with some members literally straining to make ends meet, as it were. Thus, lack of opportunity and inequality can be zoned off as the major bones of contention here.
– Critical theory – has a lot to do with forces of subjugation in society, and also the capitalistic nature of shrewd individuals. Societal inequities play a major role in molding the character and adaptive mind-state of given persons, more so in the earlier years right after one begins the journey to discover him/ herself. This is further broken down into;
– Radical criminology; this has the general proposition that since the wealth and power in society have been inequitably distributed, then, those less economically – empowered will ultimately seek out alternative modes, mostly of criminal nature, so as to achieve whatever it is they are in (dire) need of. This situation is set to persist until control mechanisms are put in place by society to ensure that all and sundry are catered for as pertains to the same.
– Conflict theory; the main assumption is that societal conflicts and tensions are part and parcel of society in general. There thus arises a distinctive classification of peoples, pitting the haves against the have-nots, with the latter being tagged in a relatively negative light. The theory posits that there subsequently arises the need for specialized institutions that can be employed to maintain a certain degree of law and order in society. Thus, in a nutshell, this theory serves to deliberate the economic tensions created, focus being placed on the political and economic systems in existence.