Crime is rampant in today’s world and no society is free from its impacts. Day by day the crime rates are increasing and newspapers and media reports from all across the globe are flooding us with news of violence, delinquency and crime. What is even more alarming is the rate in which Juveniles are being involved in delinquent acts and are committing violent offences. However, it is through the lens of crime that one get’s to see the underlying cracks and faults of society. It exposes to the individuals the flaws of society which play a major contributing role in the act of committing a crime.
“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” ~Arthur Conan Doyle
The innocent eyes of a child do not reflect hatred, aggression or violence all of a sudden and a child does not become a juvenile delinquent overnight. Several biological, cultural, economic, social, political and psychological factors interplay and cause juvenile delinquency.
“We are what we see. We are products of our surroundings.” ~ Amber Valletta
Multiple theories have been developed and several researches have been conducted to explain the causes of juvenile delinquency. Generally, the theories are grouped as biological or physiological, psychological and sociological. While genetic composition, personality dynamics and neuropsychological processing play a major causal role in juvenile delinquency, the contribution of the social environment of the child and other sociological factors cannot be ignored or neglected. Growing up in a non-supportive environment and a world full of crime, bullying, violent video games and TV shows, prejudices and hate crimes and domestic violence – all negatively impact the mindset and attitude of children.
UNDERSTANDING THE MAJOR SOCIOLOGICAL CAUSES
Family is one of the most basic and fundamental units of society. Family environments, relationships among family members, parental control and value education imparted within homes play a decisive role in shaping a child’s attitude, behaviour and personality. The commonly identified factors pertaining to unfavourable family environment are –
“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” ~ Michael J. Fox
- Lack of parental care, control and/or affection
- Quarrels and conflicts among partners
- Excessive strict discipline at home or the complete lack of it.
- Highly ambitious or critical parents
- Abusive parents or caregivers
- Depravity of parents or parent’s continued long absence from home
- Consumption of alcohol or drugs by parents or other family members
- Disorganised family or broken homes – separation, divorce or death of any one of the parents.
- Presence of a parent with a psychological disorder
- Unemployment or low income leading to poverty due to which the basic needs of the child is not satisfied.
Lees and Newson (1954) interestingly found that child’s birth order in the family and sibling position could be an attributing factor in delinquency. Their study revealed that middle children are more prone to engaging in criminal activities because they are likely to get less care and attention from their parents in comparison to their older or younger siblings.
Thus, all of the above mentioned factors may directly or indirectly lead a child to fall in bad company and consequently indulge in offensive activities.
SCHOOLS AND OTHER INSTITUTIONS
In addition to family, schools, religious institutions and community play an important part in the process of socialisation of a child. School is where children spend a maximum of their time and have closest contacts and interactions with most children. Schools impart academic knowledge and provide moral and value education to children. The modern school systems put a strong emphasis on a good performance and thus create an environment of competition. However, children who are intellectually, economically, emotionally or socially deprived may face difficulty in meeting their expectations and are likely to resort to unfair means or delinquent acts.
Family and parents have the responsibility of teaching socially acceptable values to children. When these values are not imparted, a child’s bond with parents and school is broken, causing deterioration in their academic performance. As a consequence, children may start associating with deviant peer groups in which they feel accepted. These peer groups then pressurise or encourage children or adolescents to begin or continue engaging in deviant actions. Peer groups or “gangs” usually play the role of conveying techniques of delinquency, providing training in delinquency, safeguarding the members of the gang engaged in deviant acts and maintaining a continuity of delinquent actions.
MEDIA AND CINEMA
In today’s technology-driven world, there is no limit to the material that can be accessed with the click of a button. From a very young age, children are exposed to cartoons, TV series, movies and video games. While watching action-packed blockbusters casting our favourite actors or superheroes can be a thrilling and exciting experience for us, several researchers have found that television, comic books, movies, radio and video games portraying violence and sexual acts or highlighting crimes are significant factors contributing to juvenile delinquency. Children are easily attracted by these kinds of contents and often times they want to imitate in their real-life what they watched on screen. Thus, media influence and the subsequent information explosion may be one of the growing causes of delinquency in children and adolescents.
Besides these, there are several other social factors like poor living conditions in neighbourhood and the frequency in which crimes happen, poor recreation facilities, love adventures, the bad company of friends, excessive rigidity in society and poor socio-economic conditions of the society.
HOW CAN ONE PREVENT JUVENILE DELINQUENCY?
Understanding juvenile delinquency and tackling it is complex. To prevent deviant behaviours from appearing or developing, parents, teachers, caregivers and other authority figures must use effective discipline, monitoring and different problem-solving techniques (Crosswhite and Kerpelman 2008). The first step of preventing deviance is recognising deviant behaviours and keeping track of when they occur. Punishments given for maintaining effective discipline must neither be overly harsh nor extremely negligible because that might have a counter effect on the child and chances of deviancy may therefore increase. Monitoring means having an awareness of the child’s whereabouts, who their peers are and what they do in their leisure time. Problem-solving skills are essential in a child’s development of communication. A lack of problem-solving skills and communication can cause children to shrug off responsibilities, behave in a defensive manner and make them more aggressive. Parents should therefore consciously practice positive parenting by constantly supporting and reinforcing their child’s pro-social behaviours and strengthening the parent-child bond.
Research shows that children and adolescents with positive attitudes and feelings toward their school are less likely to be deviant. Thus, schools should encourage the development of a healthy and positive environment in which the students feel valued, loved and accepted.
Children are like clay in potter’s hands. They quickly learn and absorb everything around them. Every child deserves to be loved, taken care of and moulded in the best way possible because, “children need love, especially when they do not deserve it.” ~ Harold S Hulbert.