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Juvenile Delinquency 1


Juvenile Delinquency Midterm Essays

Jake J. Koppenhaver

Juvenile Delinquency

Professor Robar

July 3, 2007
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Juvenile Delinquency Midterm Essays

What are some of the reasons discussed in the text to help explain racial and gender

differences in juvenile offending patterns?

It is well known by criminologists that gender and race are factors in the criminal

conduct and treatment of adult offenders. So too are the subject's sex and ethnic background a

factor in youth deviancy. Both of these differences carry with them unique offending patterns and

criminal justice needs, and while both of these diversity groups may offend in different rates or

ways, it is a personal belief that gender has more of an effect on criminal behavior than race.

Gender difference in juvenile offending is not as stark of a contrast as it used to be

in previous generations. Early theory represented that female offenders were few and far

between, seen as participating in crimes which were sexual in nature (such as prostitution) or

emotionally charged. Due to a recent surge in interest into the female offender studies have

shown very different results than what was previously thought. Female rates, compared to male

rates which are substantially higher, are growing more rapidly than male offender rates (Siegel &

Welsh, 2005), climbing six percent between 1993 and 2002 while their male counterparts'

dropped sixteen percent. It is also important to note that while the above figures are official arrest

statistics, self reported data shows female deviancy as being even higher, and includes similar

crimes to males.

There are several reasons that help explain the differences in genders and criminal

behavior. It is no question that social environment plays a part in the development of youth. Male

and female youths are raise very differently in our modern society which may present an insight

into their criminal habits. For example, males are socialized to be more aggressive, are less likely

to form attachments, and respond to conflict through retaliation whereas females are encouraged

to preserve relationships, internalize conflict, and are more closely supervised by social control
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agents (whether these are their parents or criminal justice personnel). This has a detrimental

effect on females' self esteem, a possible cause for outbursts of deviancy.

The issue of race as it relates to deviancy in youth is not as comfortable of a topic

as gender. Long has higher arrest statistics for minority offenders spurred controversy throughout

the criminal justice system. For example, arrest rates for all crimes between 1980 and 2002 show

that African-American youth are arrested disproportionately for all crimes than their white

counterparts. Why could this be? Researchers have narrowed it down to two possible causes, the

first being that African-American youth really do perform a disproportionate amount of crimes,

however this is unreliable and encouraged studies to turn to self-reported statistics. Self reported

information suggests that delinquent activity between black and white youth are quite similar,

which leads believers of this information to conclude that those involved in the criminal justice

process (law enforcement, judicial staff, etc.) are biased. If this is true, it would explain the high

prison rates of African-Americans due to harsher punishments and non-intervention in their

initial contact with the law.

Several theories expound upon possible explanations for race and gender in deviant

activity. As for gender, social development theory seems to be the most appropriate given the

radical differences in the growth of males and females within the social and family structures and

the formation and enforcement of scripts according to the gender-schema theory. Race is highly

affected by social class and economical status, fitting into the theory of anomie. Cloward and

Ohlin (1960) built upon Merton's strain theory with some of their own ideas and formed their

theory of differential opportunity. They cited that those who are given or perceive to have less

legitimate opportunity to succeed then turn to illegitimate means in order to gain status.

Identifying the basis of both gender and race differences in juvenile delinquency--and crime in

general--is vital in order to provide alternative means to crime for potential offenders.
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Discuss labeling theory. What are some of the policies or programs designed to reduce

delinquency based on this perspective?

Of the several social reaction theories in the criminal justice community labeling is, I

believe, the most influential and substantiated when it comes to juvenile delinquency. Youth are

highly susceptible to the world's influence on them as well as the labels that are placed on them

by their environments. This outside stimuli affects the youth's view on themselves and their

environment, either helping reduce or increase the risk of anti-social and deviant behavior.

According to an original labeling researcher, Tannenbaum concluded that a youth's

tendency to minimize their deviant activity as "fun" or "adventure" is in direct conflict with how

society views their actions (1938). This conflict of interpretation leads to what Tannenbaum

refers to as the "dramatization of evil," and ultimately labeling the youth as the evildoer. This

idea leads to the youth being stigmatized, and according to Goffman, this leads to the youth

seeing these stigma symbols as an accurate definition of their growing identity (1963). This

stigma helps to promote and reinforce degradation ceremonies such as trials, public punishments,

etc., which as described by Garfinkel (1956) enforces the label on the youth and presents the idea

that society is against the youth. With this newfound knowledge of how society feels, the youth

may then view the label of "deviant," "criminal," or any of the plethoras of other terms as their

master status. Becker (1963) affirms that this master status is the acceptance that they are deviant

and drastically reduces their chances of correction.

Programs which would likely be effective against labeling theory when dealing with the

juvenile delinquency problem would be those which help to minimize the labeling of early

deviant behavior and provide a chance at correction. Diverting initial contact with the traditional

criminal justice system for youth and focusing on community building on the macro level, I

believe, will also help the youth on the micro level. Deinstitutionalized punishment forms are
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along these lines so called "boot camps," community corrections programs, and youth treatment

centers which focus on repairing the delinquent conduct before it escalates to fully criminal

behavior in addition to or instead of the more formal ways of punishing.

It is important to punish offenders for the crimes they commit in order to show them that

the behavior will not be tolerated in society. Labeling the offender in a permanent manner,

however, works against the concept of corrections and helps to ensure that offenders keep

offending with little chance of integration into productive society.

Describe parenting styles that can insulate youth from delinquency while also producing a

well-adjusted adolescent.

Parenting and its various styles are at the very heart of the issue when speaking on

juvenile delinquency. Parenting has in many ways become "hands-off" as in two parent families

both parents may work. Add to this the phenomenon of Blackberry Parenting (The Wall Street

Journal, 2006) and the parents who extensively work at home and it can be obvious that

parenting is not what it used to be. In order to understand how vital parenting is to a youth's

development one must understand the theory of social bond and how the family unit influences


According to Travis Hirschi social bond theory contains four main concepts that,

depending on how well they are addressed socially in a child's life, can either help them succeed

legitimately in life or walk down the path of deviancy: attachment, commitment, involvement,

and belief (1972). Through strong attachments to parents, siblings, teachers, and friends a youth

can have positive role models and sources of advice and guidance. Commitment to positive goals

such as success in school, a solid career, and even wealth can help keep a youth focused on the

right path. Through involvement in sports, community organizations, extra-curricular activities,

and social clubs, the youth has a better chance to form lasting bonds with others while being
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shown the importance of becoming a functional member of society. Finally, belief in positive

qualities such as morality, service, and responsibility learned from the other three branches can

help the youth integrate into a productive adulthood.

There are four major areas in the family environment which heavily influence delinquent

behavior in youth: Breakup, conflict, neglect, and deviance. Family breakup (divorce, parental

separation) is more commonplace in our time. Studies have shown that children who grow up

outside of the influence of their father perform less in school, are not as likely to attend college,

or have stable employment later in life (Siegel & Welsh, 2005: 160). It is important to note that

males are more impacted by the lack of a father, but girls do not go unaffected. Girls tend to be

more affected by the quality of parenting by the mother and are heavily influenced by any post-

breakup or divorce conflict which ensues between her parents.

While many families separate due to conflict, many others stay together and include it.

According to F. Ivan Nye, a youth’s perception on the happiness and quality of relationship

between their parents is a heavy indicator of future delinquency (Siegel & Welsh: 161). Nye also

found that there is little difference between a child who merely witnessed conflict in the family

structure and those who are a direct victim of it. Often when conflict is present, neglect is as

well. Parental efficacy, raising a child with non-coercive but supporting discipline, is found to

help strengthen the child’s resistance to deviant behavior. Unfortunately, many families who

experience serious conflict do not follow this practice and the child tends to turn to outside

influences and exhibit deviant behavior. Likewise, inconsistent supervision and discipline by the

parents also contribute to criminal mindsets by showing youth that punishment is not always

guaranteed and there are ways to act criminally with it being okay. As youth grow and develop

there becomes less and less of a requirement for a parental bond, however information suggests

that the positive effect this bond has is still considerable (Siegel & Welsh: 162).
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Deviancy which runs in a family, which is children who have a long line of relatives who

act in a deviant manner in their environment while developing, helps contribute to a child’s

views on this behavior. Information shows that youth with criminal fathers are 37% more likely

to become criminal, in contrast to the 8% of those without (Siegel & Welsh: 164): This is nearly

five times more likely. Sibling influence also plays a huge role, as in families where conflict and

neglect exists, a child is provided with another of similar age and experience who they can bond

with. If the elder of the two follow a deviant path, the younger is likely to as well out of similar

interest and imitating actions.

Parenting is no easy task, and I do not believe there to be any higher responsibility than

that of raising a child to be part of our world’s future. Unfortunately, marital conflict, modern

technology, and the daily hustle and bustle of normal life can detract from the relationship a child

has with their parents. When a child does not have a solid, stable relationship which supports

their bond positively deviance is more likely to follow in their life. The weaker that bond may be,

the stronger the attraction to criminality.

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Becker, Howard S. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance. New York: Free


Garfinkel, Harold. (1956). “Conditions of successful degradation ceremonies.” American Journal

of Sociology 61: 420-24.

Goffman, Erving. (1963). Stigma. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hirschi, Travis. (1972). Causes of delinquency. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rosman, K. (2006, December 8). “BlackBerry orphans.” The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July

1, 2007, from web site:


Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. C. (2005). Juvenile delinquency: The core (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA:

Thomson Wadsworth.

Tannenbaum, Frank. (1938). Crime and the community. New York: Ginn.

Winfree Jr, L., & Abadinsky, H. (2003). Understanding crime: Theory and practice (2nd ed.).

Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.