Juvenile delinquency, commonly referred to as “teenage crime,” is taking a large toll on American society today.
Both those who commit the crime and crime victims suffer as a result of this problem. Juvenile crimes can range from mild offenses to very serious violations of state or federal law that can adversely affect a young person for life. There are many reasons why young people resort to committing crime. Ultimately, however, parents, teachers and the local community share accountability in their actions due to teens’ lack of maturity to take full responsibility for their actions.
A nation’s youth is one of its greatest assets for the future. When parents, schools and communities take little action to protect this asset, the result of juvenile delinquency can be devastating. Although some states differ in the way they define delinquent, the repercussions of juvenile crime are the same. The combined efforts of parents, schools and the local community are needed to help preserve the integrity of young people’s lives.
Why Do Juveniles Commit Crimes?
In most states, a juvenile delinquent is defined as a young person under the age of 18 who has broken state or federal laws by committing a crime. Teens break laws for different reasons and there are a number of factors that can contribute to juvenile delinquency. Although many delinquents come from a low level of society, there are perpetrators from upper end families with few economic or psychological problems. Family background, finances, mental or physical disabilities and moral and social training all come into play when it comes to teens becoming juvenile delinquents.
Families play a key role in helping to shape a child and teen’s behavior. Most children learn moral and ethical values from their parents and other family members. Many teens who display juvenile delinquency problems come from broken homes or families that have quite a bit of relational problems. Single parents who work fulltime often lack quality time with their children or spend little time supervising their teens. This can lead to young people seeking attention from other sources such as classmates or peers. Many teens and preteens resort to negative activities such as bullying, stealing, lying, etc. to get this attention and be accepted by their peers.
When there’s discourse in the family, it’s quite easy for young people to go astray. Discourse can lead to lack of unity, trust and understanding, which can lower a teen’s confidence and self-esteem and make him feel less worthy as an individual. Many young teens turn to crime in an effort to boost their confidence and self-esteem. Petty theft, shoplifting and the use of alcohol and drugs are among some of the most common crimes committed by juveniles to help them look cool in the eyes of their peers.
Lack of finances can also contribute to juvenile delinquent crimes as young people resort to stealing to improve their economic condition. Local businesses can help curtail delinquency by helping teens find part time jobs or providing training opportunities where they can learn a trade to help support their families. There are also many social programs that parents can partake of for financial support in their time of need. This can help alleviate the pressure of finances so teens can continue with their education without worrying about where they will get their next meal.
Lack of moral and social training can cause a teen to feel inferior and lead to a life of crime. Moral training is sorely lacking in society today as many parents are not taking this responsibility seriously. When children and teens lack a moral compass, they are more apt to break rules or commit crimes. It’s a parent’s moral obligation to teach their kids the difference between right and wrong behavior. Lack of moral values can lead to poor interactions with others, lack of respect for the law, inconsiderate and selfish behavior and many other social problems.
Although there are no guarantees of what choices your teen will make during adolescence, you can do your part to help reduce juvenile delinquency by raising your child in a loving, stable environment. It’s also important to teach your young people moral values. Your personal example will go a long ways towards helping him make good choices later in life.
Difficulties help shape a child’s character and personality. However, some teens use the difficulties they go through in life to justify their criminal actions. Others suffer from mental or physical hardships that foster negative feelings towards members of their community, leading to their committing juvenile crimes. No parent can protect their teen from every difficulty in life. You can, however, provide the moral support and unconditional love he needs to endure challenging situations and overcome them. Your love and support can help turn the tide in your young teen’s life and keep him from making serious mistakes he will regret later on.
Effects of Juvenile Crime
Juvenile crime can have a far reaching effect in a young person’s life. It can completely alter the course of your teen’s life as well as have serious repercussions on the victim and his family. Juvenile crime articles in newspapers and magazines are full of juvenile crime cases that have changed people’s lives. While many victims eventually recover from the incident, some may experience negative consequences all their lives. Like any other type of criminal activity, juvenile crime always results in a loss.
Juvenile delinquents have much to lose through their crimes. Even petty crimes can result in negative repercussions on their future. Many states have strict juvenile crime law penalties that include loss of privileges and longer periods of incarceration. Delinquents may be assigned to a juvenile detention center with others who have committed similar or more serious crimes as part of their sentence. Being in an environment around other delinquents doesn’t offer much opportunity for young people to change their ways or overcome their problem. Having a record of juvenile delinquency could also affect a teen’s ability to get a job or attend college later on.
Parents and family members of delinquents also suffer from their teen’s actions. As teens are under the legal age of 18, parents are still responsible for their care. This can put an extra strain on your family’s income or cause upheaval in your lifestyle or daily schedule. As parents, you may also suffer a degree of humiliation or shame due to your teen’s actions, especially if the victim of the crime suffered substantial loss. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t despair. Look for the good in your teen’s circumstances and do your best to stay positive. What looks like a major defeat in your teen’s life could very well be the catalyst to turn his life completely around and give him a new start. By staying positive and making an effort to support your teen, you could wind up saving his or her life.
Types of Juvenile Crime
Juvenile crimes vary from petty offenses to very serious violations of the law. The following list gives parents greater insight into some of the most common juvenile crime offenses being committed by young people today.
- Theft and burglary
- Underage purchase, possession or sale of alcohol or cigarettes
- Disorderly Conduct
- Assault (Bullying, Family Disagreements)
- Possession of illegal drugs such as marijuana
- Curfew violations
- School offenses (truancy, disrupting class)
- Driving violations such as speeding or driving without a proper license
- Trespassing on private property
- Possession of stolen goods or illegal weapon
- Violent crimes
In many large urban communities, violent crime involving teens and preteens is on the rise. Some perpetrators are as young as 10 and 11 years old. Such crimes can have a devastating effect on a young person’s future as well as endanger the lives of others.
Parents can help reduce the risk of juvenile delinquency in their teens by staying connected with their young people throughout their teen years. The physical and emotional changes of adolescence along with academic and social challenges can be very difficult for a teen to handle alone. Positive parental influence can make a big difference in helping teens steer clear of trouble and stay on track with their educational and career goals.
Juvenile Crime Rate
According to recent statistics, approximately 17% of individuals arrested in the U.S. are below 18 years of age. An online search of juvenile crime statistics by state reveals the extent to which this problem has grown over the years, with incidents affecting almost every sector of society.
Escalating juvenile crime rates should make parents sit up and take notice of the dangers of juvenile delinquency in the U.S. today. The following facts about juvenile delinquency shed greater light on this problem.
- In 2010, the number of juvenile violent crime arrests in the U.S. totaled 225 for every 100,000 youth ranging between 10 and 17 years of age.
- 8% of all U.S. homicides committed in 2010 involved juvenile offenders.
- Most violent crime offenses committed by juveniles occur between 3:00 and 7:00 p.m., after regular school hours.
- During the 2010-2011 school year alone, a total of 11 homicides and 3 suicides of school age children were reported being committed on school grounds.
The alarming effects of juvenile delinquency should spur parents to do all they can to protect their teens and preteens from becoming a grim statistic in this category. Despite pressing career obligations, parents need to find time to fulfill their parental responsibilities toward their children. Parents play a key role in helping teens overcome the difficulties they face during adolescence and guiding them safely into adulthood.
No parent is perfect when it comes to raising their children. Despite mistakes you may have made, it’s never too late to help a troubled teen turn his life around. Parents of delinquent teens can take great comfort in knowing that change is possible. Delinquent teens need responsible role models and support figures that care about their welfare and are willing to go the extra mile to pull them through difficult times. When parents show this kind of dedication and commitment to their youth, communities will begin to see a drop in juvenile crime rates and an increase in mature and competent teens.