Essay on the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency – There is no single cause or simple explanation for the development of delinquent behaviour. According to Healy and Bronner, the causes of juvenile delinquency are:
(1) Bad company, (2) adolescent instability and impulses, (3) early sex experience, (4) mental conflicts, (5) extreme social suggestibility, (6) love of adventure, (7) motion picture, (8) school dissatisfaction, (9) poor recreation, (10) street life, (11) vocational dissatisfaction, (12) sudden impulse; and (13) physical conditions of all sorts.
The causes of juvenile delinquency may be classified under two major factors: (A) Social factors, and (B) Personality factors.
A. Social Factors Favoring Juvenile Delinquency:
1. Broken Homes:
British and American investigations reveal that nearly 50% of the delinquents come from broken homes. In one of the studies conducted by Uday Shankar in India only 13.3% of the 140 delinquents that he studied came from broken homes — (1-34).
This shows the cultural differences between Indian and the Western countries. Still it can be said that broken homes and families, lack of parental affection and security, absence of a loving mother in the childhood or an affectionate mother substitute, lack of family ties, parental irresponsibility and a steep rate in divorce, desertion and separation are all contributory factors to delinquency.
The home may be broken up by death of one or both of the parents, or by prolonged illness or insanity, desertion or divorce. Interaction in home is a very important means for socialising the child. The mother plays vital role in this regard. If she divorces her husband or deserts him or dies, the growth of the child will be affected.
Such a child loses not only mother’s love but also parental control and becomes an easy victim to the outside anti-societal influence. It cannot, however, be said that broken home invariably leads to delinquent behaviour on the part of the children.
A very large proportion of delinquent children come from poor homes. It is generally, although not unanimously, accepted by professional students of juvenile delinquency that the vast majority of delinquents come from the lower class.
They commit their offences as member of gangs. Uday Shankar’s study has revealed that as many as 83% of the children come from poor families. Still it cannot be generalised that the children of the poor homes invariably become delinquents.
Poverty compels sometimes both of the parents to be outside the home for a very long period to earn their daily bread. The children will be uncared for. Such children may consciously or unconsciously join hands with gangsters and become delinquents. This mostly happens in slum areas and areas in which mostly working class people live.
3. Delinquency Areas:
It is said that some areas are highly vulnerable to delinquent trends. Long ago Burt in his study showed that there are certain areas in London from which the majority of delinquent children come.
The delinquents mostly come from the areas of poor housing, overcrowding and the areas in which cinema houses, hotels, night, clubs, liquor shops are found in a large number. It is true that when a family is living in the heart of the town the chances are greater for the children of such families to pick up delinquent behaviour. It is to be noted that not all the children living in the delinquent areas are delinquents.
4. Companions and Gangs:
As the child grows older he goes into the neighbourhood and becomes a member of the playgroup or peer group. If by chance he joins the group or the gang that fosters delinquent attitudes he is also likely to become a delinquent.
In fact, much delinquency springs up from the prevalent attitudes in the groups within which the youth has immediate contacts. Charles Shaw has opined that “delinquency is a product of community forces “.
In cities, in slum areas peculiar social groups called ‘gangs’ are found. Generally the gang starts as a playgroup. In the absence of playground facilities, the children will start playing in streets and finally organise themselves into gangs. The gang has all the qualities of an in group such as loyalty, cooperation, social solidarity and unity.
These gangs are found to be associated with crime in all its aspects like delinquency, rioting, corrupt politics, and so on. Children coming from poor families and broken families easily become the victims of gangs.
Due to bad companionship also offences are committed by the adolescents. Studies have shown that delinquent acts are done in company. In his Illinois Crime Survey of 1928 Shaw analysed 6000 boys were involved in the crime. He found that in 90% of the cases two or more boys were involved in the crime. But in Uday Shankar’s study in India only 23% of persons committed delinquent acts due to bad company. It cannot, however, be presumed that mere companionship by itself causes delinquency.
Beggary is often the cause of juvenile delinquency. Child beggars mostly come from either very poor families or broken homes. These children are betrayed of the needed love and affection of the parents.
They crave for the satisfaction of their inner impulses, desires and ambitions. They choose to become beggars for the same. As beggars they get annoyed to see others enjoying life. Some of them may even become rebels. They realise that only through deviant practices, they can satisfy their desires and meet their needs. They thus become delinquents.
Other Social or Environmental Factors
(a) School Dissatisfaction:
Some students get dissatisfied with school life. Parental irresponsibility, unmanageable student-teacher ratio, lack of entertainment and sports facilities in schools, indifference of the teachers may contribute to this.
Such dissatisfied students become regular absentees in schools and start wandering in streets. They may even form gangs of their own and become gamblers, eve-teasers, pickpockets, drunkards, smokers and drug addicts.
(b) Films and Pornographic Literature have also added to the magnitude of delinquency. Cinema, television and obscene literature may often provoke sexual and other impulses in adolescents. Hence they may start their ‘adventure’ in satisfying them in the process of which they commit crimes.
(c) Deep-seated inner desires coupled with outside pressures, compulsions and temptations also contribute to juvenile delinquency. For example, on hearing the interesting narration of the illicit sex experiences or such other criminal experiences from one’s gang mate, one may be tempted to follow the same.
B. Personal or Individual Factors:
Personal factors such as mental deficiency and emotional disturbances may also contribute to juvenile delinquency.
1. Mental Deficiency in Delinquency:
It has been observed that good number of delinquents is mentally deficient. Studies have revealed that there is larger proportion of mentally defectives in children. The relationship between intelligence and delinquent behaviour has been studied carefully. The average intelligence in a normal group of children is 100 I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient).
But Burt in his study in London reported that the average I.Q. of delinquent children is 8-5, and Uday Shankar found that it was 83. These and many other studies have revealed that the average intelligence of the juvenile delinquents is certainly lower than the average intelligence of the normal group of children of the same age.
It is quite natural to assume that the dull and mentally handicapped or defective adolescents do not have the necessary insight to make distinctions between ‘right’ and ‘deviant’ methods and behaviour.’ Such children are often used by the more intelligent children of the gang or the adults for their criminal purpose.
2. Emotional Problems of the Individual:
Mental troubles and emotional maladjustments are strong factors in delinquency. Emotional problems of inferiority, jealousy and being thwarted are very common among the delinquent children.
Healy and Bronner in their study of 143 delinquents found that 92% of them revealed emotional disturbances. It is reported that in America about two- thirds of juvenile delinquents suffer from emotional personality and mental deviations.
Thus from the psychological point of view “Delinquency is a rebellion and an expression of aggression which is aimed at destroying, breaking down or changing the environment”. This rebellion is mostly against the social conditions which deny the individual his basic rights and the satisfaction of his fundamental needs. Thus, delinquents are not born so, but they become so due to social circumstances and personal deficiencies. They are mostly maladjusted persons.
According to psychoanalytic view, the delinquent is an individual who is governed by the “pleasure principle “. He wants to get immediate pleasure and immediate satisfaction for his needs. So he becomes a victim to his own impulses. He is neither able to control his impulses nor able to imagine to think the consequences of his actions.
It is also said that delinquent breakdown is an escape from emotional situation for some particular individuals with peculiar individual and family background. Some emotionally maladjusted children become delinquents to get the attention of their parents or as a protest against their treatment.
Thus, it may be said that juvenile delinquency is the result of both social or environmental and personal or individual factors.