Juvenile delinquency is an integral part of crime in general and has its specific features, making it possible to consider it an independent object of criminological study. The need for such a separation is due to the peculiarities of minors’ physical, mental, and moral development and their social immaturity. In adolescence, at the time of the moral formation of the personality, there is an accumulation of experience, including harmful, which may not be externally detected or manifest themselves with a significant delay.
The quantitative and qualitative characteristics of juvenile delinquency have their features. People who have committed crimes at a young age are difficult to correct and re-educate and represent a reserve for adult crime. There is a close relationship between juvenile delinquency and adult delinquency since juvenile delinquency is one of the causes of adult delinquency. Adult crime has its roots when a person’s personality is just being formed, and their life orientation is being developed, when the problems of upbringing and personality formation are relevant from the point of view of the orientation of behavior.
Characteristics of Juvenile Delinquency
The state of juvenile delinquency in America causes reasonable concern in society. The growth of social tension and the deepening of the crisis in the country primarily affected children and adolescents. Violence and cruelty become characteristic features of juvenile crimes. At the same time, minors often exceed the limit of violence and cruelty, which would be sufficient to achieve the goal in a particular situation (Anjaswarni et al., 2019). Teenagers in the process of committing crimes, with an unfortunate combination of circumstances for them, commit crimes such as murder, grievous bodily harm, and robbery.
There is an increase in crimes committed by minors, both male and female, based on drunkenness, substance abuse, and drug addiction. There is a tendency to rejuvenate “drunk” crime since children commit every fifth crime in a state of alcoholic or narcotic intoxication (Garbarino & Plantz, 2017). The proportion of pre-prepared, sophisticated, and technically equipped juvenile crimes is increasing. As a rule, such crimes are group crimes: more than half of all minors commit crimes as part of groups every year. The groups are highly mobile, which significantly increases their social danger and criminal activity.
The criminal professionalism of juvenile offenders is increasing, which is manifested in the presence of universal specialization and the acquisition of criminal qualifications. Criminal activity is becoming, for some groups of minors, the primary way of spending leisure time (Garbarino & Plantz, 2017). A significant number of crimes are committed by underage migrants who have not found a place to live and work. In current conditions, migration processes and the associated negative consequences are becoming increasingly relevant (Anjaswarni et al., 2019). Interrelated trends of integration and differentiation of juvenile delinquency are manifested.
On the one hand, an increasing number of crimes are committed by non-adults, with adults previously convicted. There is an active introduction of” authorities” of the criminal world into the teenage environment. On the other hand, there is a noticeable trend toward the autonomy of juvenile delinquency from adult delinquency. As a result, the interests of groups of young criminals collide with the interests of adult criminals in racketeering, drug trafficking, prostitution, etc.
There are so-called borderline states that do not exclude sanity and, consequently, responsibility. It includes various types of neuroses, moderate debility, psychopathy, alcoholism, and sexual disorders (Garbarino & Plantz, 2017). These disorders are not severe and persistent diseases since, in most cases, they are acquired not as a result of burdened heredity but as a result of unfavorable living conditions and upbringing. Minors are a kind of “barometer” that determines the catastrophically deteriorating condition of the” health” of the community.
The public danger of juvenile crimes is aggravated by the involvement of adolescents in illegal arms trafficking associated with theft, illegal carrying, storage, acquisition, manufacture, and sale of firearms, ammunition, and explosives. Hooliganism occupies a special place in the structure of juvenile delinquency. The overwhelming majority of minors convicted of hooliganism are persons who have committed malicious hooliganism, i.e., hooligan actions characterized by exceptional audacity and cynicism. A characteristic feature of juvenile delinquency is also recidivism, which is associated with the age limits of minors. The recidivism of minors has a great social danger not only because of its prevalence but also because of its consequences (Kornhauser, 2017). The repeated commission of crimes indicates the formation of a persistent illegal attitude among minors. Subsequently, these teenagers turn into malicious repeat offenders who are not amenable to any preventive measures.
The recidivism rate of minors is somewhat stable; however, with the increase in the number of crimes committed by minors, repeat offenders’ crimes also increase. Recently, they have committed up to half or more crimes in the total number of juvenile crimes. Juvenile delinquency is characterized by a high degree of latency (Kornhauser, 2017). Moreover, due to the peculiarities of minors’ legal and physical status and their characteristics, statistical indicators of juvenile delinquency are more “regulated” in investigative and judicial practice. The prevalence of crimes committed by minors is several times higher than its registered part.
Features of Group Juvenile Delinquency
When analyzing the structure of juvenile delinquency, it is necessary to focus on such an important indicator as group crime or the commission of crimes in a group. The public danger of crimes largely depends on whether these acts are committed alone or in a group. It is the group crimes of minors that are characterized by the most incredible cruelty (Mwangangi, 2019). More than half of criminal groups of minors are described as temporary and unstable social formations. At the same time, there is a tendency that a significant part of juvenile delinquent groups is focused on long-term criminal activity, including its organized forms.
These groups are distinguished by a high level of training and good technical equipment. They clearly show an organized structure, generally repeating the design of similar groups of adults, and the leader is distinguished. With their direct participation, crimes are being prepared and committed; the results are being summed up (Mwangangi, 2019). With increasing criminal experience, the number of persons participating in crimes as part of groups decreases because a minor can already commit a crime without accomplices or fewer. The proportion of crimes committed by minors in groups varies for different types of crimes. The most common crimes committed in groups are assaults, robberies, and thefts.
Criminological Characteristics of the Personality Characteristics of Juvenile Offenders
Due to the nature of juvenile delinquency, the problem of the criminal’s identity is put forward in the first place when studying this phenomenon. Various forensic theories will help to understand the causes of the high level of juvenile delinquency. For example, the classical theory of rational choice emphasizes that the causes of crimes lie within the offender’s personality and not in the external environment (Bates & Swan, 2019). According to this theory, criminals are guided by reasonable personal concerns and individual benefits. In the process of committing a crime, criminals have free will and personal responsibility, and thus the crime is their conscious choice.
The classical theory of rational choice has become one of the reasons for creating the concept of Beccari deterrence, which is a basic idea for combating the criminal behavior of minors and juvenile justice. Beccaria believed that people freely choose their fate, which meant that they decide whether to commit a crime or not (Bates & Swan, 2019). Thus, Beccaria believed that people could be deterred from bad behavior by deliberate punishments. According to this idea, the punishment consisted of three elements: certainty, celerity, and severity.
In addition, it is possible to mention biological theories of the occurrence of crime. Among biological theories, one can distinguish, for example, eugenics, craniometry, and phrenology. Moreover, people tried to identify various physical signs of atavism, which would signify an individual’s penchant for crime (Bates & Swan, 2019). In particular, Lombroso, who is considered the father of modern criminology, believed in this. One of the earliest theories of criminal behavior stated that people could even foretell crimes based on body type.
Biological factors of crime determination are psychological states such as needs, drives, emotions, interests, and value orientations. Needs are a reflection of dependence on the surrounding external world. Not every human need is a source of negative criminal behavior of a person. Most often, the head of motivation for the crime is material, sexual, ideological needs, and social communication. Drives and emotions are practically unregulated manifestations of personal qualities of a biological nature. Many crimes are committed at the peak or under the influence of an acute mental or psychological state.
One of the most well-known psychological theories of crime that can be applied to juvenile delinquency is differential association. This theory is intended initially to explain individual criminal behavior (Bates & Swan, 2019). The theory includes eight main postulates, of which it is possible to give the following:
- Criminal behavior is learned, not inherited.
- Criminal behavior is learned during interaction with other people in the process of communication.
- The most important part of teaching criminal behavior is done in groups that connect their members with close personal relationships.
Thus, based on this theory, it can be concluded that it is necessary to significantly improve the practice and conditions of upbringing in the family, school, professional team, and groups of joint leisure activities. In addition, it becomes evident that it is impossible to keep first-time convicts together with repeat offenders since people adopt dissociative behavior from each other.
The theory of control states that socially conformal behavior should be taught. Formal and informal control, as well as external control and self-control, are crucial for the study of such behavior and its assimilation (Bates & Swan, 2019). Informal control is just as important as formal control, which is vital due to value conflicts between social groups in a pluralistic society. Formal control performs in this society not only the function of intimidation but also the function of forming values. The theory of stability is as follows: the social strength of an individual is determined by external and, especially, internal control, expressed in internal stability (Bates & Swan, 2019). It is distinguished by five characteristics: self-education, purposefulness, self-control, perseverance, and identification with law norms.
Nevertheless, some theories consider the crime justified and even beneficial for society. For example, anomie theory states that crime performs two functions: first, the deviation of individual consciousness from collective consciousness is a condition for change and progress (Bates & Swan, 2019). The completely uniform behavior of the members of this society means that it is experiencing stagnation and is not developing. Secondly, crime can be a factor in the integration of society, strengthening social ties. An adverse reaction to a criminal act strengthens the collective consciousness and makes the border between moral and legal norms explicit. Merton, an American sociologist, defines the state of anomie as a fracture in a culture that occurs in a situation of sharp divergence between cultural norms and goals.
The theory of social disorganization explains crime at the social level, making the psychology of the criminal dependent on the processes of functioning of society as a whole. Shaw and McKay, developing this theory, were able to exclude the possibility that a high crime rate depends on the values of a particular ethnic or racial group (Bates & Swan, 2019). Studying crime patterns and population distribution over time, they noticed that, despite the constant change in the predominant ethnic and racial composition of any area, a high crime rate remained.
Conflict theories explain crime as the presence of isolated groups in society with clashing interests and values. Conflict theory assumes that every community undergoes continuous change and that this process creates social conflicts. Individuals and social classes, each with unique interests, represent the constituent elements of society. In fact, they individually and collectively participate in this process, but there is no guarantee that the interests of each class will coincide. Indeed, the lack of common ground can lead to conflict between them (Bates & Swan, 2019). Thus, to such an extent, the progress of the activity of each society as a whole is limited by the actions and inaction of some of its members by others. The theory defines the state and the law as instruments of oppression used by the ruling class in their interests.
Feminist criminology focuses on female offenders, female victims, and women in the criminal justice system to understand female criminality’s causes, trends, and outcomes. Key issues within the feminist school of criminology include the role of sex and sexism in sentencing and abuse, victimization in women’s lives, and an increase in the number of women born into a family despite a decrease in crime rates (Bates & Swan, 2019). In addition, modern feminist theories focus on interconnectedness and how race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and other factors interact to influence youth behavior (Pickett, 2017). Thus, there are many different theories, the followers of which have tried and are still trying to explain the reasons for the commission of crimes.
In conclusion, it is required to note that juvenile delinquency on a significant scale requires decisive, energetic, and targeted measures to prevent it. It is necessary to constantly improve the forms and methods of work of the internal affairs bodies to properly ensure their priority staffing and logistics. The task is primarily to reduce the level of juvenile delinquency, prevent the corrupting influence of juvenile delinquents on other adolescents, and replenish the ranks of adult recidivist criminals. In solving this and other tasks, an important role belongs to the general and individual prevention measures applied by the internal affairs bodies to eliminate the causes and conditions that contribute to juvenile crimes. The effectiveness of such activities largely depends on the extent to which these measures are based on provisions developed by criminology, criminal law, penal enforcement law, psychology, and pedagogy.
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Garbarino, J., & Plantz, M. C. (2017). Child abuse and juvenile delinquency: What are the links?. In Troubled youth. troubled families (pp. 27-40). Routledge.
Kornhauser, R. R. (2017). Theoretical issues in the sociological study of juvenile delinquency. In Challenging Criminological Theory (pp. 59-86). Routledge.
Mwangangi, R. K. (2019). The role of family in dealing with juvenile delinquency. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 7(3), 52-63. Web.
Pickett, J. T. (2017). Blame their mothers: Public opinion about maternal employment as a cause of juvenile delinquency. Feminist Criminology, 12(4), 361-383. Web.