Mental Illness Factor of Juvenile Delinquency

Subject: Law
Pages: 6
Words: 1723
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: College


Most American youths and teens have experienced mental illness factors such as substance abuse disorder, anxiety, personality disorder, and varying mood changes. It is noted that juveniles experience several mental illnesses, making them victims of juvenile delinquency. These disorders pose a significant threat to the well-being of the youths as adulthood is greatly dependent on the youthful performance of these teens. Since the late 19th century, many researchers have focused on understanding the relationship between mental illness and juvenile delinquency. A significant number of researchers have focused their efforts on understanding Attention Deficit Hyper Reactivity Disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety. Mental and emotional problems among teens begin when they have depression and anxiety problems. Emotional problems are vital factors that push juveniles to certain violent crimes such as abuse and violence. Numerous studies have shown that most juveniles in the criminal justice system have an anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, and dual disorder.

In only 3 hours we’ll deliver a custom Mental Illness Factor of Juvenile Delinquency essay written 100% from scratch Learn more

Literature Review

Juvenile mental health is linked with the introduction of the US juvenile crime system in the 1960s. During this period, juveniles who committed brutal crimes such as homicides were subjected to stringent rules within the USA criminal justice system (Chhabra, 2017). The onerous regulation was set up by President Ronald Reagan, who focused on ending drug activities within the US borders (Chhabra, 2017). However, the president focused much effort on ending drug and substance abuse without giving significant attention to mental health. Many youths and adults were dragged into criminal activities, increasing the rate of juvenile offending.

However, in 1998, policymakers identified the need for mental health analysis among juveniles. It was recognized that mental health condition is among the leading factors that steer juvenile delinquency (Chhabra, 2017). During this period, a survey study was conducted among juvenile detainees, and it was identified that 74 percent of females and 66 percent of male detainees were experiencing mental disorders (Chhabra, 2017; Chappell & Maggard, 2020). One out of 10 juveniles thought of committing suicide attempts, 51 percent of males and 47% of females had substance abuse disorder, and 93 percent of the juvenile had suffered from verbal, physical, and mental trauma. This portrayed the significance of mental evaluation among juvenile offenders.

Despite the current reduction in juvenile crimes, the number of youths arrested for several crimes was 728,280. The statistics showed that the number of youths being arrested in the US was approximately 63% from 2009 to 2018 (“The state of America’s children 2020,” 2020). The proportion of juveniles detained in restrictive facilities is about 2 to 3 of the overall arrested (“The state of America’s children 2020,” 2020). It is noted that 965 juveniles have been incarcerated in the US from 2007 to 2017 in adult prisons, while 76,000 juveniles are prosecuted, incarcerated, or sentenced every year (“The state of America’s children 2020,” 2020). Although mental health conditions are associated with juvenile delinquency, many youths involved in most incarcerations are juveniles of color.

Mental health illness is highly associated with juveniles linked to harsh psychological and physical conditions during childhood. In the early 2000s, mental health analysis methods such as screening and assessments were introduced (Wojciechowski, 2018). These tools are effective to date as they are used to assess the mental condition of the juveniles. Through screening, the juveniles requiring special mental attention are identified, and possible interventions are made to prevent the youth from delinquency (Chappell & Maggard, 2020; Choi et al., 2018). Various tools such as suicidal questionnaires and depression inventory are administered to identify the mental condition of the youth (Wojciechowski, 2018). Assessment gathers comprehensive information from the youth to enable clinicians to perform better tests for good results.

The mental health conditions of juveniles are very crucial as juvenile delinquency can be the first step to a criminal lifestyle. Psychological distress is a significant factor that leads to juvenile delinquency as it controls the thinking of the youth toward criminal activities (Basto-Pereira & Maia, 2017). Distress may push a teenager to commit a crime without thinking about the crime’s aftermath (Basto-Pereira & Maia, 2017). Several researchers have identified some of the prevalent causes of juvenile delinquency. These causes include gender differences, racial differences, and depression.

Gender Differences

Gender difference among juveniles is a significant factor as most previous research studies have focused on males. Most females have experienced mental disorders compared to males as they are exposed to gender-based violence such as sexual abuse (Hovey et al., 2017). This explains the varying lengths of juvenile criminal records between males and females. The research noted that females are exposed to ADHD, anxiety, and depression (Chappell & Maggard, 2020). The research finding is proven by the statistics identified during the survey where 51 percent of females and 43 percent of males had experienced disruptive disorder and 56 percent of females and 26 percent of males experienced an anxiety disorder.

Academic experts
We will write a custom Law essay specifically for you for only $16.00 $11/page Learn more

Ethnic Differences

Suicidal attempts among juveniles have also been associated with race. Blacks have a lower attempt to suicide compared to whites (Hovey et al., 2017; Chappell & Maggard, 2020). The Caucasians’ prevalence of suicidal attempts among juveniles is explained by the mental illness that they experience due to substance abuse leading to low mental balance.


Depression is a significant factor that leads to juvenile delinquency. This is because many youths identify ways to help them end the depression. Some engage in violent behavior, while others use substance abuse such as marijuana (Fix et al., 2017; Underwood & Washington, 2016). Juveniles who are depressed are more aggressive than their counterparts, leading to frequent engagement in criminal activities (Choi et al., 2018; (Basto-Pereira & Maia, 2017). The white juveniles have higher cases of depression among the juveniles compared to the blacks.

Theoretical Contribution

Juvenile delinquency has been studied and evaluated on several theories. The current government and society have to focus on what has to be done to ensure the youths grow positively rather than perceiving them as juveniles having mental problems. Delinquency is associated with several theories that describe humans’ behavior as they grow. These theories include social learning theory, social disorganization theory, and wraparound theory of change.

Social Learning Theory

According to this theory, children conform and defy following the reward and punishment imposed for the behavior. As children grow, they learn both good and bad behaviors following imposed actions (Kabiri et al., 2020). Behavior social scientists claim that as children interact, they learn new behaviors from the people they spend time with, including family members and friends (Kabiri et al., 2020). This theory was proposed by Albert Bandura, and he argued that children learn through observations (Kabiri et al., 2020; Zalazar-Jaime & Medrano, 2020). The reward is an excellent determinant for the children to hold onto good or bad behavior. Furthermore, other social influences are significant in enhancing behavior (Zalazar-Jaime & Medrano, 2020). For instance, children may imitate musician behavior as children perceive the musician as their mentor.

Social Disorganization Theory

Social disorganization theory claim that the behavior of a juvenile in crime delinquency is attributed to the changing values within the society, such as urbanization, change in moral values within the community, and immigration. The theory proposes that analysis of crime has to go beyond the youth committing a crime and associate other environmental factors that the youth is experiencing (Lei & Beach, 2020). The theory explains the prevalence of crime among adults and juveniles in most cities (Lei & Beach, 2020; He & Messner, 2019). The theory emphasizes the neighboring community and its impact on increasing juvenile delinquency (Lei & Beach, 2020). It majors on involving the community in reducing juvenile delinquency as a society where the community participates have a lower rate of juvenile delinquency than their counterpart.

Wraparound Theory of Change

The wraparound theory of change majors on involving the community by introducing specialized services such as peer support, group counseling, mental health support, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. The focus of this theory is to enable the family and community to participate in ensuring the well-being of the juveniles to prevent juvenile delinquency (Olson et al., 2021). The program involves the youth in several community activities, making them feel part of society (Olson et al., 2021). The theory proposes active engagement, which has proven successful in most studies as it lowers the chances of youths ending up in the juvenile justice system.


The search for materials for this study was conducted in various public and private libraries. The search engine used includes Google and Bing since they are the most used search engines. The online libraries incorporated in this study include science direct, PubMed, and BookSc. The research study majored in research articles such in journals and statistical websites. Other research resources such as Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) articles were also included in the search. The search strategy utilized the keyword “mental health and juvenile delinquency.” A total of 700 records were retrieved from the online libraries, and exclusion and inclusion criteria were opted to include only the research studies that met the set criteria. Out of 700 records retrieved, 200 were duplicated and were excluded leaving 500 records. The main focus was on articles published from 2016 to date, and 420 records were excluded, leaving 80 records. Meta-analysis and other articles that were not peer-reviewed journals were excluded. Three qualitative and five quantitative articles were selected, totaling eight articles. Statistical information was also included in the research study from statistical websites with current juvenile delinquency data. The quality of information within the articles was reviewed to ensure that they met the required target to be included in the research study.

15% OFF Get your very first custom-written academic paper with 15% off Get discount


In conclusion, mental health disorder is prevalent among the youth, pushing them to engage in juvenile delinquency. Several mental illnesses affect juveniles, including ADHD, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse disorder. These mental illnesses pose a significant threat to juveniles, affecting their cognitive performance and growth within society. Individuals often tend to participate in criminal activities when the disorder is not identified early enough and proper intervention measures are implemented. The juveniles become vulnerable to crime victimization, which has a considerable impact on their life. Despite the number of juvenile offenders decreasing since the early 2000s, the current number is still huge. Mental health awareness and intervention programs have to be enacted to ensure that the current youth generation is saved from the effects of crime.


Basto-Pereira, M., & Maia, A. (2017). Persistence in crime in young adults with a history of juvenile delinquency: the role of mental health and psychosocial problems. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 16(2), 496-506. Web.

Chappell, A., & Maggard, S. (2020). The impact of victimization, mental health problems, and disabilities on juvenile justice processing: does gender matter? Crime & Delinquency, 67(2), 147-178. Web.

Chhabra, D. (2017). Mental health and the juvenile justice system: where has history taken us? American Journal of Psychiatry Residents’ Journal, 12(10), 2-3. Web.

Choi, C., Hums, M., & Bum, C. (2018). Impact of the family environment on juvenile mental health: esports online game addiction and delinquency. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(12), 3-15. Web.

Fix, R., Alexander, A., & Burkhart, B. (2017). From family violence exposure to violent offending: examining effects of race and mental health in a moderated mediation model among confined male juveniles. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 62(9), 2567-2585. Web.

He, D., & Messner, S. (2019). Social disorganization theory in contemporary china: a review of the evidence and directions for future research. Asian Journal of Criminology, 15(1), 1-24. Web.

Get your customised and 100% plagiarism-free paper on any subject done for only $16.00 $11/page Let us help you

Hovey, K., Zolkoski, S., & Bullock, L. (2017). Mental health and the juvenile justice system: issues related to treatment and rehabilitation. World Journal of Education, 7(3), 1. Web.

Kabiri, S., Masoomeh (Shamila) Shadmanfaat, S., Smith, H., & Cochran, J. (2020). Aggression in soccer fan’s: a test of akers social learning theory. Deviant Behavior, 42(12), 1582-1595. Web.

Lei, M., & Beach, S. (2020). Can we uncouple neighborhood disadvantage and delinquent behaviors? An experimental test of family resilience guided by the social disorganization theory of delinquent behaviors. Family Process, 59(4), 1801-1817. Web.

Olson, J., Benjamin, P., Azman, A., Kellogg, M., Pullmann, M., Suter, J., & Bruns, E. (2021). Systematic review and meta-analysis: effectiveness of wraparound care coordination for children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 60(11), 1353-1366. Web.

The state of America’s children 2020 – youth justice. Children Defense. Web.

Underwood, L., & Washington, A. (2016). Mental illness and juvenile offenders. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(2), 228. Web.

Wojciechowski, T. (2018). The development of anxiety symptomatology among juvenile offenders: the roles of maternal substance abuse and unemployment. Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 30(2), 131-148. Web.

Zalazar-Jaime, M., & Medrano, L. (2020). An integrative model of self-regulated learning for university students: the contributions of social cognitive theory of carriers. Journal of Education, 201(2), 126-138. Web.