What is the Solution to Juvenile Delinquency?

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  • Originally Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 12 July 2018
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There is no single solution to juvenile delinquency, and the problem is complicated enough that communities and societies looking to eliminate it usually need to take several approaches at once. The problem is not one that affects just one particular society, either; delinquent youth can be found around the globe, and as such, the approach usually needs to be specific to the region and the culture. On a more universal level, some of the most common steps include establishing activities and programs for kids in the after-school hours and educating local leaders about ways to integrate young people into broader community activities. Some research also shows that a stable and supportive home life is essential to preventing delinquency, and on this theory educating parents and caregivers can be a big part of the solution. In many places engaging minority groups is also really important, and improving rehabilitation and correctional programs can be an effective way of reducing the number of repeat offenders, too.


Community Involvement

Many theories hold that a key element in solving juvenile delinquency is for community members to take an interest in the problem. Adults may be able to play a vital role by displaying positive and concerned attitudes towards youth in their communities, and by getting involved in youth activities. If business owners, corporate leaders, and school officials are all on more or less the same page when it comes to encouraging appropriate engagement between youth and the larger society, kids often stay out of trouble.

Imposing Structure

Helping youth make good use of their free time often goes hand in hand with community involvement. Young people are gaining an increasing amount of liberty in many places, and this is often highlighted as a contributing factor in delinquency problems. Instead of leaving young and impressionable minds to their own devices, it is often suggested that children should be given more structure. One way that this can be done is by enrolling students in extracurricular activities such as sports or arts training. Doing so can keep youth away from negative peers and teach them valuable characteristics such as commitment and teamwork.

One of the downsides to this is cost: not all families can afford extracurricular activities, or may not have the resources to transport their kids to and from those programs. This is another place where engaged leaders can really help things along. Community centers can be opened to kids during certain hours, for instance, or schools can subsidize certain team sports or other after-school activities with money that has either been raised specifically for that purpose or shifted around from other approved uses. This often takes a bit of time and planning, but it often gets good results.

Promoting Family Togetherness

Another popular theory about solving delinquency teaches that some of the best support and structure comes from the home. Researchers on this side of the debate often argue for the improvement of parental education and support for in-tact and healthy families. Family-based arguments often get a lot of push-back, particularly since most modern research focuses on traditional family structures. It’s important to note, though, that a healthy family can take many forms. Single mothers, same-sex partners, and other types of family that differ from the “traditional” model can be and in many cases are excellent sources of support. Engaging families of all types to take an active role in their children’s development and overall engagement can be a very effective tool against delinquency.

Engaging Minority Groups

Looking at the demographics of the offenders can sometimes be instructive when it comes to actually getting to the root of the issue, too. In many places, delinquency rates are the highest among minority youth. There are several theories as to why this may be: some suggest it is because the majority of society has generally negative or stereotypical attitudes toward these groups that the youth can detect, while others say that it is because minorities are not as widely exposed to positive role models that they can relate to. Trying to understand the causes can help societies reengage all kids, and feelings of equality often deter delinquency — at least to an extent.

One of the most immediate steps groups or communities can take in this respect is to encourage adults from different ethnic and societal backgrounds to interact with young people. Public education can also be balanced to show the relevance and contributions of minority cultures, which can sometimes help kids from these backgrounds feel valued. The causes of delinquency are almost always much more complex than simple feelings of inclusion, but starting here can set the right tone and can reduce incidences of rebellion and acting out, even if they don’t eliminate them completely.

Improving Rehabilitation Options

Another important part of the puzzle concerns rehabilitation and punishment — basically what’s happening to kinds once they’ve been labeled delinquents. A number of researchers say that many of the methods labeled as "rehabilitation" are actually punishment, and if these methods were redesigned to actually address the problems with more personalized measures, the success rate might increase. Counseling, psychological evaluations, and activity-based rehabilitation programs are often suggested as better alternatives than standard detention centers, which are often more like prisons than places for reform.


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Discuss this Article

Post 12

@pastanaga - I think that kind of condition is very rare though and I would really hate for young people who are simply confused or going through a stage or whatever to be tarred with the same brush.

Besides, who knows how that kind of person is created? Perhaps if the home lives of children are made into better, brighter places we wouldn't have people like that in the world.

Post 11

@Ana1234 - While I think for the most part you're correct, I do have to respectfully disagree that there are no bad people. There are some people who are just bad. You can call it mental illness if you want.

For example, the two kids who committed the Columbine shootings. I know that's an extreme example, but there has been some very interesting research about them and what has turned out is that one of them was basically a psychopath. Like many famous serial killers he was charismatic enough to have the other kid (who was basically a normal kid, just really depressed and bitter) under his sway.

In fact, I've heard it said that Columbine or something similar was almost

inevitable, given the history and writings of this particular person. He was simply not well in the head. Or, in laymen's terms, a bad person. You can send someone like that to the best juvenile delinquency treatment facilities and it won't help.
Post 10

@chivebasil - Most gangs are a mixture, I think. I tend to think of gangs as being a symptom of juvenile delinquency rather than the cause, but I suppose in a lot of cases the existence of a gang nearby will have a negative impact on a young person's life.

I personally think there are no bad people. There are desperate people, angry people, sad people and so forth, but no bad ones. Most juvenile delinquency programs seem to work towards punishing or scaring kids straight, rather than nurturing the good in them so that they won't want to be delinquent anymore. And I think that's a shame. It comes from people thinking more about revenge than about actually making sure the problem goes away.

Post 9

What is the link between juvenile delinquency and gangs? Are most gangs composed of young people, or do they have older members?

Post 8

I have read a lot on this issue and most of the solutions seem to boil down to one simple idea - keep the kids busy. Idle hands are the devil's playground whether you are young or old. Bored kids get into trouble.

So if you send them to school, then have them play sports, then have family activities and as much structured time as possible, they have less energy and ability to do things they shouldn't. I know it sounds unscientific, but isn't this the common sense solution that we all know deep down is the right one?

Post 6

Perhaps we are all missing a crucial point here. As a history major I've read articles outlining ideas for juvenile delinquency rehabilitation that were written about ancient Greece! Did you know that young men in those days stole chariots and went 'joyriding' in them?

A certain amount of deviance is entirely natural and normal, it's human nature!

Post 5

@Bakersdozen - I can see your argument. But what about those who are in the system, therefore already labeled as juvenile delinquents, before they would even become eligible for military service?

I can imagine that it would be quite a task for those in charge to manage that on top of everything else. Then there's the high risk that the same kids would end up in military prisons for refusing to follow orders.

In my opinion we need to give youngsters some kind of investment in the society they live in. Too many are marginalised, destined to grow up amongst inequality, poverty and unemployment.

Post 3

I have to disagree with the idea that homosexual parents have a higher rate of juvenile delinquency with their children than ‘traditional’ families. A report published in the journal Pediatrics discussed studies that showed teens raised in lesbian homes not only were less likely to have behavioral problems than a number of their peers, but also scored higher on certain tests measuring confidence and self-esteem.

Post 2

What about bringing back some form of military service? If you look at juvenile delinquency statistics for countries which still have this program in place, you'd be convinced that it's the best option.

I agree that the justice system isn't going to produce reformed citizens, so the best idea is to head them off at the pass before they get to that point.

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