Juvenile Delinquency: Needs

Unit 3 Assignment Juvenile Delinquency: Needs

Kaplan University

CJ420: Juvenile Justice

The juvenile justice system is much more complex than its counterpart, the adult justice system. Juvenile delinquency can be caused by a variety of different reasons and variables in a young person’s life. Researchers have tried to link several risk factors that are more common than others to juvenile delinquency. I will be discussing some theories about juvenile delinquency as I analyze two case studies.

Case Study 1: Abby

Abby is a 13 year old Caucasian girl who lives with both her mother and stepfather in an upper middle class neighborhood with a great school. Abby was picked up by law enforcement for running away. This was not Abby’s first interaction with law enforcement. When the police found Abby, she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She claims she is running away because her stepfather has been sexually abusing her and she can no longer take it.

It seems as though Abby’s behavior is reflecting the trauma she has experienced. If what Abby is alleging is true, she may be suffering from a variety of mental conditions as well. Abby’s slipping grades and distant behavior would also suggest she is headed down a dangerous path. It is clear that money does not play a role in Abby’s negative choices either.

It is not uncommon for juvenile delinquents to have experienced some form of abuse. When children do not receive love and affection they can turn aggressive as adults and often hold resentment towards others. It seems as if Abby is trying to get the attention of those around her so she can get help. In Abby’s case, any attention is good attention. The social learning theory suggests that we as people learn through observation and direct influence of our surroundings. Social learning theory states that individuals will base their actions off of responses from others and the behavior they see around them (TV, books, social media.) Typically if a certain behavior is punishable it will not be repeated but if it is rewarded, the individual with continue that behavior.

Children who experience abuse or neglect are 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. These children are also more likely to become abusers in their relationships, suffer from substance abuse, depression, suicide, and even have sexual behavior at early ages leading to STDs and unwanted pregnancies. It is clear that Abby is feeling pain and trauma from her abuse and is trying to find a way to resolve her feelings or at least run from them.

I would suggest that a thorough investigation be conducted to determine whether or not the allegations are true. I would also want Abby to begin therapy immediately for her erratic behavior. Sexual abuse victims will most likely suffer from lifelong psychological effects but therapy will help them cope and deal with the effects rather than hide or ignore them. Abby’s mother really should be involved with the therapy and helping her daughter get back on track with school.

If the allegations were not true I would suggest getting Abby so other form of help or guidance. Abby is clearly headed towards a dangerous lifestyle and needs to be intervened now. I would suggest an alternative school that has stricter guidelines and that her parents increase the structure at home. Abby is being influenced by someone close to her causing her to have delinquent behavior. If her parents can cut off ties with that person or group, Abby may change her behavior.

Case Study 2: Ryan

Ryan is a 14-year-old Hispanic teenager. He lives in a two parent home. They are middle class. His father engages in domestic violence against his mother frequently. He also has two brothers who also have issues with violence. He was recently arrested for assault at his school. He does not like school. The domestic violence is a secret in their home and has never been disclosed to his friends.

Ryan is lucky enough to have both parents at home and live in a middle class neighborhood. Sadly Ryan’s father is abusive and is teaching the boys that violence is okay. The aggression could be a hereditary trait from their father but they are witnessing firsthand how to express that rage. The boys are being taught that violence is the way to handle aggression. The boys may have been exposed to the domestic violence for years and it has become ingrained in them. The longer, earlier, more intensely, and more frequently youths are exposed to specific behaviors, the more likely they will be influenced.

Ryan and his brothers have not learned that what they are witnessing is wrong or illegal. They take what they have learned inside their home and are using it in the world around them. Ryan is only 14 and is having interactions with law enforcement because of his violence at school. Ryan also has a negative attitude towards school. This is probably caused by a lack of structure at home and morals.

Ryan may also feel a huge burden for having to keep the domestic violence a secret. Children who come from abusive homes can seem fine to the outside world, but inside they are in constant pain. Ryan may be blaming himself for the abuse thinking if he had not done or said a particular thing, the abuse would not have occurred. He may also become angry at his siblings or his mother for triggering the abuse. It is apparent he is feeling rage, embarrassment, and humiliation. (Domestic Violence Roundtable, 2008) Children who are exposed to violence in the home are also prone to having a short attention span which may result in poor school performance and attendance.

I believe that Ryan’s aggression and violence is based from behaviorism and the learning theory. I think Ryan should be in a therapy or behavior modification treatment with his family. It is clear that the entire family suffers from the domestic violence and changes need to be made to prevent the risk of more run ins with law enforcement. Ryan needs help coping with the domestic violence and his own aggression. Learning to re-direct the rage will help avoid violence in the future. Simply talking about the domestic violence instead of keeping it a secret will help reduce the stresses Ryan has.

If the behavior modification therapy does not work Ryan will most likely continue his destructive behavior and end up in the correctional system. I feel as though Ryan would quickly go downhill even more without the behavior modification therapy or therapy at all. It sounds like Ryan needs an outlet to express himself. I feel Ryan should find a hobby or join a club/sport he would like to help him mingle with kids his age and avoid the stresses at home.


Domestic Violence Roundtable (2008) The Effects of Domestic Violence on Children Retrieved from: http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/effect-on-children.html

Cox, M., S., Allen, M., J., Hanser, D., R. (12/2013). Juvenile Justice: A Guide to Theory, Policy, and Practice, 8th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://kaplan.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781483321950/