Juvenile Delinquency Needs

Juvenile Delinquency Needs

Kaplan University


Juvenile Delinquency Needs

Causation theories allow for a better understanding of why juveniles commit the status offenses or crimes that they commit. Only by understanding relevant theories to the individual case or case study can a representative of the juvenile justice system be able to better serve the juvenile and assist the juvenile in making an educated and knowledgeable attempt at reducing recidivism. Using two case studies in order to compare and contrast the case study against a theory of causation allows the author an opportunity to assess how the juveniles home situation has negatively affected the juveniles behavior and hypothesize an intervention plan that would reduce both the unhealthy action or inaction at home as well as reduce the juveniles delinquent behavior. Reviewing case studies and exploring the theories of causation allows for a greater understanding of the core issues of juvenile delinquency and also allows for the judicial system to offer said juveniles a well thought out rehabilitation and treatment plan in a continued effort to reduce recidivism and address any potential familial problems in the juveniles household.

The first scenario involves a Hispanic fourteen-year-old Ryan, who lives with both of his parents and is aware that his father is physically abusive towards his mother. Ryan has two brothers who also have violence issues and Ryan was recently arrested for an assault at school. He does not like school and the domestic violence that takes place within his home is not disclosed to anyone and even his friends are unaware of the domestic violence. Given the details of Ryan’s home situation by the case study it is easy to ascertain that the most relevant theory of causation would be Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory. According to Cox, Allen, Hanser, and Conrad (2013), indicated that juveniles learn deviant behavior from social groups and the way that juveniles respond to particular instances largely depends on their life experiences or what they learned from the influential social groups. It is reasonable to assume that the domestic violence instances that occur in Ryan’s household have contributed to Ryan’s delinquency and subsequent arrest for assault.

According to Noyori-Corbett and Moon (2013), individual behaviors are the result of bigger elements and in this case the behaviors by Ryan’s dad and brothers ultimately impact his behaviors and will continue to do so. One can interpret the bigger elements as daily actions and/or behaviors that a juvenile with a still developing brain can interpret as normal, even if the behavior is typically viewed as socially unacceptable. The differential association theory also states that juveniles can be influenced either positively or negatively by the individuals closest to him or her; therefore, the behaviors that juveniles learn do not necessarily have to be socially unacceptable the behaviors can also be positive in nature (Morrison, & Ramsay, 2010). In essence behaviors that are displayed by influential members in the juveniles life, albeit by family or friends, can eventually shape the juveniles opinion of what is socially acceptable, even if the behaviors and actions are deemed delinquent or criminal by society.

In essence the sociological and psychological variables of the differential association theory suggests that the first commission of a deviant or delinquent act is not as influential on the juvenile as the frequency, pattern, or maintenance of the behaviors is (McLaughlin, & Newburn, 2010). In other words the act of a single act of delinquent behavior would not necessarily constitute being categorized as differential association theory, even if the behaviors were learned through a peer or family member; it is the belief and repeated display of such behaviors that eventually mold the juvenile that allow him or her to come to believe that the behavior is of value in their daily lives. According to Smangs (2010) the differential association theory is measured by the juvenile’s delinquent influences and the juveniles social bonds between the juvenile and his or her parents, in Ryan’s case he is influenced by the violent behavior by his brothers and Ryan bearing witness to the domestic violence of his parents. Ryan’s arrest can be viewed as the sociological and psychological variables of the differential association theory in that he is now exhibiting the behaviors that are an everyday occurrence in his house and one can assume that Ryan has associated this response as a means of conflict resolution.

In order to formulate an effective intervention plan that addresses both the delinquent behavior and the cultural circumstance one must explore the prevalence of domestic violence in Hispanic culture as well as the parental violence and its affect on the children in the household, including Ryan. According to Gonzalez- Guarda, Cummings, Becerra, Fernandez, and Mesa (2013) a risk factor for intimate partner violence among the Hispanic community is the history of physical abuse and witnessing such abuse contributes to a continued cycle of abuse that is essentially passed onto the younger more impressionable family members. According to Rivers, Maze, Hannah, and Lederman (2007), adult victims and perpetrators tend to have the incorrect assumption that so long as their children are not being physically harmed that there can be no negative affects onto the children; in fact it is noted that children who witness domestic violence tend to be emotionally and psychologically harmed, which in essence is still viewed as a form of child abuse and child neglect.

The first step in creating an intervention strategy would be to mandate Ryan to a probationary period of one year while he attends one on one counseling, which would hopefully allow Ryan the opportunity to build a rapport with the therapist in an effort to address the domestic violence issues within his household. Once Ryan admits to the domestic violence in the household, the state can then intervene and mandate the parents to attend parenting classes and domestic violence classes (both victim and offender) or risk their children becoming wards of the state. The goal would to assist the family with ways on how to better deal with conflict in an effort to reduce the instances of violence and not threaten the family with removal of the children; however, it would also be important to stress participation in the intervention process otherwise the children within the household will continue to be in a harmful environment. Since Ryan family is Hispanic it would be important to address the possibility of having bilingual therapy and also offer individual counseling as well as family counseling, which would address the long standing generational domestic violence. Only by addressing the family’s current outlook on domestic violence and conflict resolution can new patterns of behavior be created; which would ultimately decrease the entire families participation in domestic violence.

The second scenario involves a sixteen-year-old African-American boy named Justin whose family resides in a low-income neighborhood. His mother is a single parent who works multiple jobs; therefore, Justin often misses school in order to tend to his siblings. He is a good student that enjoys school; however, his mother working multiple jobs, the need for Justin to watch his siblings, and the fact that the family has financial constraints has unfortunately lead Justin to believe that participating in gang activity could benefit his family financially. Justin was recently picked up by law enforcement for stealing. Given the information provided in the case study about Justin it is easy to discern that the best theory that would explain why Justin is participating in delinquent activity is the strain theory, which is in the family of sociological theories. According to Cox, Allen, Hanser, and Conrad (2013), the strain theory is best defined as individuals who desire to achieve societal goals but lack the means of pursuing those endeavors and although there are different ways that these individuals can respond to these strains one typical response is the individual developing innovative responses to these challenges; which can often be a criminal or delinquent in nature.

Justin’s delinquency can be explained by the strain theory because he desires to attend school but because his family is poor and his mother has to work multiple jobs, he has to watch his siblings and cannot attend school. It is reasonable to hypothesize that according to Justin the likely solution to his dilemma is to assist his mother in financially providing for the household so that he many continue to pursue his dreams of an education and increase the entire families financial situation long-term. According to Agnew (2012), one type of strain is the inability to achieve one’s goals and that the prevention or failure of this continued attempt can result in an individual resulting to criminal or delinquent acts in order to achieve one or more of those goals. The psychological variables can be viewed as the desire for individuals to make something of themselves and the obstacles that often prevent an individual from achieving those goals can be legitimate in nature; however, those challenges can affect cause a psychological strain on the individual.

The sociological variables can be viewed as environmental factors such as being raised in a low income environment and possessing parents who have little to no education therefore more responsibility is placed on the child who should have all the time and means to apply themselves educationally. This is evident by Froggio (2007) statement, which indicated juveniles can and often are pressured into criminality by anticipated strains or strains that the juvenile believes will continue and prevent the achievement of his or her goals. It is reasonable to believe that Justin might view his situation as an anticipated strain as evident by his belief of returning to school largely depends on his ability to bring income into the household, which would reduce the amount of jobs his mother has to work and he would not be prevented from attending school because of his mothers need for him to watch his siblings. Justin’s beliefs are extremely contradictory to the likely outcome of his participation in gang activity and delinquent behavior because it is more likely that his participation is such criminality will over time create new challenges and obstacles which could include separation from his family and a criminal record that prevent him from completing his education and assisting his family.

In order to develop an effective intervention plan for Justin it is important to address the cultural circumstances, especially in regards to the economic distress that has befallen Justin’s family. According to Larzelere (as cited by Morrison, & Ramsay, 2010) there is a direct correlation between socio-economic status and delinquency; therefore, it would be important for the justice system to incorporate Justin’s mother necessity for work and even offer referrals for after school programs which would allow for Justin’s siblings to be supervised and Justin to attend school. Arya (2014), indicated that children of single parents were at an increased risk of participating in delinquent behaviors because of the child typically residing in an area of poverty, the families overall socio-economic distress, and the increased likelihood that the juvenile will be exposed to stressful life events. Justin would need to be placed on probation in order to hold him accountable for his decision to steal and as a way to measure if he is participating in the intervention process. Although unconventional, perhaps a referral to a big brother program would allow Justin to gain a positive role model while focusing on reducing recidivism and keeping Justin away from the gang activity.

The proposed intervention for both Justin and Ryan does not guarantee that either juvenile will alter his or her delinquent behavior; however, a conscious effort must be made to provide the juvenile with an intervention strategy that responds to the cause of the behavior as well as the delinquent or criminal action. By coupling both the juvenile justice system’s requirements as well as incorporating the family in the intervention strategy the juvenile justice system would be ensuring that both the family and the juvenile has the appropriate means of support in this ongoing effort. Not all intervention strategies are successful and not all families are supportive enough to proactively combat juvenile recidivism rates and an effective intervention strategy would also allow the juvenile justice system to determine placement for the juvenile in the event that, even with intervention services, the juveniles household or family proves to be detrimental to the juvenile. The best intervention is one that helps the juvenile realize alternative ways to address their emotional societal, psychological, or sociological needs without resorting to delinquent or criminal activity.


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Arya, N. (2014). FAMILY-DRIVEN JUSTICE. Arizona Law Review, 56(3), 623-706. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.lib.kaplan.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=a15559a2-c2bf-4439-a1e2-059b458673aa%40sessionmgr4003&vid=7&hid=4102

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Gonzalez-Guarda, R. M., Cummings, A. M., Becerra, M., Fernandez, M. C., & Mesa, I. (2013). Needs and preferences for the prevention of intimate partner violence among Hispanics: a community’s perspective. The Journal Of Primary Prevention, 34(4), 221-235. doi:10.1007/s10935-013-0312-5. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.lib.kaplan.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e1ada410-6627-47ce-a84b-bc1105507847%40sessionmgr4004&vid=3&hid=4111

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Smångs, M. (2010). Delinquency, Social Skills and the Structure of Peer Relations: Assessing Criminological Theories by Social Network Theory. Social Forces, 89(2), 609-631. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.lib.kaplan.edu/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e2425317-af82-4a65-83c0-1de7300a7aa5%40sessionmgr4002&vid=3&hid=4105