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Crime Among the Juveniles: Causes


Crime among juveniles is not a new phenomenon, and the trend has been increasing in the recent past. It is noted that in the late 20th century, concern has been on the rise concerning the criminal acts that have been committed by the youths. There has been a general belief that the youths are becoming more violent and out of control. It is also noted that how the juvenile justice system has responded to the matter has been inadequate. There have been policies to address the problem of juvenile violence with calls to make the juvenile justice system to be more disciplinary than it is as of now (Bennett, DiIulio, and Walters, 1996).

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There have also been calls to make it possible for the young offenders to be easily transferred to the conventional justice system to deal with them more comprehensively. The data on juvenile violent crime has been very important in the debates surrounding juvenile crime policies (Zimring, 1981). This paper is going to elaborate on various independent variables and how they affect the chosen dependent variables. In this study, the independent variables will include the public high school dropout rate; the percentage of children living in poverty; and the rate per 1000 of child abuse and neglect. On the other hand, the dependent variable in this paper will be the violent crime rate per 100,000.

Literature review

There is no doubt that high school dropout has an impact on the violent crime executed by young individuals. It is general knowledge that the young individuals dropping out of school fail to achieve the necessary skills and credentials to be able to survive in the increasingly competitive modern society. Completing a high school education is necessary for one to gain entry into tertiary educational institutions for specialized studies. In this regard, high school dropouts are most likely to remain unemployed compared to those who finish their high school education. This is because high school dropouts in most cases lack the requirements for the available jobs in the market. Therefore, they are likely to end up living an impoverished life hence depending much on government assistance (McCord, Widom, Crowell and ebrary, Inc., 2001).

In addition, high school dropouts are likely to end up as criminals to fend for themselves. Indeed research has indicated that most violent criminals are high school dropouts. It has been indicated that high school dropouts are three and a half times more to engage in criminal behavior compared to graduates. Furthermore, research has indicated that a 10% point increase in the rates of high school graduation has led to positive results with close to a 20% reduction in murder and assaults being registered (SLJ Staff, 2008).

In a report entitled, “School or the Streets: Crime and America’s Dropout Crisis,” it was observed that: “Increasing graduation rates by 10 percentage points would prevent over 3,000 murders and nearly 175,000 aggravated assaults in America each year,” (SLJ Staff, 2008, para 3). It has also been observed that over 3,400 murders and over 170,000 assaults in the whole nation stand to be prevented if high school graduation was boosted by 10% (Gannett News Service, 2008). Generally, it is claimed that close to 70% of the prison population is comprised of high school dropouts. The Boston District Attorney, Daniel Conley, noted that high numbers of high school dropouts presented a threat to public safety (Gannett News Service, 2008).

Apart from the high school dropout rate having an impact on juvenile violent crimes, it is worthy to note that children living in poor conditions are likely to engage in violent crime. During the 19th century, the children who had been abandoned in the streets because of poverty turned to crime. Also, those who found themselves living in crowded houses where they received inadequate parental attention resorted to criminal activities in search of a way to survive (Greenwood, 1869).

In some instances, these young individuals could not acknowledge that they were engaging in the wrong activities. This is because most of these children did not have access to essential things in life. According to James Greenwood, “they have an ingrained conviction that it is you who are wrong, not them. That you are wrong in the first place in appropriating all the good things the world affords, leaving none for them but what they steal,” (Greenwood, 1869, p 2). There is no doubt that destitution is a breeding ground for criminal behavior. Crime and homelessness, which emanate from poverty, are often closely linked. It has also been noted that impoverished children can easily be recruited to criminal gangs where they engage in violent crime to serve the interests of their senior gang members.

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Having discussed the two aspects that contribute to violent crimes committed by young individuals, it is also important to look at the third factor which contributes to the engagement in violent crimes by the youths. It is a fact that the social environment in which an individual grows may influence the character of the person a great deal. In this respect, crime may be affected by the social environment in which the children grow. Following this perspective, it is worth noting that child abuse and neglect may determine the child’s engagement in violent criminal activities (McCord, Widom, Crowell and ebrary, Inc., 2001).

A study conducted in the United States indicated that in the year 2006, more than 900,000 children were subjected to child abuse and neglect (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2008). Though child neglect and abuse may be measured in terms of physical harm, it must be noted that it can have long-term and far-reaching consequences. The psychological and behavioral problems associated with child abuse and neglect may be expressed in terms of high-risk behavior which may include engagement in violent crimes. There is ample evidence that connects child abuse and child neglect to criminal behavior. It has been asserted that the connection between later violent crime and child abuse is irrefutable and quite reliable (Zingraff, Leiter, Myers, and Johnsen, 1993). Various studies have continued to indicate that a relationship does exist between child abuse and neglect and violence among the young members of the society (Carter, 2004).


There is no doubt that violent crime among young people is a product of various aspects. From the analysis provided, high school dropout rate; poverty; and child abuse and neglect contribute to increased incidences of violent crimes among young people. Therefore, it can be observed that the different backgrounds from which young people have been raised play a major role in shaping their behavioral patterns.


  1. Bennett, W.J., DiIulio, J.J. and Walters, J.P. (1996). Body Count: Moral Poverty and How to Win America’s War against Crime and Drugs. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  2. Carter, J. (2004). Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Youth Violence: Strategies for Prevention and Early Intervention. Family Violence Prevention Fund.
  3. Child Welfare Information Gateway, (2008). Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway.
  4. Gannett News Service. (2008). Report: High school dropout rates fuel violent crime. Gannett News Service.
  5. Greenwood, J. (1869). The seven curses of London ‘Juvenile thieves‘ London: Stanley Rivers.
  6. McCord, Joan; Widom, C. Spatz; Crowell, Nancy, A.; and ebrary, Inc. (2001). Juvenile crime, juvenile justice. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  7. SLJ Staff. (2008). “Crime Linked to Dropout Rates, Report Says.” School Library Journal.
  8. Zimring, F.E. (1981). “Kids, groups, and crime: Some implications of a well-known secret.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 72: 867-885.
  9. Zingraff, M.T., Leiter, J., Myers, K.A. and Johnsen, M.C. (1993). “Child maltreatment and youthful problem behavior.” Criminology 31: 173-202.

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