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Deterring Juvenile Crime. Bullying and Delinquency

Delinquency can be defined as a crime committed by a minor; in the recent few years, cases of juvenile delinquency have been on the rise, and this explains why the issue has given birth to controversy among psychologists, criminologists as well as sociologists. The issue has ignited a debatable topic with scholars and researchers trying to unravel the cause of delinquency in the young generation. Many theories have been formulated by researchers in the quest to develop a better understanding of juvenile delinquency, its causes as well as the probable solutions. Among these models are criminological theories, which are formulated to address the development and enforcement of criminal law. One of the most common theoretical approaches is the deterrence theory, which suggests which people are motivated or discouraged from engaging in an action based on the consequences that the action attracts. This theory is the basis of a debate on whether or not severe punishments for minors is an effective strategy for reducing crime in juveniles. Although a minor may not be punished under adult criminal law, strict penalties would discourage young people from engaging in crime.

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According to behaviorists, one of the most effective strategies for deterring unwanted behavior is establishing its motives and the ways to withdraw the motivation that triggers the unwanted conduct (Leiber et al., 2017). One of the behaviorists who shaped the understanding of behavior is B.F. Skinner. The behaviorist is credited with the idea that consequences determine actions. Skinner explores the use of reinforcements or punishments to encourage desirable behavior and deter unwanted conduct, respectively (Leiber et al., 2017). The deterrence model seems to have been developed from the idea of the use of reinforcements and punishments; this is because proponents of the approach that offenders are either motivated or discouraged from committing a criminal act by the gains and consequences associated with crime. Therefore, if the consequences of an act are severe, there is a likelihood that individuals will be discouraged from crime.

Proponents of the deterrence model suggest that juveniles will take part in delinquent and criminal behavior after comparing the consequences and benefits of their actions. The model is based on the assumption that minors are mature and capable of making correct decisions to attain a specific outcome. Leiber et al. (2017) argue that to understand delinquent behavior, stakeholders in the juvenile justice system should evaluate and examine the motivations behind the crime. Therefore, the consequences, as well as the benefits that influence an underage to engage in criminal activities, should be studied. The authors also argue that for a long time, juveniles are treated as adults; they were subjected to the same level of punishment as delinquent and criminal. I believe the article makes a strong point on how to deter juvenile crime. I think the strategy of punishment is effective in deterring criminal behavior.

According to Brown et al. (2018), delinquents were given the same treatment as adults; harsh punishments were being employed as a means of regulating juvenile behavior. The authors argue that the socio-economic changes that took place during the nineteenth century necessitated the public interest in childcare, which later on came to be the turning point towards juvenile justice. It is this revolution that gave rise to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children established in 1874 in New York with the sole purpose of protecting children from abusive parents as well as ensuring juvenile justice is attained. It was one of the organizations which championed rehabilitation programs for children displaying unwanted behavior.

In finding a solution even by applying scientific principles, it is prudent to establish the facts linking the strategy to the deterrence of crime. Therefore, the exploration of the motivators behind delinquent behavior is justified. There is the other side of their argument, which portrays the proposal to issue harsh punishments for juveniles as arguably lame. According to Baldry (2013), this idea emanates from how delinquents under observation could fake their personality or behavior, especially when they are aware that they are under close watch. However, when adults are not around them, they could be engaging in delinquent behavior. This jeopardizes the strategy as a measure to ensure juvenile crime is tamed. However, the author succeeds in convincing the reader of the significant role that examination of consequences and benefits of delinquent behavior plays a crucial role in understanding juvenile crime.

Understanding the personal traits of juvenile offenders also plays a vital role in deterring them from engaging in juvenile crime. A trait is a way in which an individual perceives, feels, and acts (Baldry, 2013). The reasoning being developed here is that an understanding of why underage offenders engage in delinquent behavior can be linked to their traits, which are considered abnormal or defective. If these traits are not considered and monitored in the initial stages of a child’s growth, then this might lead to the development of delinquent behavior and carrying the same act into adulthood. One of the delinquency prevention programs associated with the deterrence theory is the prevention/intervention program. Proponents of the model believe that harsh punishments are one of the ways of deterring crime.

One of the criticisms which have been labeled against the deterrence model as a part of the weakness of the ideology is the fact that human behavior is hard to predict; hence, it is difficult to use traits of individuals to predict their conduct. There are individual risk behaviors which cannot be attributed to personal characteristics such as impulsive act, lower intelligence, and uncontrolled aggression (Matza & Sykes, 2017). Therefore, it can be argued that using harsh punishments to deter unwanted behavior may be ineffective, mainly when applied to offenders with specific personality traits such as the ones mentioned above. However, traits often contribute to the overall behavior of an individual; therefore, understanding the traits of a child during the early stages of development may help predict delinquent behavior.

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Over the last two decades, much has been written about juvenile delinquency. This is because issues related to juvenile justice and juvenile crime at large have been on the rise over the recent few years, the various stakeholders in the juvenile justice system have done little in taming the growing rate of juvenile delinquency. Issues have developed on how juveniles are being handled as any other adult criminals and that rehabilitating them is a better option rather than punishing the underage criminals. According to Matza and Sykes (2017), there are higher chances of rehabilitating adolescents than adults. Failing to tame juvenile delinquents would likely result in allowing delinquents to carry on their behavior to adulthood. According to the authors, different types of juvenile crime may require different approaches. They provide both theoretical and practical prevention/intervention strategies developed in the last two decades. The authors use their cross-cultural expertise as well as the integration of practitioner experience of handling juvenile delinquency. Although the authors do not directly refer to the deterrence model in their exploration of the issue, the article highlights the need to use individual or specific action as a means of preventing juvenile crime.

Thompson and Morris (2016) suggest that humans are rational beings who have free will and free choice. It stipulates that humans are responsible for their actions. The ideology, however, advocates for deterrence, correction, and rejection as well as incapacitation as some of the ways which can be used to deter unwanted behavior in children. This supports the deterrence model of preventing juvenile crime. According to the approach, parents who are unavailable, therefore, due to working far from where their families stay risk gifting their children excessive freedom, which might end up being misused and turned into the practice of juvenile crime such as drug abuse (Thompson & Morris, 2016). It also stipulates that single-parent families have become popular in recent years, and this contributes to the rise in chances that their children will engage in juvenile crime since they are not closely monitored or punished adequately. In this case, harsh penalties can be considered a remedy for deterring crime, as the deterrence model suggests.

In summary, juvenile crime can be reduced if harsher punishment is introduced in the juvenile justice system. Besides, parents play a vital role in monitoring, and taming a child’s behavior ensures unwanted behavior in children is curbed. Parents who work far away from their children, therefore, risk their children engaging in juvenile crime.


Baldry, A. C. (2015). Bullying and juvenile delinquency: Common risks, different outcomes: How to prevent recidivism. Organized Crime, Corruption, and Crime Prevention, 3-12.

Brown, S. E., Esbensen, F., & Geis, G. (2018). Deterrence and rational choice theories of crime. Criminology, 125-179.

Leiber, M. J., Peck, J. H., Lugo, M., & Bishop, D. M. (2017). Understanding the link between race/ehnicity, drug offending, and juvenile court outcomes. Crime & Delinquency, 63(14), 1807-1837. Web.

Matza, D., & Sykes, G. M. (2017). Juvenile delinquency and subterranean values. Cultural Criminology, 3-10. Web.

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Thompson, K. C., & Morris, R. J. (2016). Theories of juvenile delinquency. Advancing Responsible Adolescent Development, 41-53. Web.

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