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Juvenile Delinquency – Causes & Prevention


Juvenile delinquency refers to the breaking of the law by children. By virtue of being minors, offenders of this nature may or may not be treated normally by the judicial system of a country. Psychologists continue to grapple with the problem of finding out what causes this behavior. They have come up with theories that try to explain the process that leads to growth of delinquency in a person. What does the family do? Is it a personality problem? What does the society do wrong to make it worse? This paper studies one particular case relating it to psychological theories to answer these questions. I will use Howard to describe the child.

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Pathway to Delinquency and Family Role

The problem of Howard stated because of low self esteem. This problem was initially noted by his parents. They agree he was too much of a perfectionist. He did not want to be with others. He therefore resented going to school and missed out on opportunities to play with others. According to psychologists, this is a bad trend which should be curtailed by parents. They should have insisted that Howard go to play and join the rest of the kids in school.

To improve self esteem, the parents should have developed the strong points of the kid and made sure that they invite other kids to complement Howard. This way, he would have developed self esteem. The parents should have played a direct role in improving self esteem. Instead of allowing him to hide in his room, they should have offered him simple roles after which they would award him and congratulate him. This need not have been perfect (Debbie et al. 2004).

Other Payers

The school community stand accused just like the parents. After noticing the behavior of Howard, they should have done all that is possible to enable the kid mingle. However, Howard proclaims that it did not help him. Therefore, it was an act in futility although he says that it actually helped him for a short time. He did not show any resentment at home. However, it is notable that he was in the midst of many people when growing up. These people may have been really good at what they do triggering the self pity in Howard. This is paradoxical considering his mother says that the other kids actually perceived him as funny and likable. The problem she says was a feeling for self pity which leads to very low self esteem (Hess and Hess, 2005).

Delinquency Onset and Evidence

Howard’s delinquent behavior did not start late it started early. As a kid, there were just glaringly unpredictable signs at least to the parents. Most parents think of the problem as a personality trait. During the late teenage years, he started been overly reactive of a minor problem. He would sulk over small misdeeds. He started missing therapy appointments and would get angry when asked about it. These were the signs that should have prompted action from both parents and doctor.

The IQ tests conducted on the kid were not consistent ranging from 4-13. These showed that he had lots of intellectual potential in some fields and lack of it in others. The wide range achievement test showed similar inconsistencies. They were also notable when the Bender Gestalt test was done on the kid. All these were pointers of a psychological problem in the making (Debbie et al. 2004).

Theories Relating To Study

Behavioral Theory

This theory is a description of the positive results and the negative outcomes of a particular behavior carried on to the future. The theory argues that diminishing or enhancing behavior is dependent on the learning method and process and that future behavior can only be shaped today. Therefore the argument claims that the danger that underlies the growth and development of a kid is the lack of and too much availability of either positive or negative information to aid in the growth of the kid. If good and encouraging information is what is said to the kid, likelihood is that he will grow to be responsible.

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If the song sang to a kid is the reprimand song, the kid will be deviant and grow to believe in what people say about him. To prevent a worst case scenario it is paramount for the kid to be placed at an environment that will enable the kid to be nurtured the right way (Hess and Hess, 2005).

Social Reaction Theory

The theory was brought to the limelight during the time power was a source of struggle in colleges and power games that later played out would bring havoc and social unrest in campuses. The theory explains this was bound to create disharmony and discontent within the social setup of the school and this served as a welcome point for social unrest and teenage misbehavior. This theory looks at the concept of self and the effect the issue of labeling can have on the self and the person s ego and societal well up. The theory further says that a person will look at others depending on what he can see when he looks at oneself.

This is called the principle of looking glass self and it highlights the theory that what a person sees from the imagination of the inner self and the appearance to others will reflect his behavior towards them. If this concept is applied to juveniles, it tries to highlight the need for kid to learn to appreciate oneself in the social set up in order to have the confidence that others are appreciating him and hence will live in harmony with them due to that self imaging (Hess and Hess, 2005).


Debbie, R. et al. (2004). Common Themes and Treatment Approaches in Working with Families of Runaway Youth. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 32(4), 139–53.

Hess, M. & Hess, P.M. ( 2005). Child Welfare for the 21 Century. New York, N.Y: Columbia Books.

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