Juvenile delinquency or illegal behaviors committed by underage children is a significant social problem in the United States and worldwide. To design the most effective way to reduce crime among those younger than eighteen, it is essential to study the problem’s origins and the key factors contributing to it. One way to better understand the issue is to analyze it by using the functionalist perspective on society.
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Juvenile Delinquency in Its Social Context
In the United States, the selected problem is correlated with child-parent relationships and the quality of life. It is positively associated with living in high-risk and low-income neighborhoods, which involves limited educational and employment opportunities (Bendezú, Pinderhughes, Hurley, McMahon, & Racz, 2016; Sullivan, 2015). Other factors correlated with juvenile delinquency include exposure to child abuse, insufficient parental control, the absence of trust-based relationships between children and parents, and so on (Bendezú et al., 2016).
Juvenile Delinquency and the Influence of Society
From my perspective, juvenile delinquency can be regarded as the result of society’s ineffective attempts to support children and prevent them from growing up in an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty, and hostility. For example, bullying and poor student engagement are among the common issues that children and adolescents face at school, and society has not managed to deal with the resulting aggression yet. The absence of well-paid jobs often encourages parents to work long hours, thus reducing their ability to control their children’s free-time activities.
Sociological problems can be analyzed and viewed through the prism of three theoretical perspectives that present different ways of looking at society. In this paper, the selected social problem is analyzed with reference to the functionalist perspective. The selected problem can be explained using this perspective since it is not something that has to deal only with individual-level factors. Importantly, it is clear that the incidence of juvenile delinquency is predicted by factors pertaining to different institutions, such as family and school, and the combinations of different risk factors only increase the risks of engaging in delinquent behaviors. The functionalist perspective allows looking at society as an entire system, which makes it specifically important and relevant to the problem being discussed.
Functionalism and Juvenile Delinquency
The problem of delinquent behaviors is based on some children’s inability to follow the universally accepted social and moral standards, and it has to deal with poor links between social institutions. For instance, as an institution, the economy is needed to distribute resources in a way that would be just. The existence of low-income neighborhoods, however, displays the failure to do so (Bendezú et al., 2016). Despite having limited access to resources, children from financially disadvantaged families are still influenced by the commonly used notions of success in life, such as financial prosperity. To achieve it without violating any social norms, they may need high-quality education that would make them competitive and proper moral guidance from families. However, educational opportunities in poor neighborhoods are not the best, whereas family problems, including both violence and poor parental control, are common (Bendezú et al., 2016). All these functional problems make the violations of norms for one’s benefit more attractive and acceptable, thus perpetuating the problem.
To sum up, juvenile delinquency presents a serious social problem that can be analyzed using the functionalist perspective. According to this framework, society presents a system of institutions with different functions that should work together to create harmony and are closely interconnected. The issue of crime and other unacceptable behaviors among underage people emerges as the result of the main social institutions’ failure to fulfill their intended functions, thus making non-conformity more attractive.
Bendezú, J. J., Pinderhughes, E. E., Hurley, S. M., McMahon, R. J., & Racz, S. J. (2016). Longitudinal relations among parental monitoring strategies, knowledge, and adolescent delinquency in a racially diverse at-risk sample. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 1–14.
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Sullivan, T. J. (2015). Introduction to social problems (10th ed). New York, NY: Pearson.