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Adolescent Development in Juvenile Recidivism

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Punishment is a word that has many different meanings. It differs from person to person, state to state and even country to country. When looking at the criminal justice system the purpose of punishment is deterrence, rehabilitation, retribution, and incapacitation (Bontrager, Smith, & Winokur, 2008). Punishment involving adults is hard but when dealing with adolescents it is even more difficult. Adolescence is often thought to be a time of irrational and emotion influenced behavior. There are many who think that adolescence is just a phase that is an entity in and of its self. While many people can see the correlation between the actions and behaviors that happen in adolescence to the habits and life style in adulthood few people see the correlation between a person’s early childhood and the affect that has on his or her adolescence. There is no developmental phase that stands totally alone. Each phase has a lasting consequence ramifications on the next. This progressive developmental phase has lasting ramifications on the adolescent’s behavior, self-concept and maturity. Because of this there is a need to view juvenile crime and punishment differently than adult crime and punishment. The reason for this is because some research has shown that recidivism rates among juvenile parolees are very high. It can range anywhere from fifty five percent to seventy five percent (Krisberg, Austin, and Steele, 1991).
There is evidence that a vast majority of juvenile offenders who have been confined do not stop committing crimes when they are released. In fact, many juvenile offenders continue their criminal involvement into adulthood (Hamparian et al., 1984). There is a need to halt juvenile crime before it begins and there needs to be a way to halt the progression of juvenile crime being indicative of adult crime. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how childhood development affects adolescent’s development and how this development is directly related to a troubled adolescent’s recidivism rate in relation to family, community and social support. When sentencing juvenile offenders there needs to be an emphasis not only on punishment but rehabilitation. Crime prevention, whether on the juvenile level or adult level, falls into the three categories, of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Primary prevention focuses on the conditions that may foster criminal activity. Primary prevention works to sway juveniles who are immersed in communities and cultures that promote violence and crime to seek healthier ways to live ((Bendit, Nieborg, & Erier, 2000). For example,i.e. a juvenile living in a depressed area will see that drugs and theft are the primary means of survival. Taking that juvenile to a farm, or a camp, exposes them hard, honest work is more satisfying, and less stressful than devious means of support. The idea behind primary prevention is the desire to create a more positive perspective, specifically for juveniles, which will effect positive change which will, hopefully, keep the adolescent from criminal behavior. Primary prevention speaks to pretty much all aspects of life. It takes into account poverty, unemployment and a wide variety of other social and psychological burdens. It enfolds all of the aforementioned items with support for families, schools, urban development, healthcare, stabilizing and strengthening individual personalities, social education and combating prejudice (Bendit, Nieborg, & Erier, 2000). Primary prevention is an attempt at a catchall. The concept behind secondary prevention is not to look at the general environment, as in primary prevention, but to focus on a small, clearly defined group. This group encompasses children and young people whose individual development, or circumstances, or both, cause them to be a more likely candidate for becoming a potential offender. Secondary prevention focuses on helping people who fall into this group specifically. The help may involve either working with adolescents, who live in socially depressed areas. It can also mean street work, getting involved on the youth’s direct level, for young people who are difficult to reach in other ways (Bendit, Nieborg, & Erier, 2000). When looking at crime prevention Ttertiary prevention is the most clearly defined of the three categories. It is very specific in relation to its aims and target groups. Tertiary prevention endeavors to stop repeated offences and encourages the social integration of young offenders. In fact, the younger the age of an offender, the greater the significance of getting the offender’s support system involved (Bendit, Nieborg, & Erier, 2000). This leads us into the path of criminal behavior in adolescents. Vygotsky’s Theory of cognitive learning is a socio-cultural theory of cognitive development that is based on the idea that learning happens primarily through a child’s interaction with the world. This theory shows the learning progression from infancy to early childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Adults are the key to this theory and to the concept of child to adolescent development. Adults shape and foster a child’s learning and development, intentionally, in a methodical manner depending on which culture and society the child hails from (Ormrod, 2008). Culture is often viewed as a local though it is not limited to a specific location. A person’s culture is not just where a person was born, lived and died. Culture includes the how of one’s birth, life and death. There needs to be awareness that intentionality can be done on purpose, with a goal and purpose set forth, but it can also be done with the mindset of failure. When a parent, teacher, or a significant person in a child’s life does not actively participate in the child’s development that loss of interaction may set the child up for failure. It is intentionality focused on failure. Making a choice to do nothing is actually making a choice to do something. It’s a choice of promoting apathy, indifference and a lack of concern. It is a choice that may cause irrevocable damage and harm that has lasting implications. An example would be not making a decision concerning salvation through Jesus Christ. When a person does not choose Christ he or she is choosing Satan. While many people may think that concept is harsh it is true. When parents, loved ones, teachers, pastors or anyone who plays a significant role in a child’s life chooses not to be actively involved it will cause reverberations that the child will feel forever. Thus, when a juvenile commits a crime and no one intervenes it creates chaos and confusion. It is generally acknowledged that dysfunctional parenting practices and family conflict are common hazards related to a wide variety of behavioral and emotional problems in children and adolescents.
Improving parenting skills and enhancing the confidence adolescents hold in their parents has the greatest potential in improving the children’s health, status, well being, and in reducing the risk of developing serious mental health problems or behavioral problems. There is extensive data to support the importance of good parenting in the maintenance, treatment and prevention of childhood difficulties. This evidence comes from a wide variety of sources including different disciplines, behavioral genetics, developmental studies, and intervention research. There is substantial evidence that behavioral family interventions, based on social learning principles, are effective in the prevention and treatment of a range of childhood behavioral and emotional problems (Sanders, 2003). This data will have a huge impact on whether an adolescent commits a crime and also the recidivism rate when the child is released from whatever punishment given. The major premise of Vygotsky's theoretical framework is that social interaction plays a primary role in the development of cognition (Kearsley, 2010). Vygotsky taught that children learn how their culture interprets and responds to the world through formal and informal methods (Ormrod, 2008). This knowledge draws a parallel between understanding what others consider acceptable, in and for society, and turning that knowledge inward and deciding what is acceptable for ones’ self. This knowledge happens as a child moves from early childhood to middle childhood . As the child enters adolescence it begins to show up in social and emotional competences. Although middle childhood is an important developmental period for the assimilation of various skills to meet the complexity of coming social situations, the foundation for them has its origin in infancy. In infancy and early childhood, a child’s parental support allows him or her to learn to regulate behavior with consistent responsiveness from the parent to guide this developmental course. Increasingly, the child begins to assume more control and can by early elementary school become more self-directed in carrying out the intricate set of skills required for problem solving in social situations. Accordingly, to obtain a child’s competency in social problem solving, measurement systems need to place demands on the child’s self regulatory, executive processing, and social engagement. Other basic skills that are also involved in social problem solving are competent language, regulation of attention, and memory (Landry, Smith, & Swank, 2006). When a child does not learn these skills there is a fundamental lack in his or her foundation. The foundation may continue to be built upon but at some point it is likely to falter. Social and emotional competences have a wide range of developmental indicators that adolescents need for successful social adaptation. These indicators embrace positive interactions between adolescents and parents, teachers, care-givers and peers, emotional knowledge, emotion regulatory abilities and relationship skills. When the adolescent is made aware that there is a problem in his or development scheme successful competency indicates a willingness to participate in special education programs for behavior problems. When a child moves into adolescence and these developmental indicators are not present, or are skewed, it is going to cause more developmental issues to arise. The process of maturation becomes much more difficult as the foundation needs to be reset in order to rebuild upon. The developmental indicators begin to show what the adolescent has retained in teaching form childhood to adolescent. A key component to seeing the correlation between a well adjusted adolescent and a maladjusted adolescent is to watch the behavior. Such behaviors would be acting-out, assertive social skills, emotional or behavioral disorder, frustration tolerance, peer social skills, shyness, anxiety and task orientation. Watching, and repairing deficiencies, earlier in childhood affects social and emotional development in early adolescence (Niles, Reynolds & Roe-Sepowitx, 2008). To more fully understand social competencies in daily situations there needs to be an observance of the integration of skills. There needs to be a link between competencies during middle childhood to the more complex social challenges in adolescence. As children enter middle school they are expected to interact in social situations without a huge amount of structure and support from outside sources (Landry, Smith & Swank, 2009). The reason for this is because this skill set should have been taught to the adolescent during the period of lower mental function (Ormrod, 2008). The social interactions become more complex because the adolescents are expected to consider each others’ points of view. They are then also expected to assimilate other people’s views with their own and give feedback based on the knowledge they possess. Based on what was said earlier, adolescents can show success with these demands if they are demonstrating the ability to perceive and respond to the goals of others as well as others’ perceptions and beliefs. They can also show failure by being close minded or self-absorbed. Failure here may lead to an adolescent being ostracized, ignored or made fun of (Steinberg, 2005). Proficiency in shared interactions with others necessitates an assortment of cognitive, social, and verbal skills. From the social realm, adolescents need to understand the behavior of others. This is not limited to just understanding other people’s behaviors but also understanding that they, themselves, may have different perspectives, intentions, and knowledge. In order for this to occur successfully, they need to identify social cues and modify their strategies on the basis of the feedback received from a social peer. Cognitively, a child is required to keep focused and attentive and use information to plan and reason how to organize behaviors to achieve problem solving with others (Landry, Smith & Swank, 2009). This is executive functioning which enters the realm of higher mental function (Ormrod, 2008). When a person goes from child to adolescent there needs to be an understanding of other people’s behavior. It is critical in being able to function in society. When this area is not developed fully it may cause issues in the area of self-concept, maturity and behavior (Steinberg, 2005). Integration of the many skills needed to function in more complex social situations is social problem solving. The ability to plan, sequence behaviors, and alter problem-solving strategies on the basis of feedback is often referred to as involving executive processing. Many theorists believe this is a critical set of behaviors for social competence because they help the child organize the information from the environment and process it to effectively comprehend social experiences. There is also an emphasis on the fact that social problem-solving requires specific behaviors. Examples would be goal directedness and planning. These behaviors fall under the heading of self-regulation. For adolescents to function competently they require the ability to create new strategies for use in unique situations and they must be able to self-examine in order to restrain behaviors that are not appropriate for the social situation. Integration of these skills is occurring across childhood (Astington & Pelletier, 2005). In sSaying that though, there is a prolonged progressive course where these abilities multiply in complexity as the child enters into adolescence. These behaviors are multidimensional, and can fluctuate fluidly depending on the social context (Steinberg, Dahl, Keating, Kupfer, Masten, & Pine 2006). Social context is very important when looking at juvenile crime and recidivism rates. A common response that spans history, in the public’s concern with juvenile delinquency and violence has been to pass legislation promising stiffer penalties as well as harsher sentences for juvenile offenders. What needs to be seen, though is the fact that crime damages people, communities, and relationships. There needs to be a balance created that includes the needs of the victim, offender, and communities. For there to be a healthy restoration process each party needs to be involved. While an offender needs to be punished unless there are support systems in place for the offender, when released, the recidivism rates for that particular offender will continue to rise (Stenhjem, 2003).

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