Causal Factors of Juvenile Delinquency: A Proposed Study
Grand Canyon University
December 21, 2011Introduction
Juvenile delinquency, despite falling overall rates of crime in the United States, remains a serious problem in this country. Around 2.5 million juveniles are arrested every year for various crimes in America, of which around 100,000 are violent crimes; however, it is estimated that this issue may be much larger than arrests show, because only about half of all crimes involving juveniles are even reported (Juvenile Justice Basic Statistics, 2011). Juvenile involvement in violent crimes has remained roughly constant for the past two decades, and they form a significant percentage of many other crimes in the United States, such as accounting for over half of all arson arrests, around 40 percent of vandalism arrests, and one-third of burglary arrests (Juvenile Justice Basic Statistics, 2011). In order to create interventions to assist at-risk youth, prevent them from beginning on the path of crime, or assist in corrective programs to induce prosocial behavior among the juvenile criminal population, researchers and professionals in the juvenile justice system must arrive at a better understanding of the causal factors that underlie delinquent behavior.
This study seeks to determine which, among the various reasons for juvenile crime, are the most prevalent causes among the criminal population that induce a propensity for criminal behavior. A balance must be struck among attributing behavior to specific causes, however; strong causal designs of intervention programs can risk unsuccessful or uncertain program outcomes, although weak causal reasoning cannot be adopted to practical use and the creation of interventions (Borowski, 2003). Previous theories have attempted to occasionally describe juvenile delinquency as being attributable to a single causal factor, such as poverty and social disorganization in neighborhoods from an external standpoint, or more proximal causes such as problematic peer influences or ego deficiency (Borowski, 2003). Newer models, however, generally take the approach that this behavior is due to “a large number of factors operating at different levels,” which include both proximal and distal factors. It is from this perspective that the current study will operate, as it is difficult to attribute juvenile delinquency, which can take many forms, to a single factor that invariably serves as a cause in all cases. Method
The present study uses a self-report method of analysis similar to that employed by Farrington, Loeber, Yin, and Anderson (2002), which utilizes reliable and valid measures as seen in both Farrington et al. (2002) and Van Hulle, D’Onfrio, Rodgers, Waldman, and Lahey (2007). Delinquency will be defined as self-reporting for the frequency of committing certain actions within a period of six months, and will include stealing items worth under $5, stealing those valued between $5 and $50, stealing items worth over $50, joyriding, stealing a car, check or credit card fraud, robbery, fighting, aggressive sexual behavior, drinking, ditching school, selling marijuana or other drugs, and using marijuana or other drugs. These actions will be divided into categories of aggressive and nonaggressive delinquent behavior in order to allow for analysis of potentially distinct reasons for each. The causal factors for delinquency will be defined as attention deficit and impulsivity problems, depression and mood, academic achievement, parental supervision, parental reinforcement, parental communication, socioeconomic status, housing status, and peer behaviors. Each of these will utilize self-report measures from both the juvenile, and, for those factors involving the family, one of their parents or guardians, as well. These definitions can provide a great deal of explanatory power for the reasons behind different types of juvenile...
References: Borowski, A. (2003). Danger of strong causal reasoning in juvenile justice policy and practice. Australian Social Work, 56(4), 340-351.
Farrington, D. P., Loeber, R., Yin, Y., & Anderson, S. J. (2002). Are within-individual causes of delinquency the same as between-individual causes?. Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health, 12(1), 53.
Juvenile Justice Basic Statistics. (2011). Frontline PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/
Van Hulle, C. A., D 'Onfrio, B. M., Rodgers, J. L., Waldman, I. D., & Lahey, B. B. (2007). Sex Differences in the Causes of Self-Reported Adolescent Delinquency. Journal Of Abnormal Psychology, 116(2), 236-248.
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