Juvenile delinquency refers to antisocial or criminal behaviour by young people. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), there was a 21 per cent increase in the number of youth held in adult jails between 1994 and 2004. Some social and economic factors contribute to the growing incidence of juvenile delinquency.
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Statistical data from research by the United Nations indicate that peer pressure is one of the factors contributing to delinquency among young people. The research shows that more than one-third of all the juvenile delinquents belong to one group or the other. Juvenile groups tend to form a subculture that has a unifying theme of the rejection of adult values. Juvenile peer groups usually exert a level of influence on their members to act in ways that may be antisocial. The United Nations describes a subculture as "lifestyle systems" formed among groups. The United Nations states that juvenile groups have a similarity that cuts across every cultural and social context. Belonging to a juvenile peer group is often a part of socialisation.
Another social factor leading to juvenile delinquency is a desensitisation of young people toward deviant behaviour by commercialised mass media and culture. For instance, watching violent movies and playing violent video games may reduce the abhorrence of some juveniles toward such deviant acts, making it easier for them to commit such offences. Also, the entertainment industry sometimes presents some unattainable lifestyles to susceptible youths making it seem like the ideal thing to do. According to the United Nation's report, the contradiction between these idealised goals and the reality of the lives of the juveniles may lead to frustration, causing them to engage in delinquent activities as a way of addressing the perceived imbalance.
According to a report by the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission Division, poverty is the main economic factor that plays a big role in the incidence of juvenile delinquency. This is evident in the higher rate of juvenile offenders in low-income communities. The report states that young people who live in poor neighbourhoods have a significantly higher risk of engaging in delinquent activities than those who do not. They are also more likely to drop out of school, engage in substance abuse and progress to adult criminal acts.
One of the reasons juveniles easily integrate themselves into juvenile gangs is as a consequence of broken homes. They may find a sense of belonging in the gangs that is lacking at home. Some of the factors in broken homes include child neglect and abuse, lack of credible authority figures and poor or nonexistent parental supervision.
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- United Nations: Juvenile Deliquency; pp 191 to 196
- United Nations: World Program of Action for Youth
- North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission Division
- "Juvenile Justice": Juvenile Delinquency: Causes and Correlates
- Sage Pub: Juvenile Delinquency: Theories of Causation
- U. S. Department of Health and Human Services: Juvenile Delinquency