Juvenile Delinquency and Corrections (Gender, Race, Ethics, and Class)
Youth crime is disproportionately, committed by young men. Feminist theorists and others have examined why this is the case. One suggestion is that ideas of masculinity may make young men more likely to offend. Being tough, powerful, aggressive, daring and competitive may be a way of young men expressing their masculinity. Acting out these ideals may make young men more likely to engage in antisocial and criminal behavior. Alternatively, rather than young men acting as they do because of societal pressure to conform to masculine ideals; young men may actually be naturally more aggressive, daring etc. As well as biological or psychological factors, the way young men are treated by their parents may make them more susceptible to offending. According to a study led by Florida State University criminologist Kevin M. Beaver, adolescent males who possess a certain type of variation in a specific gene are more likely to flock to delinquent peers (Wikipedia, 2008).
Strain Theory is associated mainly with the work of Robert Merton. He felt that there are institutionalized paths to success in society. Strain theory holds that crime is caused by the difficulty those in poverty have in achieving socially valued goals by legitimate means. As those with, for instance, poor educational attainment have difficulty achieving wealth and status by securing well paid employment, they are more likely to use criminal means to obtain these goals. Merton’s suggests five adaptations to this dilemma:
Innovation: individuals who accept socially approved goals, but not necessarily the socially approved means.
Retreatism: those who reject socially approved goals and the means for acquiring them.
Ritualism: those who buy into a system of socially approved means, but lose sight of the goals. Merton believed that drug users are in this category.
Conformity: those who conform to the system’s means and goals.
Rebellion: people who negate socially approved goals and means by creating a new system of acceptable goals and means.
A difficulty with strain theory is that it does not explore why children of low-income families would have poor educational attainment in the first place. More importantly is the fact that much youth crime does not have an economic motivation. Strain theory fails to explain violent crime, the type of youth crime which causes most anxiety to the public (Wikipedia, 2008).
For decades psychologists have studied morality, moral development, and how people become troubled. Lawrence Kohlberg, a Harvard psychologist, labeled the moral development of human beings from the early infant years to late adulthood. Hartshorne and May, conducting one of the early studies in the late 1920’s, evaluated the influence of religion, education, and society on young children. The one test used in the early prediction of troubled youth is the Minnesota Multiphase Personality Inventory-Adolescent (MMPI-A) assessment. This test helps identify personal, social, and behavioral problems in adolescents. Although MMPI-A test helps provide relevant information to aid in problem identification, it is a very extensive test and takes several hours to complete.
With such incidents as the Columbine tragedy, school shootings, and the increasing number of incarcerated youth, people are searching for a way to target these troubled teens before they commit serious crimes to offer them counseling and support. In “Ethics and Teens: Is It Possible To Detect Troubled Youth” everyday moral dilemmas such as stealing, cheating, and lying are used to challenge the ethics of each subject. Each moral dilemma contains three solutions; each solution is based on either a “Caring”, “Judgmental”, or “Self-Centered” perspective (Alicia McDermott 2008).
In 1992, 80% of the juvenile population was white and 15% was black. White juveniles, however, were involved in 65% of the delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts. Black juveniles were involved in 31% of delinquency cases — 27%of property offense cases and 40% of person offense cases (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,1992).
Wikipedia Juvenile delinquency as a male phenomenon, 2008. Retrieved on November 18, 2008 from:
Explained gender differences in juvenile delinquency.
Wikipedia Strain theory, 2008. Retrieved on November 18, 2008 from:
Explained the class differences in juvenile delinquency.
Alicia McDermott Ethics and Teens: Is It Possible to Detect Troubled Youth?,2008. Retrieved on November 17, 2008 from:
Explained how one could detect ethics in teens.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Delinquency Cases in Juvenile Court, 1992.Retrivied on November 17, 2008 from:
Explained the race percentage in juvenile delinquency.