There are numerous theories to why a person becomes who they are and how they got there, what makes it difficult to understand is which correct theory to follow and believe. Listed are a brief analysis of a few theories and two case studies of two troubled youths that will help to open a window to witness what is happening to society’s youth and how they contribute to adulthood. Although, several theories are around regarding juvenile delinquency, tapering them down to one solution is nearly impracticable.
Knowing that a theory is simply an educated guess, one can see there is not one single cause for delinquency in society today .However, there are several theories that should be considered and explored. We should make a more in-depth look at figures and determine where crime actually begins. The following are two separate crimes and for many, the correct theories surrounding them. I will explore theories such as the Robert Agnu’s General Strain Theory which suggest that anger, frustration and adverse emotions are linked to negative and destructive relationships. I will also explore Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic theory which suggests delinquent behavior is a product of abnormal personality structure formed early in life which consciously controls her choices.
I will begin with Lakeisha McCoy a 16 year old girl living in Malvern Arkansas, a rural area in county seat of Hot Springs with the population of 9,021; (Wikipedia 2000) Lakeisha is from a single parent home with her mother and three other your female siblings surviving on the income $ 375 a week and no father figure in the home. Lakeisha’s mother works 40-50 hours per week at the Waffle House and has no daycare for the younger children .Therefore Lakeisha is unsupervised for better part of (6) hours after school due to her mother’s schedule. Lakiesha’s mother has an extensive criminal record possible mental illness, and was a troubled youth. She chooses boyfriends are less than desirable citizens most have little job security as well as drug and alcohol tendencies. Lakiesha was recently arrested for shoplifting at the local dollar store after stealing two pairs of shoes and three shirts.
Next subject is Martin, a 14 year old male who lives in Dallas Texas, a large metropolitan city with the population of 1,299,543; (Wikipedia 2008) Martin is from a two parent household with one younger sister living on the annual income of $100,000.00 a year. Martin’s parents are both employed, however, they work opposite shifts to ensure at least one parent is available for supervision at all times. Both parents keep the children at home after school and they are not involved with any after school or extra family functions. Martin was arrested for breaking and entering into a neighbor’s home during the day when his mother was a doctor’s appointment with his younger sister.
What would society believe to be the reasoning behind both Lakeisha and Martins crimes? Some would say “There just troubled kids” or maybe would say “It’s because neither had supervision”. However, research and theorists view it in a completely different way.
Let’s look at Sigmund Freud’s psychodynamic theory which suggests delinquent behavior is a bi product of abnormal personality structure formed early during the beginning stages of life. This theory would then explain her choices in relationships and how she feels about herself .Example mental torment can lead children into violence and aggression .An neglected child attention from peers will introduce them to a family structure or gang. This theory indicates that children act on unconscious needs and desires. With id, egos ,and super ego functioning together a child can live a normal in the aspects of personality if one becomes dominate then abnormal personality traits can be viewed in a “God” like complex.(Siegel et al.” 2003). Arousal theorists believe that obtaining thrills is a motivation of committing crimes. They believe children commit crimes like shoplifting for the thrill of possibly getting away with it .They also believe this directly linked environmental and genetic reasons and this group responds to a different brain stimuli. This might indicate that some children need more stimuli to feel comfortable which links higher degrees of excitement .The theories do not stop with just a chemical thrill seeking side of these children; there are a few other facts to consider. (Siegel et al., 2003)
Robert Agnu’s General Strain Theory explores the notion that anger, frustration and adverse emotions are directly linked to negative and destructive relationships. Example, Lakeisha’s mother is one with abusive tendencies, she is ridiculed and called names which affects her behaviors both inside and outside the home by harboring a since of fear. Disappointment and anger. This eventually leads to antisocial behavior. He indicates that the negative behavior is linked to a certain peer group which might lead the adolescent to riskier behavior such as drug use. (Siegel et al., 2003).
Also Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory suggest children exposed to and learn prosocial and antisocial attitudes and behavior ;meaning that the definitions of violating the law outweigh the definitions of being law abiding .Lakeisha’s mother has a long criminal record including , shoplifting , robbery and drug dealing. Since Lakeisha was exposed to this behavior most of her life, she begin to understand the law differently than a child whose parents were law abiding citizens. Terrence Thornberry’s interactional theory suggests most onset of criminal activity is linked to the weakening of social bonds during adolescence; marked by the deterioration of attachments of function within a society. It also believes that seriously delinquent children form a counter cultural belief system that justifies their behavior they interact with peer groups that that reinforce the same type of behavior and beliefs. This reinforces the term “Birds of a feather flock together” .Together they may look for excitement and engage reckless behavior and by doing so; they will justify their actions by stating “we have to do something for enjoyment” (Siegel et al, 2002). In Lakeisha’s case all three theories can be tied to her behavior, individual sociological and developmental stages have all been tainted .From birth Lakeisha was statistically predisposed to commit crimes and have a delinquent youth.
Today, there are 100,000 children incarcerated throughout the United States and the number in continuing to rise. Studies show that in 19999 there were nearly (2) million juvenile adjudicated in the United States courts. That is an increase of 27% since 1990. The number of drug law violations increased by 168% public order increased by 74% and offenses of a person increased by 55% (Puzzanchera, 1999).
Martins’ case is linked more towards the interactional theory and arousal theory than the opposite. His behaviors seem easier to turn towards the positive aspect than the latter. After several years of juvenile justice the general consensus should consider exploring there issues first. look in and around all the theories and perhaps children can avoid obstacles in their way.
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Pussanchera, C (1999) The national juvenile court data archives. Retrived Oct 19, 2005 from Juvenile Court Statistics Web site: http//www.ncjrs.org/pdffiles I /ojjdp/201141.pdf#search=Juvenile%20statistics
Siegel, L (2002) Juvenile delinquency, The Core, Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
Sigel. J., Welsh, B, C, & Senna, J.J. (2003) Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, practice, and law (8th Ed.). United States: Thomson
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