Defining and Understanding the Development of Juvenile Delinquency from an Environmental, Sociological, and Theoretical Perspective

Defining and Understanding the Development of Juvenile Delinquency from an Environmental, Sociological, and Theoretical Perspective

Peter Arthur Barone (Webber International University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1088-8.ch010
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This chapter purports that there are sociological environments, interactions and theoretical reasons as to why some juveniles, as they develop and mature in life, transform from being law abiding juveniles into law breaking juvenile delinquents. Information is presented in this chapter regarding the various environments juveniles live through and what they experience from the people functioning within these environments. There is an examination of how the people, who are models working and living in these environments, influence and shape the behavior of the juveniles. Various theories are presented and discussed as well as the relevance of their value in explaining how observation, processing of information, learning of observed behavior and then replication of behavior with positive reinforcement all contribute to the transformation of a juvenile into a juvenile delinquent.
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Crime and Juveniles

Overall crime has been declining for the past decade; however, deviant behavior and crime committed by youth is on the rise (BJS, 2013). This activity presents a unique challenge to the members of society in the areas of family, school and the juvenile justice system (Stojkovic, Kalinich & Klofas, 2012). Without people providing proper examples and addressing negative behavior juveniles will continue with malevolent behavior and can eventually commit behavior that will transform them into a delinquent (Gottfredson, 2001; Hawker & Boulton, 2000).

Common Environments Experienced by Juveniles

The three main and common environments where negative observations, processing, and learning begins and progresses into performance are:

  • The home with the family and parents;

  • The neighborhood with peers, and

  • In school with teachers and peers.

However, for some juveniles there is a fourth environment which provides juveniles with a learning experience, and that is the juvenile justice system (Zimring & Tanenhaus, 2014).

The Four Pivotal Life Points Environments

Juveniles pass through what this writer has identified as Four Pivotal Life Point Environments that have an effect on the juvenile’s life. The First Pivotal Life Point Environment is the home and familial environment where the child is reared in; the Second Pivotal Life Point Environment is the Social Environment with Peers where juveniles learn how to interact in an important sub-culture and receive the reinforcement for their actions; the Third Pivotal Life Point Environment is the School Environment with the teachers and fellow students (peers) being the primary influencers for juveniles and the Fourth Pivotal Life Point Environment, that not all juveniles experience, is the Juvenile Justice System. What the juvenile observed while in these environments can results in the learning of positive or negative behaviors (Zimring & Tanenhaus, 2014).

The Creation of the Juvenile System

Prior to 1899 juveniles were treated like adults and given death sentences. In 1899, in Cook County Illinois, the first juvenile court was created with a special incarceration center for juveniles. Today juveniles have rights and the system intent is to rehabilitate them. The system has gone from absolute harsh punishment to less than a slap on the wrist and not holding the juveniles accountable for their actions (Whitehead & Lab, 2013). There are things lacking in this system that assist in contributing in transforming a juvenile into a delinquent.

Two of the Most Important Things Lacking in the Juvenile Justice System

The system is not teaching juveniles they must be responsible for their actions and there are consequences for their actions. These critical items are lacking in the system today and this results in reinforcement of negative behavior (Hickey, 2013).

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