Today many young people are subjected to changing conventional patterns that guide their relationships and evolution between family, school and work. The known social stratum that guarantees a smooth process of socialization is slowly breaking down. Unlike before, the paths chosen by teenagers are getting to be more diverse and unpredictable. The reorganization of the labor market, the extension of the age of dependence of the young adults in the family and the limited opportunity given to them to be independent adults influence the relationships of these young adults with their family and friends (World Youth Report, 2003). The crisis of juvenile delinquency is rapidly becoming more complex and widespread and crime prevention programs are either unfit to deal with the present situation or otherwise nonexistent. This is a global problem, faced not only by the developed countries but developing countries as well, everyone is faced with the same problems as our youth faces new pressures in their transition from childhood to adulthood is subjected to a variety of stresses. A rapidly growing population, poverty, negative housing and support services, unemployment and underemployment, a decline in the authority of local communities and overcrowding in poor urban areas, the dissolution of the family and ineffective educational systems are some of the stresses young people must deal with.
Our young adults nowadays are subjected to individual risks regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, culture and nationality but are also given new opportunities, both beneficial and harmful(World Youth Report, 2003). Our youth presented with the benefit of illegal opportunities are often times lured into committing various offences, get into illegal drugs and become violent against their peers.
Young people who live in difficult situations are at greater risk of becoming delinquents (United Nations Report, 2000). Children who are orphaned or unaccompanied and without any means for subsistence including housing and other basic necessities are the ones that often fall into juvenile delinquency (World Youth Report, 2003). According to United Nations report (2000) the number of children in difficult situations has risen from 80 Million to 150 Million in a span of 8 years (1992-2000).
Causes of Juvenile Delinquency
One may note that the offenses done by juvenile delinquents are generally dependent by socio-economic, cultural and ethnic strata in a given area. One may realize that the juvenile offenders are often found to have encountered violent behaviors during their childhood either witnesses or victims to such violence (United Nations, 1995).
The world youth report (2003) notes that the causative factors and conditions that lead to juvenile crimes are often located at every stage of the social framework, the society as a whole included, social institutions, groups and organizations, and interpersonal relationships. One may realize that the choice of ‘careers’ by these juvenile offenders can be derived from a wide range of factors the most significant of which is described as follows:
Mostly secondary to socio-economic instabilities that leads to economic crises, political instability and waning of major social institutions including public education system, public assistance and the family. Socio-economic instability is often linked with unemployment and low income families, increasing the likelihood of involvement in criminal activities of the youth (World Youth Report, 2003).
Cultural and Ethnic Causes
World Youth Report, (2003) states that delinquent behavior often occurs in social settings where there is a breakdown in the behavior of acceptable norms, under normal circumstances normal behavior dictates that social rules and guidelines deter an individual from committing unacceptable behaviors, in the settings wherein the normal guidelines lose their relevance, the youth often respond by engaging in unacceptable behaviors that often lead to abnormal and often criminal activities.
An analysis of geography suggest that in places where there are more urbanized and have higher population the likelihood for criminal acts is higher compared to a more rural setting. This may be due to social control differentiation and social understanding. Rural communities often rely on family and community power over the youth. More often the urbanized areas deal mostly with a more formal approach in legal and judicial actions and an impersonal approach that seems correlated with the high crime rates developed within the more urban community (World Youth Report, 2003).
Research will show that children who are subjected to sufficient parental supervision are less probable to engage in criminal activities. Children who are members of a dysfunctional family, characterized by conflict, inadequate parental control, feeble parental control, premature freedom are usually the children that grow up to be delinquents (World Youth Report, 2003). It may also be noted that although children who are members of disadvantaged families who have less opportunities for proper employment and thereby faced with a higher risk of social omission are usually representative of the juvenile offenders.
Exclusion and Peer Influence
The ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor has led to the emergence of the ‘others group’ or simply put, the exclusion of some individuals or group of individuals within the acceptable social strata within the community. This exclusion often leads to the rupture of social ties, identity crises and collection of obstacles that does not permit the individual to grow beyond the label (World Youth Report, 2003). One may realize that this is an important social structure, when the ’others’ are subjected often to ridicule or malice by the socially accepted peers it often leads to antagonistic behavior that often leads the youth to exert effort for acceptance or join a group of ‘others’ that are often delinquent, this ‘gang’ becomes their main social organization where the young adult feels most secure and welcome and thereby most do anything in order to stay within that group, including social unacceptable behaviors and criminal acts (World Youth Report, 2003).
Television and movies even news reports that sensationalize and popularize criminal acts like the ‘cult of heroes’- a depiction of justice by physical abolition of bad elements. Researchers have supported that young adults who watch violent themed shows often behave more aggressively, especially when provoked. Media may bring violence to the young minds in three ways. One, showing of movies that depict violence acts and that electrify its audience. Second, shows that show violence especially by parents as an ordinary daily activity. Third, violence shown by media over sensationalizes the hero leaving less bleeding wounds and real pain that can actually be felt in real violence are not shown. The American Psychological Association depicts evidence that show television violence is to be blamed for 10 percent of aggressive behavior in children.
Preventing Juvenile Delinquency
Violence against children maybe noted as a factor that endangers the rights of the child. It is imperative that the government and relevant institutions commit themselves into solving the problem of juvenile delinquency. The Riyadh Guidelines released by the United Nations clearly states that the prevention of juvenile delinquency is an important aspect in clearing overall criminal activities (United Nations, nd). It was noted that early intervention is the approach of choice if an effective delinquency program is to be implemented. Educational programs to help the youth and find alternative activities rather than illegal behavior (Johnson, 1995) recreational activities and youth development programs are essential to give the youth the chance to grow and be responsible adults (United Nations, nd). Also, the local community should be given responsibility in preventing juvenile crimes. Programs should be developed in order to help the youth avoid delinquency and it is imperative that the community and the local government support these efforts (Gang 2000, 1993). The family as a social institution is also the first line of defense for these juvenile offenders, one must note that support for family should be an imperative project of the government and if the juvenile can be controlled from within the family the chances of him/her going out to do crimes is lesser than if the family fails to control them. On the whole efforts to fight juvenile delinquency maybe surmised as lacking in effort secondary to lack of task oriented social work that leads to a disorganized course in taking care of the juvenile offenders including their victims (United Nations Report, 2000).
Juvenile delinquency can be surmised as a multifaceted array of violations of the legal, social and ethical norms, either minor or major offense that is committed by the young. One might surmise that these offenses comes from a variety of factors that are far more serious than simple petty offenses. Poverty, lack of opportunities, social exclusion and a range of factors that contribute to a young adult becoming delinquent. It is important to note that these factors are important if determining a permanent solution to the problem is to be addressed. Priority should be given to the marginalized communities. Educate them, give them proper support, including housing, employment and social support so that the family may be able to take care of their young and prevent them from being delinquents. And lastly the juvenile justice system should be decentralized and thereby encourage the local authority, who might have a more proximal connection to the juvenile, to participate more in preventing the juveniles from committing a variety of offenses and reintegrate the known offenders into the society giving them adequate social, moral, and physical support that will ultimately foster this kids to become responsible citizens.