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Posted on September 11th, 2012, by

Juvenile delinquency is an antisocial illegal behavior of a juvenile, embodied in his acts or omissions, harming both separate citizens and the society on the whole. Growth of the amount of delicts; growth of the part of administrative delinquency; increase of severe violence acts, crimes, thefts, fraud and even terrorism, committed by young people under age present today an enormous threat for the society.

The main task for contemporary researchers is to detect reasons and motives, causing delicts; conditions contributing to their distribution in youth environment; personal features of delinquents; specificity of their socialization; delinquent subcultures; and also the issues of juvenile delinquency prevention. There’s a number of factors, which determine whether a juvenile will become a delinquent; and a number of factors, determining whether he has already become a delinquent and to which extent. Thus, diagnostics of delinquency indicators and parameters should include the analysis of individual features. Further we will focus on them in details, concentrating our attention on the most important ideas.

Socio-economic status has a substantial value. The gradient of SES became clear due to researches in the United Kingdom, showing, that frequency of juvenile delinquency in families of specialists and managers makes about 5%, while in families of unskilled laborers it makes about 25%. In regard to serious crimes, such tendency is confirmed by selfreport data; in regard to less serious delicts, this correlation diminishes to 2:1 (Farrington 139).

Location. There are legible distinctions in the level of delinquency among districts (city/country). It has been proved, that architectural plan of buildings on a certain area has some value, which is an important possibility to observe people and a sense of responsibility towards the so called “protected space”¯. Supposedly, stable and cohesive districts, where habitants don’t have too many changes, form kind of social network, restraining criminality(Farrington 162).

Family. There exists a strong connection between delinquency and family size, especially in low socio-economic groups; the number of brothers is a more significant factor, than the number of sisters. Delinquency level is considerably lower among single children. Low family income is also closely connected with greater delinquency risk. Moreover, crimes of juveniles are related to parents’ criminal history, which is simultaneously a consequence of genetic factors, deprivation and social nurture (Bailey 1025).

Nurture experience in childhood. Juvenile delinquency, as well as behavior disorders, links to the lack of careful supervision and to the “broken home”¯ phenomenon. Family emotional atmosphere is often characterized by hostility and discord. There are no rules; parents don’t pay attention to child’s senses, rarely react on both desirable and deviating behavior. Thus, punishments are inconsistent; praises, if there are any, are irregular. Absence of methods to solve family crises means that the conflict leads to proceeding tension. Physical, emotional or sexual violence are often present in such families (Farrington 142).

Mutual relations. Minor delinquents have inadequate and disharmonious mutual relations with coevals of both sexes more frequently, than at non-delinquents. The greater part of juvenile delicts is committed together with other antisocial coevals. Data shows that cooperation with them increases the probability of stable criminal behavior (Chamberlain 34).

Behavior peculiarities. 90% of delinquents-recidivists were antisocial in childhood to the extent, which can correspond to the criteria of behavior disorder. So, the opinion, that the majority of delinquents first behaved perfectly, and then “got in a bad company”¯ in juvenile age, is a myth. At the same time, the majority of one-time violators have ordinary history; and their behavior is just a display of transitional age, experienced by most of teenagers(Chamberlain 46).

Attitudes and values. According to researches, delinquents don’t have a structured set of values. Answering a question, why they commit delicts, delinquents mentioned sharp emotions, escape from boredom, demonstration their boldness to coevals; and financial benefit wasn’t a primary objective. Researches on moral reasoning show more egoism and less altruism of juvenile delinquents; they take other person’s view point into account and think about consequences in less degree. Respect to school and equation it with values make less sense to them, comparing to the control group of non-delinquents (Bailey 1031).

Intellect. Connection between low IQ and delinquency is strong. 20% of young people with IQ below 90, are recidivists, while there are only 2% of recidivists among juveniles with IQ of 110 and higher. Selfreport data showed that the connection between delinquency and low IQ is caused not simply by the fact, that the crimes committed by smarter delinquents are not detected. Possibly, the connection is mediated through failures in studies, low self-appraisal and frustration (Henggeler 115). However, the connection between low IQ and problems with behavior is discovered in very early age (3 years).

Biological characteristics. Comparing to the control group, juvenile criminals possess lower vegetative reactivity at stress; passive avoidance teaching is affected; aggression level and inclination to search sharp feelings are higher; attention skills are worse. Now it’s not clear, whether these parameters are newly obtained or inherited. Though researches over delinquents’ EEG do not specify some systematic anomalies, the extremely aggressive fits of anger are sometimes explained by the Syndrome of episodic violation of control, possibly related to parietal lobe pathology and complicated partial paroxysms. The chromosomal XYY anomaly isn’t correlated with the increase of violent crimes, but is, presumably, related to the level other less serious delicts, which is mediated though low intelligence (Henggeler 98).

Psychological features. Antisocial disorder of personality in DSM IV is the main behavior description of the committed delicts, characterized by steady aggression, irresponsibility and disorders in childhood. 50-80% of recidivists correspond to the criteria of ASDP; 15- 30% correspond to the criteria of psychopathy. Callousness, perfidy, superficial senses, pretentiousness and absence of repentance, are distinctive signs of psychopathy; and a key deficit is the lack of emotional interpersonal sympathy (Henggeler 124).

Risk estimation. Analyzing juvenile delinquents, ordinary psychiatric estimation should be complemented with risk estimation, i.e. with estimation of danger level a juvenile presents to other people and to himself. The picture of violence, committed in past, predicts violence in future. Risk estimation includes the analysis of the following factors: index of crime (seriousness, essence of crime, intention, reasons, role in crime, attitude toward crime, sympathy to victims), past crimes (history of delinquency, number of arrests, previous convictions for violence, warnings, selfreports), behavior problems in the past (violence, self-injury, cruelty in relation to children, cruelty to in relation to animals) (Farrington 148).

It is also necessary to pay attention to the environment a juvenile comes from, including factors of defence, such as undeviating friends, mutual relations with non-criminal adults, and also skills, creating self-esteem, and possibilities to constructive activity or employment. And it is necessary to do the opposite and estimate risk factors, inherent to the environment, as possibilities and stimuli for illegal acts are often less predictable. There are several instruments which can help to estimate risk, for example Historical/Clinical Risk management 20-item (HCR-20), adapted for juveniles (Farrington 150).

The problem of juvenile delinquency becomes more and more complicated. At the same time, the programs of delinquency prevention lag behind of the real situation, or are just absent. In developing countries there are practically no national programs; and international ones are obviously insufficient. In developed countries the work on juvenile delinquency prevention is conducted; however, the general effect of the preventive programs is low, because the facilities are often inadequate to the existing situation.

The founder of social control conception Albert J. Reiss defined two basic strategies: internalization of norms (educational control; prevention) and compulsion (repressive control; correction) (Hadson 452). A number of UNO documents discuss the preference of application of social, but not juridical facilities of control in regard to juveniles (“The Riyadh Guidelines”¯). There is really not enough data confirming the efficiency of punishments, such as imprisoning; and the believe in such extremes, as “short sharp shocks”¯ on the one hand or long individual therapy on the other, is supported rather fashion and political ideology, than by empiric proofs.

In our opinion, preventive programs should be conducted in several directions. Foremost they should include programs of professional and individual development; programs, directed on strengthening family values; programs on beautification of cities.

The programs of professional development are directed on implementation of legal methods to obtain profit. Development of economic possibilities for juveniles, professional trainings, job creation, and assistance in opening own enterprises can prevent engagement into delinquent activity. Educational programs aim at helping young people to develop positive self-appraisal, learn to settle conflicts, control aggression, and find alternative legal behavior type. Programs of leisure organization are based on a supposition, that absence of possibilities for spending leisure time is a decisive factor of delinquent behavior. A perspective direction is involvement of NGOs and volunteers (students, pensioners, influential and famous people) into the social work with juveniles (Hadson 460).

Mass introduction of programs working with delinquents’ and risk group families is needed. The most successful idea seems to be the application of 3 approaches: functional family therapy, developed by James Alexander, Scott Henggeler’s multisystem therapy, and multidimensional treatment in foster families by Patricia Chamberlain. Family therapy, directed on effective communication and methodic reward-punishment systems, applying problem-solving tactics for conflict settlement, can bring good results (Chamberlain 5).

Juvenile delinquency level can also be reduced by changing city space through architectural and landscape planning. Research in one of the US cities showed that the greater part of juvenile delinquent groups’ activity is concentrated round the city park. So, the park design was changed in order to create more variants for leisure and rest for teenagers and their families. The number of after-class activities in schools and parks was extended.

Special attention should be paid to homeless teenagers, and teenagers, who lost their family or connections with it. Specialized programs of child neglect prophylaxis (including rehabilitation groups, withdrawal from street, provision with accommodation) should be created. Such work aims at forming positive attitude towards the world (Bailey 1029).

Prevention of recurrent criminality can be carried out by restorative justice. In the case of success, a juvenile is not sent to correctional institution, is not labeled as criminal, and is isolated from the environment, where rules of delinquent behavior are spread. According to different researches, up to 95% of teenagers, sentenced to restoration, carried out their obligations; and recidivism in this case declined by 50% (Hadson 458).

Latest data show, that differentiation of criminals is made not by sex and age, but distinctions inside of gender. Same gender delinquents present various types of masculinity or femininity. Thus, gender specificity should be taken into account (Henggeler 21).

However, all preventive approaches face the same problem, because families, where juvenile need help, are difficult to be attracted. Therefore, special accent should be made on sequence in realization of preventive programs at all levels. The system of juvenile delinquency prevention is effective, if it has distinctly determined essence and frames based on functional possibilities of each body of the system; if all the objects of preventive influence (juveniles and their relations in the different spheres of society) are covered and their features are taken into account; if the mechanism of management, control and coordination of preventive activity is developed.

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