Delinquency in society

In modern conditions the scientific analysis of delinquent behavior is particularly relevant for several reasons. Spreading of different types of deviant behavior in the contemporary society has an impact on all the spheres of human activity and is reflected in changes of lifestyles, in the formation of value orientations and social attitudes, supposing violations of both legal and moral norms. As a result, various forms of deviation (including delinquent behavior), cover a large number of social institutions, sectors, groups and individuals. Deviation from social norms has become widespread and is often perceived as a rational and generally acceptable style of behavior.

Therefore, it is important to identify and examine the social factors of formation and distribution of delinquent behavior, characteristic for the modern society. This helps develop guidelines for strengthening social order and improving the effectiveness of reforms. The theory of delinquency has a century-long history of development and is represented by different approaches to definition, nature and social significance of delinquency.

The analysis of delinquency from the standpoint of positivism often equates delinquency and deviance. Some positivist approaches consider biological factors which are the causes of deviant behavior, whereas psychologically oriented theories see the cause of deviant behavior in certain psychological characteristics of delinquents (Hawkins, 1996).

Interactionism approach to delinquency, working with such concepts as “negotiated reality”, “definition of the situation”, and “role”, was developed in the writings of the early interactionists – C.Cooley, W.Thomas, G.Mead, and later researchers, in particular, E.Hoffmann, H.Bloomer. According to Bloomer, actions become deviant, because they are interpreted as deviant. E.Hoffman introduced the concept of social identity, which, in his opinion, may be reinforced by reactions to the behavior of an individual (Hawkins, 1996).

Socio-positivist theories were further developed in the framework of socio-ecological approach of the Chicago school, particularly in the writings of R.Park, R.Mackenzie, A.Burgess (Shoemaker, 2004). Analyzing the behavior of the inhabitants of the so-called “moral regions”, the city area is divided into, they showed that for some of these areas, living according to their own moral principles, some forms of deviant behavior, such as prostitution, drug addiction and alcoholism, are quite acceptable. However, in their works the concept of social disorganization is not given clearly (Shoemaker, 2004; Paige Harden et al., 2008).

Functionalism concept, which is one of the variants of social-positivist theories of deviance and is based on the concept of anomie, was covered in the writings of Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton. From the standpoint of R.Merton, deviant behavior is functional for both an individual and for people surrounding him; moreover, if judgments are negative, an individual obtains a “damaged” identity, which has been actually imposed to him. G.Becker introduced the notion of “deviant career”, showing how an individual becomes deviant passing certain stages, the deviant career is composed of (Hawkins, 1996).

Structural theories of deviance, including the theory of conflict, consider it necessary for understanding of deviance to take into account the confrontation between authorities, forming and imposing certain standards of good and evil, and subjects, to which these rules (or deviant identity) are imposed.

Out of the contemporary Western studies of deviant behavior the works of D.Dotter, P. Monson, H.Hayes make great interest. Researching on delinquency as a form of deviation, the scholars use integrated theory to explain juvenile crime. Hayes shows that the theory of social learning and social control gives useful information about various phases of the offense process. Relationship between primary (and subsequent) offenses and negative social sanctions is considered in researches of H.Kaplan (Shoemaker, 2004).

The problems of antisocial behavior in school, the best strategies and practices to overcome it are analyzed in works of Bowditch; gender differences in factors of social control are examined by Tibbetts and Herz; while Labeffa raises the problems of crime, drug abuse and deviant adaptation on the example of Kaplan’s longitudinal studies (Shoemaker, 2004).

Particularly keen interest in researches is paid to juvenile delinquency. The growing number of delicts, committed by young people under age, as well as the increase in the proportion of serious violent crimes is a threat to the society. The causes of torts, the conditions contributing to their spreading among youth, peculiarities of delinquent personality, specificity of its socialization, delinquent subcultures, prevention of crime and other problems should be studied (Remschmidt, 2007).

Delinquent actions include civil-law torts; administrative offenses such as violation of traffic rules, disorderly conduct, or actions violating public order; prostitution; distribution of pornographic materials or objects; disciplinable offense; and finally a crime (theft, murder, vandalism, terrorism and rape, fraud, etc.).

Infliction of harm by delinquent is connected with the infringement of a person, his rights and freedoms, property, rights of legal persons, other public and state interests, as well as the established state order. Different types of delinquent behavior are not only imposed to social condemnation. They are formalized by the state in the norms of law by describing their character identifying them as offenses for which the law sets different types of liability (Van Dam et al., 2007).

Despite the variety of social measures aimed at encouraging citizens to follow the established laws and regulations, many people violate them every day. Often it is difficult to understand why perfectly ordinary-looking people suddenly commit a serious crime. Mostly they are mentally healthy person, including children and adolescents.

Considering the determination of illegal actions, the combination of external conditions and internal causes of such behavior are usually meant. Surely, each case involves a unique combination of factors; nevertheless, it is possible to identify some general trends in the formation of delinquent behavior.

Social conditions play a significant role in the origin of the illegal conduct. They primarily include multi-level social processes (weakness of state power, imperfect legislation, economical crisis, social cataclysms, or low standard of living) (Paige Harden et al., 2008). Social causes of antisocial behavior can also be the tendency of society to label people. Moreover, the state, declaring the fight against violence, actually uses it in relation to offenders, e.g. today death penalty is present in legislation of 86 countries (McGloin, 2009).

An important factor in the genesis of delinquent behavior is the microsocial situation. Its formation is determined by asocial and anti-social environment (parental alcoholism, antisocial and deviant family or company); neglect; large or single parent families; in-family conflicts; chronic conflicts with “significant others” (Remschmidt, 2007).

Summarizing empirical data, the following microsocial factors that cause delinquency can be listed: 1) frustration of child needs in tender care and affection from parents, which causes early traumatic experiences; 2) physical or psychological brutality, or the worship of power in the family; 3) lack of father’s influence (for example, in his absence), which prevents normal development of moral consciousness; 4) acute trauma (illness, death of a parent, violence, divorce) with fixation on the traumatic circumstances; 5) indulging the child in carrying out its desires, lack of insistence of parents, their inability to put forward consistently increasing demands or pursue them; 6) excessive sexual stimulation of child; 7) change of parents (guardians); 8) chronically expressed conflict between parents; 9) undesirable personality features of parents (McGloin, 2009; Grisso, 2008; Remschmidt, 2007).

Individual determinants of delinquent conduct present a special interest for psychological analysis. In their turn, individual characteristics are essentially determined by gender differences. For example, delinquent behavior is more prevalent among males. There are also crimes, more typical for women or men. Such offenses as murder of children, prostitution, and shoplifting are often committed by women. Men often steal cars, commit robberies, thefts, serious injuries, murders; rape is a typically male crime (“Study Reveals Specific Gene in Adolescent Men with Delinquent Peers”, 2008).

The age factor also determines the peculiarity of behavior at different stages of ontogeny. Age dynamics of offenses frequency reveals in the following way: the majority of offenders’ age alters between 25-35; the number of crimes is steadily increasing from 14 up to 29; most cases of crime are accounted at the age of 29; from 29 to 40 a gradual decline is observed, and crimes are rare after 40. There are also “qualitative” peculiarities of delinquent behavior at different ages (World Youth Report, 2003).

The criminal career usually begins with a bad study at school and alienation from school (negative and hostile attitude towards it). Then the alienation from family happens on a background of family problems and “non-pedagogic” methods of education. The next step is entering a criminal group and committing a crime. The total way makes 2 years on the average. According to the existing data, 60% of professional criminals (thieves and swindlers) started this way at the age of 16 (World Youth Report, 2003).

The most unfavorable prognostic signs in terms of further formation of antisocial behavior are: the lack of conscience and feelings of guilt, pathological mendacity, consumer attitude towards people, indifference, carelessness, expressed psychopathology.

The question of the influence of psychopathology (at any age) on delinquent behavior of personality remains debatable. People with mental abnormalities demonstrate decreased ability to comprehend and control their actions, because of intellectual or emotional-volitional disorders. At the same time, deviations from the medical standards cannot be considered as specific causes of criminal acts, although they are combined in some cases (Grisso, 2008).

Many authors also consider weakly motivated brutal murders, often shocking for the society, as a sign of pathological behavior. In the case of similar crimes committed by a teenager with no signs of mental illness before the murder, two main pathological tendencies are expressed: the violation of affects (depression, dysthymia) and the crisis of personality (psychopathic development). These violations surely go together with the specific socio-psychological context (conflict situation, prolonged stress, the influence of teenage group, inferiority complex, some external threat) (Grisso, 2008; Van Dam et al., 2007).

Mood disorders are in some cases combined with pathological impulses, such as pathological behavior with periodic irresistible impulse to arson (pyromania), or stealing (kleptomania). This range of impulse disorders includes a disposition to escaping, and vagrancy. In general, disturbed impulse syndrome is characterized by impulsivity, firmness, alienation for the individual and irresistibility. Remschmidt, describing depressive delinquents, noticed the alternation of states of “increasing impulses and aggression” and “total loss of impulses” (Remschmidt, 2007).

The given data suggest that the affective profile is one of the most significant personality traits associated with antisocial behavior, which, in their turn, depend on a combination of internal and external factors.

It should be noted that the unified theory of deviance, which would take into account the determination structure of deviant behavior, and forms of societal reaction to the deviation, as well as socio-psychological factors of involvement into deviance, has not yet been developed for the moment.

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