Juvenile Delinquency

The reduction of juvenile delinquents and the extremities that follow are a major focus in criminal justice agencies today. (Cox, Allen, Hanser, & Conrad, 2014 pp. 3) With an ever changing society come new trending crimes. The question that presents itself is why are these children turning to criminal behavior? There are so many theories that can be used to identify and explain what causes our youth to walk down a cricked path. In this paper, we are going to focus on two case studies and pinpoint the causation theory that best explains the behavior.

In the case study involving thirteen year old Abby, we discover that her step father had been sexually abusing her. Abby displayed signs of withdrawal and she got involved with drugs and alcohol. Abby ran away several times to get away from the abuse. We can look toward the sociological theories for an explanation for Abby’s withdrawal and why she ran away from home. According to Agnew’s strain theory, criminal behavior is evident when things are taken away by a negative and unwanted stimuli. (University of Delaware online, 2014) The abuse that Abby is victim too is stripping away her innocence along with her self-respect. The strain theory suggests that the negative stimuli can cause inert anger and cause the victim to engage in criminal acts. Crime in children have been linked to child abuse and neglect, like Abby is experiencing. With the ongoing abuse, Abby withdraws and her grades drop below her normal standard. These results would suggest a problem or major stressful event in Abby’s life. According to Agnew’s strain theory the abusive adult is the blame for the unlawful acts Abby displays, such as running away and the use of illegal narcotics and underage drinking. Strain theory is most likely prevalent in teenagers that have a hard time coping with stressful or straining situation. Abby was irritable and needed refuge from her step father which caused her to run away. A key factor in strain theory is the desire to blame someone else for the delinquent behavior displayed. Abby told officers that she ran away because her stepfather sexually abused her. She neutralized her delinquent behavior by placing the blame on the step father, however this does not excuse her from her actions. The strain theory best describes Abby’s behavior. Due to the stressor of her step father sexually abusing her, she acts out trying to seek refuge by running away; and to hide the disgust she has for herself and her body she turns to drugs and alcohol. She does not want to hurt anyone, but in order to cope with the situation she makes poor choices. Her behavior meets the defined criteria of the Sociological strain theory. The best way to intervene and help Abby is to remove her from the stimulus causing her grief and provide her with counseling. Abby will also need to go through a rehabilitation program that will help her with the drug and alcohol problem she has developed.
In the case study involving Ryan, a teenage Hispanic boy that has been subjected to domestic violence we can turn to several theories that suggest a reason for the violent behavior that has recently developed with Ryan at school. First looking at the psychopathology theory that suggest the behavior Ryan is displaying has been molded by the interactions he has witnessed at home, between mother and father. (Wolfe, 1999) This theory suggests that Ryan lacks the knowledge of how to handle his aggression and is unable to build a healthy relationship with individuals around him. However, the theory that works best to explain the process of learning this behavior is the Social Learning theory. This theory suggests the behavior is learned by watching and hearing the behavior displayed in the home by both parents. The children are learning that it is ok to display aggression and violence to solve any disagreements or conflicts that may arise. Ryan and his brothers have learned that there are no consequences to hurting someone because it has always been kept a secret family matter in their home. We learn from our environment and the individuals we trust the most. These children have a bond with the father. Dad is the leader and if the behavior works for him and he is able to accomplish the desired outcome by beating mom, then this must work in every volatile situation. These children will need to go through counseling and undergo an anger management program. Ryan and his brothers will need to learn that the behavior is unlawful and not the best way to handle conflict. Due to the lack of remorse the father displayed after becoming violent with the mother, one can only assume that the boys will also lack the ability to feel remorse for the repeated actions. These children will need to follow through with counseling. The parents will also need to undergo counseling, anger management, and parenting courses. In order for the children to understand there is consequences for the violent and abusive behavior their dad will need to be incarcerated. Ryan will need to receive punishment for his behavior in school in order to recondition him. With every bad choice and unlawful behavior there is a consequence that needs to be placed in order to unlearn the behavior.

By studying these two case studies we learn that there are several theories that will suggest the reasoning behind the delinquent behavior. The theory that works best to explain delinquency in juveniles is the social learning theory. Children see a behavior and they will repeat the behavior. We learn through our experiences and our environment around us. It is proven even in small children that what is seen will be repeated unless we have developed the ability to control the id. Freud’s theory tells us that when developed our superego will control the id and provide a balance. Without this control, the environment and those that influence us will shape our behavior, much like it did for Abby and Ryan.


Kam, J., Cleveland, M., & Hecht, M. (6, May 31). Abstract. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3881184/

Wolfe, D., & Jaffe, P. (1999). Emerging Strategies in the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence and Children, 9(3). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=47&articleid=228§ionid=1497

Socioloical Theories of Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.udel.edu/soc/tammya/pdf/crju369_theory.pdf

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