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Juvinle Delinquency

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I have completed a research paper on sociological deviance and found it very interesting. I learned about the different types of perspectives dealing with deviance and the theories that correspond with those perspectives. I learned that the definition of deviance has not changed with regard to social norms, but in fact, the social norms have changed redefining sociological deviance. For example, years ago a person that was gay or lesbian was considered a deviant, now in this day and age seeing someone that is gay or lesbian is a common daily experience.

Researching this topic gave me a better understanding of not only social deviance, but also how it relates to our troubled youth. Understanding how children see deviance or how they interact with criminally deviant behavior will undoubtedly assist me with understanding the complete topic of deviance.

There are two ways of defining deviance: the normative and the relativistic perspectives. The normative perspective puts emphasis on the individual performing the deviant act, while the relativistic perspective focuses on people’s reaction to the person performing the deviant act. In this regard, deviance can be defined either as the person or behavior that violates social norms, or regarded by others to be a violation of social norms (Goode, 2001). This paper will be dealing mostly with the normative perspective in relation to the criminal deviance within juveniles.

Relevance of the Study

Youth crimes have been an issue for several years and they are becoming more frequent every year. Causes of juvenile delinquency or deviance can be as simple as the lack of parental supervision, peer pressure, or just the simple psychological stress placed on most kids of today. Understanding juvenile deviance or delinquency is the first step in preventing children from acting out in anti-social behavior.

“What are the theories and causes of criminal deviance in juveniles?”

Relevant Terms

Anome is a state or condition of individuals or society characterized by a breakdown or absence of social norms and values, as in the case of uprooted people.

Assimilation is the process in which one group takes on the cultural and other traits of a larger group.

Disintegration is the loss of unity, cohesion, or integrity within an individual.

Neutralization techniques are theoretical series of methods by which those who commit illegitimate acts temporarily neutralize certain values within themselves which would normally prohibit them from carrying out such acts, such as morality, obligation to abide by the law, and so on

Normative perspective offers sociologists a straightforward formula for reducing the bewildering diversity of deviant phenomena to a common denominator.

Relativistic perspective is the ability of a person to acquire knowledge is limited to the nature of the mind and the environment.

Reactive conduct is when a youth demonstrates a greater tendency to interpret peers’ intents as hostile, responding to their environment similarly to individuals with borderline personality disorder.

Social integration is the movement of minority groups such as ethnic minorities, refugees and underprivileged sections of a society into the mainstream of society.



Theories and Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

David Matza, who focused on juvenile delinquency, is most popularly known for his work with Gresham Sykes and their theory of neutralization. Sykes and Matza wanted to build upon Arthur Sutherland’s Differential Association theory which states that an individual learns criminal behavior through “(a) techniques of committing crimes and (b) motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes” which go against law-abiding actions. The theorist Travis Herschi does not feel that neutralization techniques are relevant towards describing juvenile delinquency. Herschi believes that deviant behavior is a result of conformity, or lack thereof, towards societal norms. Sociologist Jack Douglas feels that the techniques of neutralization could not possibly “cover-up” the deviant’s feeling of guilt when they realize that their actions are not accepted by the law-abiding community. Douglas states that the deviant person must learn certain strategies of self-deception and seduction (“David Matza,” 1994).

In Froggio’s “A Critical Review of Agnew’s General Strain Theory. Journal of Loss & Trauma,” he discusses the Traditional Strain Theory, the Theory of crime and the American Dream, the Social-Psychological Strain Theories, and the basic concepts of the General Strain Theory (GTS). It then reviews why Juvenile Delinquency is a form of a Coping Strategy. It then goes into the types of strains related to Delinquency. The journal also lists empirical assessments of GTS summarizing the empirical findings and methods used by different researchers on GST between 1992 and 2003.

Greenwood’s article describes the best methods used to identify the most efficient programs designed to intervene in juvenile delinquency. Greenwood argues that getting a juvenile started in a proven delinquency-prevention program will not only save young lives it will also prevent recidivism and a possible adult criminal career. He also discusses programs that are aimed at first time offenders to deter them from further contact with law enforcement officials.

Over the past decade researchers have identified intervention strategies and program models that reduce delinquency and promote pro-social development. Preventing delinquency not only saves young lives from being wasted, but also prevents the onset of adult criminal careers and thus reduces the burden of crime on its victims and on society. It costs states billions of dollars a year to arrest, prosecute, incarcerate, and treat juvenile offenders (Greenwood, P. 2008).

There are many reasons to prevent juveniles from becoming delinquents or from continuing to engage in delinquent behavior. The most obvious reason is that delinquency puts a youth at risk for drug use and dependency, school drop-out, incarceration, injury, early pregnancy, and adult criminality. Understanding the causes of juvenile delinquency is one of the first steps in prevention (Greenwood, P. 2008).

Understanding all the different theories related to juvenile delinquency and the interventions associated with each theory is important when dealing with today’s youth. To fully understand and make changes that address crime and delinquency, researchers and policy makers need to take both individual and societal factors into account (Greenwood, P. 2008).

In Khromina’s “Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge,” he talks about how crime and violence impacts individuals’ lives and hinders their opportunities for success. It goes into stories of individuals that the author made relationships with. The paper talks about causes of recidivism within youth delinquency and the lack of reentry programs. It also talks about varieties of functionalist theory, which were developed after the creation of Durkheim’s original model.

The Church, Whatron, and Taylor journal goes into literature that has identified a number of variables causally linked to delinquent behavior. Variables like, a youth’s peer relationships, social and family environments, and self-image have been cited as factors associated with deviant behavior. The journal mentions research that suggests that family strain in early life prepares juveniles to enter deviant peer groups. The journal refers to frequency of positive and negative family interaction, in relation to family stressors and family cohesion.

In the article by Mesch and Turjeman, they propose an alternative classification of offenses that accounts for the difference between youthful reactive conduct and specialized criminality. The paper looks at the effect of immigration on delinquency among juvenile Russians in Israel. The paper looks at two of the aspects of social integration and disintegration. The paper also discusses the hazards of immigrant juveniles losing their identities through assimilation of the new culture.

The paper discusses that the peer status in adolescence is associated with school achievement and adjustment. The paper also discusses other theories that suggest that disadvantaged boys are often able to gain some forms of peer status through violence that is directly related to their education. The article uses peer network data to examine whether peer status within highly violent groups increases the risks of high school dropout. The paper also discusses how delinquent juveniles are at much greater risks of high school dropout than other students.



The research that was conducted in the academic journal “Psychopathy and Behavioral Correlates of Victim Injury in Serious Juvenile Offenders,” researchers tested their hypothesis by using a series of questionnaires, checklists, and interviews along with review of the juvenile offenders criminal record in order to determine if the age of criminal onset of the offender had any relation to the level of victim injury. They identified their independent variables, dependent variables, mean age of offender, and the standard deviation for the study. The researchers used a sample of 168 male juvenile offenders residing in the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center to test their hypothesis. The results of the study supported the hypothesis where juveniles that started their criminal career early in their lives and showed more criminal resourcefulness usually escalated to more severe violence. The results supported the idea that juvenile violence is not influenced by one criminal trait alone. More studies should be conducted in order to identify key factors responsible for extreme violence connected with juveniles to aid in development of effective treatment programs geared toward the correction of these violent actions.

Van Lier, Vitaro, and Eisner discuss the dynamic of relationships between children that have been associated with adverse development. Dynamics like peer rejection and relationships with deviant peers can adversely effect juvenile aggression, delinquency, violence, and failure in school. Van Lier, Vitaro, and Eisner reviewed preventative programs that studied the function of peer relationships in correlation with development of aggression and violence. They also address the issues of peer rejection and relationships held with deviant friends.

There is strong cross cultural evidence that aggression and violence in childhood and adolescence are associated with an increased risk of serious maladjustment problems, including school failure, school dropout and job failure, crime and incarceration, and the development of mental disorders as well as high costs for society (van Lier, P., Vitaro, F., & Eisner, M. 2007).

The research that was conducted in the academic journal “Too Cool for School? Violence, Peer Status and High School Dropout,” researchers tested their hypothesis by using a series of questionnaires and interviews conducted at school age juveniles between grades 7 and 12 and then again seven years later. The data collected for the hypothesis testing was only collected on boys. They first based their hypothesis on the amount of friends a juvenile had during school, peer status, and whether the juvenile’s friends’ violence shaped the effect of peer-status on longer-term educational attainment. Second, they based their hypothesis on whether the juveniles had an association with violent groups or violent friends. Finally, the researchers based their hypothesis on whether the juveniles being surveyed had any status within a violent group.

The research showed that peer status in juveniles is positively associated with school accomplishment and change. The study found that disadvantaged boys who do well in violent crowds are at increased risk school dropout; these delinquent boys become “too cool for school.” Even though we are only talking about a small percentage of juveniles in the United States, it is important to know what causes juveniles to turn to deviant behavior and recidivate. Schools are not only a place of education, but they are also the place that teaches deviant juveniles how to be better at what they feel gives them status in life. Schools are the first place that we can observe juvenile interaction with peers and I think that the earlier we can notice criminal deviant behavior in juveniles the odds are better that the behavior can be corrected. With the juveniles that escape notice and continue on in their lives with delinquent behavior until law enforcement intervenes, there needs to be more programs that are in place to correct the behavior and understand how that juvenile got to that deviant place in his or her life. Correction at the earliest age possible is the key to turning a juvenile in the right direction and in becoming a productive contributing member of society.



Juvenile delinquency is nothing more than a child deviating from the normal societal expectations of them. I learned that the definition of deviance has not changed with regard to social norms, but in fact, the social norms have changed redefining sociological deviance. Understanding how children see deviance or how they interact with criminally deviant behavior is a subject that has been discussed and studied at for many years.

Youth crimes have been an issue for several years and they are becoming more frequent every year. Two of the theories related to juvenile deviance can be seen with the theory of neutralization and the general strain theory. Some of the causes of juvenile delinquency or deviance can be as simple as the lack of parental supervision, peer pressure, or just the simple psychological stress placed on most kids of today. Understanding juvenile deviance or delinquency is the first step in preventing children from acting out in anti-social behavior.

Through my interpretation of the finding in my research material, observation of deviant behavior needs to begin as early as possible in a juvenile’s onset of delinquent behavior. Determining the proper treatment is just as important as determining the cause of the deviance. In all the research material I have read and all the studies I have looked at, they have always ended with the same conclusion, the need for increasing the amount of programs designed to treat problem juveniles.

In summary, the earlier the deviant behavior in children can be corrected the more successful the treatment program will be. Making sure the treatment for the delinquent behavior corresponds with the delinquent act and cause of the behavior is imperative in the ability to correctly treat the behavior. Continuing studies aimed at understand the causes of juvenile delinquency will be continually needed in order to try and correct the problem we have today with our youth. Making our youth healthy today will only increase the ability of having a healthy future for our country.


Church, I. T., Wharton, T., & Taylor, J. K. (2009). An Examination of Differential Association and Social Control Theory: Family Systems and Delinquency. Youth Violence & Juvenile Justice, 7(1), 3-15.

David Matza. (1994) Retrieved June 21, 2012, from http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory

Froggio, G. (2007). Strain and Juvenile Delinquency: A Critical Review of Agnew’s General Strain Theory. Journal Of Loss & Trauma, 12(4), 383-418.doi:10.1080/15325020701249363.

Goode, E. (2001). Social Deviance. Boston: Free Press

Greenwood, P. (2008). Prevention and Intervention Programs for Juvenile Offenders. The
Future Of Children, 18(2), 185-210.

Khromina, S. (2007). The Broken Path: Juvenile Violence and Delinquency in Light of Sociological Theories. Human Architecture: Journal Of The Sociology Of Self-Knowledge, 5(2), 91-100.

Mesch, G. S., Turjeman, H., & Fishman, G. (2008). Social identity and violence among Immigrant adolescents. New Directions For Youth Development, 2008(119), 129-150.

Staff, J., & Kreager, D. A. (2008). Too Cool for School? Violence, Peer Status and High School
Dropout. Social Forces, 87(1), 445-471.

van Lier, P., Vitaro, F., & Eisner, M. (2007). Preventing Aggressive and Violent Behavior: Using Prevention Programs to Study the Role of Peer Dynamics in Maladjustment Problems.
European Journal On Criminal Policy And Research, 13(3), 277-296.

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