Acts of delinquency have become more visible in recent years. Delinquency refers to the "acts or conducts in violation of criminal law. " Some scholars argue that involvement in some form of delinquency is common adolescent behavior and surveys over several decades suggest that it has been common for a considerable period of time. Other sociologists and scientists who have studied juveniles have come up with theories that explain these delinquent acts. Some of the factors that contribute to delinquency include culture, social structure, and socialization through major institutions.
This paper will discuss each of these factors in greater detail and how far each goes to contribute towards the problem of delinquency. Finally, the papers will suggests policy recommendations that might help solve this dilemma. According to Thomas Hine, culture is defined as "a little more than a group of beliefs and practices that its members accept without very much thought. " There are many institutions that mark a person's culture such as educational institutions, religious institutions, work place, and more significantly, the family.
Of the ones mentioned, the family plays a vital role in shaping a person's culture. Most children look up to their parents to learn how to behave in a society, as well as how to make decisions and choices in life. Similarly, children also look up to their teachers and others with who they are in constant touch to assist them in becoming responsible citizens. In congruence with the above-mentioned statements, the one factor that significantly contributes to the crime rate, especially in the low-income areas, is family. Oftentimes, families accept the fact that their children are a part of the crime population.
There are many reasons that lead to this attitude. First and foremost, families need some sort of income to earn their daily bread. Any income that these families get, regardless of the means to earning it, is always welcomed. Secondly, some of these families themselves are involved in illegal activities, such as; single mothers who are alcoholic, drug- addicts and who also are drug peddlers themselves. Being engaged in these activities, they not only influence their children to do the same things but also encourage them at times.
The book, Code of the Street mentions "some people tend towards self-destructive behavior; many street-oriented women are crack addicted ('on the pipe', alcoholic, or involved in complicated relationships with men who abuse them. (Anderson, 46) Thirdly, most parents coming from these settings tend to be very careless when it comes to rearing their children. They lack the motivation to guide their kids to become responsible and decent children. In the Code of the Street, Anderson gives an example of Dickens; whose wife had left him and whom the neighbors did not consider being a responsible man.
According to the neighbors, Dickens does not supervise his kids when they are playing around the streets rather, he "pays more attention to his buddies, who seem always to be hanging out at the house-on the porch in warm weather-playing loud rap music, drinking beer, and playing cards. " (Anderson, 47) Conversely, there are several decent families that constantly struggle to safeguard their children and provide them with a nurturing environment. Decent families tend to favor the core American values such as working hard, saving money, and raising their children well.
These parents are strict in their child-rearing practices especially encouraging them to respect the authority and guiding them walk a straight moral life. These parents are cognizant of their child's daily activities and they make sure that they are in accordance with the parents' expectations. Anderson mentions, "These parents express their care and love for teenage children by guarding against the appearance of any kind of 'loose' behavior that might be associated with the streets. " (Anderson, 42) These parents protect their kids by deterring them from interacting with street kids.
Furthermore, they talk to their children about their futures and their academic and career prospects; they tend to follow the mainstream society and try to instill a sense of responsibility and moral values in their children. Church or any other religious institutions also tends to play a major role in their cultural upbringing. When parents make their children attend church, they are trying to inculcate moral values and a righteous way of living, which is not achieved through living on streets.
Attending religious organizations or activities, in a way creates a buffer between legal and illegal, good and bad etc. These children learn to understand their limits, for example; a regular attendee of the Sunday prayer service would instinctively know that he or she should stay away from people who associate with drug dealers or violent criminals since these activities are condemned by law as well as by religion. Research done by Nye (1958) "concluded that church attendance is associated with lower rates of delinquency.
More than church being an important determinant of delinquency, religious traditions of self-control and self-denial play a bigger role. Study done by Burkett and White on delinquency and religion showed that there is a strong relationship between religious participation and the use of alcohol and marijuana. (Jensen and Rojek, 313) In turn, the values instilled by the religious institutions and parents strongly impact the relationships that a child builds with the school, teachers, and peers.
Considering the above statement, school plays a significant role in shaping a child's future. Usually, a person who has been provided with opportunities to nourish and grow would more often than not, grow up to be a strong and a successful human being. There are some exceptions to this statement, but mostly, children who lack the attention and the affection in their teenage years get diffracted from their goals and ambitions. They lose their focus and the desire to be successful.