Criminal justice policy

As with all forms of criminal behaviour, juvenile delinquency possesses patterns from which theories can be developed. Bowlby looked at how family can affect the criminality of the children in it, particularly in terms of the attachments these children form. The Chicago school focussed more on the characteristics of particular areas in which crime was observed, whereas Merton applied Durkheim's theory of anomie to youth crime and Merton studied delinquent subcultures.

These theories are particularly useful in the prevention and policing of youth crime as they can be directly applied to policy by identifying the causes and attempting to balance or eliminate them. This essay will explain each and explain how it can be applied. According to the Youth Justice Board Report, an estimated 25% of known offenders are under 18, and are responsible for 7 million offences annually. In a questionnaire developed by "Communities that Care", given to 14,000 year 7-11 students in England, Scotland and Wales in the 2000/2001 academic year, it was found that almost half (48.

5%) of students reported committing some form of crime. The two most common offences reported were vandalism and shoplifting, with ? and 1/4 respectively reporting having committing them in the previous year. Every i?? 1 spent on preventing youth crime may save a further i?? 6 in later costs. (Audit Commission: Misspent Youth, 1996) Based on these statistics, youth crime is clearly not a subject that can be ignored. One explanation for these findings began with the early Victorians of the mid-19th century. They explained crime as a direct consequence of the break up of the family unit, and as a result of the decline in parental control.

This was a recurring debate, usually resurrected in times of social anxiety. In the 20th century, a combination of moral discourse and social-scientific research prompted John Bowlby to develop his theory on maternal deprivation. He identified that a history of broken family life was common to young offenders, and suggested this was due to an absence of adequate maternal care leading to an "affectionless" character type which had a greater pre-disposition to criminality. (Bowlby, 1946, 1952, 1953) He observed that infants display an innate tendency to develop an attachment to one particular care-giver, calling this monotropy.

He suggested that this attachment was crucial to the child's social development as it was unlike any subsequent attachment a child might form. If deprived of this attachment, the child's ability to form attachments in later life would be damaged. Bowlby related this theory to crime by claiming that this inability to form meaningful personal relationships may cause the child to be less secure, leading to criminal behaviour. Secure attachment in early childhood facilitates the learning of self control, empathic understanding, and trust, all essential to non-deviant behaviour.

He made a study of 44 delinquents and 44 non delinquents in 1946. 39 % of the delinquent group had experienced complete separation from their mothers for 6 months or more before the age of 5, compared with 5 % of the non-delinquent group. In practice this meant that before the age of 2 the children had continuously or repeatedly been in foster homes or hospitals, often not visited by their families. These children had an incapacity to form intimate relationships with their primary care-givers.