Juvenile Delinquency theory

There are a lot of reasons that cause a juvenile to commit anti-social or criminal activities. One of these is the category of sociological perspective which is divided into three theories. Citing the “Theories of juvenile delinquency: social structure” by Schneider (2006), Jones (2007) wrote that the “strain theory, labeling theory, and social control theory” are the sociological theories of that attempt explain the reason behind juvenile delinquency. Although there are other sociological theories related to juvenile delinquency, these three have been tested to be the most credible or persuasive (Jones, 2007).

According to Schneider (2006), the strain theory occurs when a person illegally achieves his or her goal. This can be observed when a person has set a specific goal but unfortunately fails to accomplish it. In his or her desire to meet the goal which has been legally laid down, that individual is prompted to achieve it even in an illegal manner (cited in Jones, 2007). An individual may exhibit any of the five modes of behavior in line with the strain theory.

These include “conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion” (Merton, 2005 as cited in Jones, 2007). Conformity can be illustrated when a society sets up goals for people to achieve and an individual simply pursues them and the various ways on how to achieve the goals without question or apprehension. If the person still fails to achieve the goal amidst his or her acceptance of this goal that society has laid for him, the strain theory sets in, causing the stressed individual to meet the goal in an illegal way.

The second mode of strain theory is demonstrated by a person who accepts the goal but instead utilizes an illegal way to achieve it. A person's preference of unlawful means makes him or her vulnerable to commit crimes. The third style is ritualism which influences a person not to accept the goal. Rather, he or she settles with other lower level goals that were previously accepted and achieved. This mode or behavior may also lead a juvenile to delinquent activities if he or she sticks to low standard goals that can make a person susceptible to criminal conduct.

The fourth style of strain theory occurs when an individual turns down both the goals set by the society and the means how to achieve them. This mode oftentimes leads to the last style which is rebellion. This is because when a person does not accept the goals and the manners of achieving them, he or she is inclined to make up his or her own society where nobody can dictate his or her actions (Jones, 2007). The second sociological cause of juvenile crime is the labeling theory which focuses on characterizing a juvenile as a delinquent or non-delinquent (Jones, 2007).

Jones (2007) explained that when a juvenile is regarded as delinquent by society and justice system, he or she starts to accept the criminal or delinquent label and actually associates him- or herself with that label. The labeling theory drives a juvenile to commit crime because of the feeling of being outcast from the society. This feeling of being a social outcast encourages the individual more to be rebellious just to conform to his or her delinquent label (Jones, 2007).

The last sociological theory is the “social bond theory, also known as social control theory” (Hirschi, 2005 as cited in Jones, 2007). Jones (2007) explained that there are various connections that a person must have for him or her to be regarded as above the law. These include an attachment that shows that the socialization of a person is dependent on his or her personal interest or involvement with other individuals. Another is commitment that simply explains that when a person lacks dedication to the existing laws, he or she is prone to delinquent tendencies.

The other bond is the juvenile's involvement in participating positive actions which, as a result, prevent them from committing crimes. The last bond of belief is manifested when the young individual thrusts that the justice system is unfair, he or she is inclined to be delinquent (Jones, 2007).


Jones, K. (2007). Theories of juvenile delinquency: why young people commit crimes. Associated Content. Retrieved May 8, 2008 from Associated Content Database: http://www. associatedcontent. com/pop_print. shtml? content_type=article&content_type_id=155156