Juvenile Justice Theories

The recent developments in researches about juvenile delinquency and that there is no significant difference on delinquency propensity between youth of different backgrounds did not really offer significant decline on the validity of sociological researches on juvenile delinquency. There is a need to consider that despite the impact of the environment on the individual, this is not really the sole determinant to the propensity of juveniles to commit delinquent behavior. It is an interaction of different types of environment and the theories that point to this phenomenon are quite similar to those of adults.

Two young people may come from the same socio-economic backgrounds and the same type of family structures but they also interact with the society in general and this has an impact on their behavior. Smeenk and Weerman (2005) for example, have shown that peers have an influence on the behavior of the juvenile. This means that socio-economic background or family adversity act as the single factor. One also has to consider the individual cognitive, mental, and emotional capacity.

In the 1980s, recognizing the stigma placed on a youth by the delinquency label, every effort was made to remove or divert youths from the official justice process and place them in alternative, community-based treatment programs. Today, concern over juvenile violence has caused some critics to question the juvenile justice system’s treatment philosophy. Some states, such as New York, have liberalized their procedures for trying serious juvenile offenders in the adult system, consequently making them eligible for incarceration in adult prisons.

The general trend has been to remove as many nonviolent and status offenders as possible from secure placements in juvenile institutions and at the same time to lengthen the sentences of serious offenders or to move such offenders to the adult system. Kids who are waived to the adult system today face long prison sentences and even the death penalty. This paper deals with juvenile justice theories and its many ramifications. For instance, it is possible that crime and violence are functions of biochemical abnormality.

Such biochemical factors as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, improper diet, environmental contaminants have been linked to antisocial behavior. Research focusing on the behavior of jailed inmates has shown that subjects who maintain high levels of sugar and caffeine in their diet  are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior than control-group subjects with diets low in those substances. Moreover, there are still lots of evidence that there still exists some male/female double standard in the structures of our society. Female are usually more disproportionately punished because of higher expectations from female in terms of behavior.

Recent researches have also shown that since girls are more prone to crave for belongingness and are more friend-oriented in their social relationship; they have higher exposure to peer pressure and thus increase their propensity to commit delinquent behavior (Why girls go delinquent, 2004). It is, thus, very important to recognize the kind of attachment that girls have in terms of their peers and friends compared to male juveniles. In addition to this, researches have also started to emphasize the impact of peers can vary significantly between genders (Gover et. al. , 2005).

This difference between male and female may have been a result of greater incidences of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse among female juveniles compared to male juveniles. Thus, it is estimated that female juveniles have higher rates of psychopathology and familial risk factors, which contribute to the increase in the number of female juvenile offenders (Gover et. al. , 2005). Courts are, therefore,  usually more lenient with girls. This leniency of the court when it comes to female delinquency has also been criticized as one of the major factors in the rise of female juvenile offenders.