Parents and Juvenile Delinquency

Once a woman discovers the fact that she is pregnant and makes the choice to become a mother, she and the father have an obligation to provide a future for that unborn baby. Married or not, the child becomes the parents’ responsibility legally, emotionally, morally, and physically. Parents are signing an unwritten contract to protect and provide for their child, until the child is of age, to do so his or herself. Parenting does not come with a handbook; however, it is common sense to not physically, mentally, or emotionally abuse that child.

Parent’s failing to provide support, love, education, and instill morals or values, hinders a child’s future, which can and does lead to delinquent, criminal behavior. Therefore, I blame the parents in our society for delinquent behavior and children should not be imprisoned, because their parents failed to follow through with their end of the unwritten contract. Neglect and/or abuse parents commit towards their child are the causes of juvenile delinquency which is defined as criminal acts committed by a child under the age of eighteen. Juvenile Delinquency has been a social problem for decades.

In fact, juvenile crime rates were the highest during the baby boomer and generation x generations. According to Jenson and Howard “… violent crime arrest rates increased 71percent between 1987 and 1994” (324). However, even though rates have decreased in today’s society, they still remain, and that is a problem. Crime is more complex and not limited to just certain areas anymore, as it was in the previous generations. Juvenile Delinquency is very common and is, in my opinion, very preventable. Parents need to start taking responsibility for their children.

In a perfect world, all parents love their children and would never cause even the slightest bit of harm to them, but we do not live in a perfect world, now do we? Children are killing other children, bringing guns to school, raping, beating, and stealing. Children are setting homes on fire. How can society not start blaming the parents for this behavior? It is obvious to me, as I hope to others, that the “get tough approach” and sentencing children to an adult prison is not working. Children do not just decide to harm or even kill someone just because they feel like it.

Start looking at what caused him or her to think this way: there is always a reason. A few months ago, I was watching the news, and a teen was found guilty for raping his foster mother, at knife point. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Now, first of all, let me say that this is a terrible crime committed by this teen, but what I want to know is why. What has happened in his life that would drive him to commit such a heinous act? The first clue to the answer is who the victim is: his foster mother. Where are his biological parents?

Does society really think 30 years in prison is going to help this young man? Obviously what he needs is heavy psychiatric treatment, which he will not get in prison. I also suspect that there were possibly other acts of criminalities that lead to this rape. What was done to help this teen before his life spiraled out of control? I had signs with my son before his behavior became unacceptable, so I am sure there were signs with this teen. I have always been one who says you cannot judge another human being based only what can be seen and to an extent that is still true.

Who am I to judge another: especially in the parenting department? I do have my own children, four to be exact, and I am not perfect. I am the first one to admit that I have made my own mistakes in the parenting area. I also admit that in the past I was guilty of not following through with my own unwritten contract with my son, and I blame myself for his behavior. If I had been a better parent, he would not have become labeled as a “juvenile delinquent”. If our home conditions had been better, or if I had taken the time to talk to my son, his life may have been different.

While there are many factors that may or may not contribute to juvenile delinquency the top two causes according to a report by the FBI, are “poor home conditions and lack of religion” (“Juvenile Delinquency” 291). In today’s society, it seems as if religion is almost nonexistent. According to Pew Research Center “Millennials [ages 18-29] are also more unaffiliated than members of Gen Xers were at a comparable point in their life cycle … and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults …” (85).

Religion is barely allowed in schools anymore, for fear of offending others who practice a different belief, if any at all. Parents are responsible for criminal behavior their child commits because part of their unwritten contract includes as stated by LeSage and De Ruyter “the duty to assist their child to develop in such a way that he or she becomes a morally competent agent” (789). I honestly believe those who lack the religion component in their childhood are missing a huge part of life.

Also, according to the FBI report “The teachings of God, if followed will prevent criminality” (“Juvenile Delinquency” 291). How can we not bring religion back into our homes? If there are no beliefs to a “higher power”, whether it be God, the angels above, or whatever that person believes to be God, what or who does that leave a person to look to for guidance, for morals? Religion, spiritual beliefs, and the Bible set guidelines for society to live by and give hope for a bright future, without crime. “Love thy neighbor” and “thou shall not kill” are self explanatory moral guidelines to live by.

Acts of love and kindness are throughout the Bible such as to “do unto others as you would have done to you. ” As society knows, people are not following the acts of love and kindness found throughout the Bible, especially parents. This is evidenced by the numerous news cast reports heard almost daily on the radio or television. Parents neglect, abandon, and abuse their own child every day and that is not a secret. What is kept secret is how the child internalizes and externalizes what has or has not happened to them.

According to Widom, “All types of abuse and neglect in childhood put people at greater risk for arrest later in life”(47). Many children in today’s society are not even given the necessary food, water, shelter, and clothing. Why? Sure, there are millions in this country living in poverty which may contribute to some of the neglect our children are facing, but not all. All children who are eating out of dumpsters or those who are stealing their next meal are not living in poverty. They sadly have parents who just do not care.

The thought of children going hungry because their parents spend their money on drugs or alcohol instead of food is horrifying. Why should “Little Joey” be punished for stealing his meal when his parents failed to provide him one? Upon my research, I came across a quote made by Judge Julian Mack, who was one of the first juvenile court’s judges, and it states: Why is it not just and proper to treat these juvenile offenders, as we deal with neglected children, as a wise and merciful father handles his own children whose errors are not discovered by the authorities?

Why is it not the duty of the state, instead of merely asking whether a boy or girl has committed a specific offense, to find out what he is physically, mentally, morally, and then if it learns that he is treading the path that leads to criminality, to take him in charge, not so much as to punish as to reform, not to degrade but to uplift, not to crush but to develop, not to make him a criminal but a worthy citizen. (Quoted in Billitteri) This quote was made in the late 1800’s.

Why are we still, two hundred years later, not addressing the underlying issues of juvenile crime? This statement to me means that it if a child has committed a delinquent act, and is becoming involved in the court system, it is the duty of the state to find out what is going on with that child inside rather than to continue to punish for behavior that may or may not be the child’s fault. Research shows those who have been a victimized as a child are more likely to commit criminal acts.

There is no denying the research conducted by Alltucker et al that “Child maltreatment, including child physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and child neglect, is associated with future violent behavior” (480). Children are being victimized at the hands of their own parents and are turning to lead a criminal life, whether it is as a juvenile or as an adult. The effects of neglect and abuse are forever and need to be handled, discussed, and treated psychologically. Children do not just “grow up” on their own.

They need to be taught how to be affectionate, how to love and what is right or wrong. Children do not ask to come into this world; they are brought in, unwillingly. Today there are many suggested theories explaining criminal behavior. Some believe that children are simply “born bad”, inheriting a criminal gene from family members. We have those who believe society is to blame for criminal behaviors due to poverty and the lack of attainable resources to reach desired goals, are the causes of crime.

Others believe it is not the responsibility of the parents when their child commits a crime, since the parents did not actually “tell” the child to commit it. However, I disagree. The parent failed to teach their child right from wrong, good and bad, what acceptable behavior is and what is not. Children are not born “bad”: they are raised badly. Children are coming from homes where criminal behavior is part of everyday life, and they are being taught by parents how to be “bad. ”

Aside from the abuse and neglect children endure, many live in high crime areas, have criminal parents addicted to rugs and alcohol, have no supervision, lack good schools and teachers, and lack community prevention programs. If children were “born bad”, they would continue to commit crimes forever, however some do: but not from a biologically inherited “bad gene”. Crime becomes a way of life for those who just do not know any other way. On the outside looking in, one may say that is absurd but live a day in that person’s shoes. Many labeled as “juvenile delinquents” do go on in the future to live a crime free life, there for there is no “criminal” gene driving individuals to commit crimes.

I also would like to state at this time that I know that every child who has been labeled as delinquent has not necessarily come from an abusive, broken home life. There are loving parents out there who cannot understand why their child has turned to a life of crime because they are good parents. So, what do you think: are the parents really to blame? I honestly believe all juvenile delinquent behavior starts in the home, with the parents or the lack of. Crime is part of life and has been in our society since the beginning of time.

There are many proposed theories and causes, with or without research. Parents’ failing to love their own children is not a crime, even though it should be in my opinion, but not providing the skills and tools a child needs to become a productive member of society can be. According to Evans, many states have enacted laws which make parents responsible for their child’s criminal behavior (134). We as a society will never make all parents love their children, nor will we ever be able to stop the horrific abuse and neglect. What we can do is love these children for the parents who are unable to do so.

Stop imprisoning children. Start addressing the underlying issues such as poor parenting, the effects of abuse and neglect which links them to a destiny of criminal behavior, and find out what that child is as stated previously by Judge Mack, which is causing children to become delinquent in the first place. Stop cutting programs in the community that have been designed to help these children who are at risk. Quit worrying about guilt and innocence and worry about why and what can be done to help these children become productive members of society.