Recreation and Juvenile Delinquency

I. Introduction

Juvenile delinquency is a serious problem not only because it is a threat to the safety and order of the community but also because the life and future of the youth is at stake. Juvenile delinquency is affecting both juvenile boys and girls. When a juvenile is said to be a “delinquent “, it means that he is behaving in a manner that is not socially acceptable.

A juvenile delinquent should not be cast away or be rejected just because he causes trouble in his family or community. If that is the case, he will become more evil in his acts. The best thing that should be done is to help him stay away from any delinquent acts. In many researches, it was found out that organized recreation and leisure activities helped to prevent or minimized juvenile delinquency.

This paper will discuss how recreation and leisure activities helped to prevent or minimized juvenile delinquency. The purpose of the paper is to inform the reader of the importance of recreation in the positive development of a juvenile.

II. Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency is not something new. Generation after generation had to face the “deviant” behavior of their teens. Many factors contributed to such behaviors and psychologists agree that some of those factors are exposure to violent behaviors at home and in the neighborhood as well as neglect in child discipline. These rebellious behaviors may be aggravated by the teen’s feelings of stress and uncertainty that is part of adolescence. Deviant behaviors of teens may vary, from mild like petty thief at home to use of drugs and committing a crime (Hurlock, 1982, 256-258).

As the years go by, juvenile delinquency had become an increasingly national problem as numbers of teen delinquents rises. In a legal term, delinquency is defined as “engaging in behavior that is against the law, and getting caught and prosecuted for that behavior”.  These behaviors that are prosecuted in court are theft, violence, and crime. Some deviant or juvenile delinquent behaviors may not be considered illegal if committed by adults like smoking or drinking of alcoholic beverages.

It is not necessary however, that a teen commit an action that needs to be tried in court in order to be classified as delinquent. Acts like dropping or skipping school, going out with gangs and use of prohibited drugs or causing petty troubles in the neighborhood may also be considered as delinquent behaviors (Roberts, 2000). Whatever is the case, juvenile delinquency is a behavior that needs to be addressed to or avoided in any adolescent.

III. Role of Recreation in preventing or minimizing delinquency

A. The definition and purpose of Recreation

Through the years many researches had been made in order to understand and avoid the development of a juvenile delinquent. Government agencies, private sectors and parents had made all the efforts to minimize or prevent juvenile delinquency. In their studies and researches it was found out that organized recreation and leisure activities may help prevent or minimized juvenile delinquency.

According To Encarta dictionary, Recreation is “an activity that a person takes part in for pleasure or relaxation rather than as work” (“Encarta dictionary”, 2007). Psychologists argued that supervised and organized recreation promotes spiritual, moral and character development. Through recreation a person, specifically a juvenile, develops a healthy mind, cooperation, honesty, imagination, self-confidence, obedience and justice.

Because of such benefits, it diminishes idleness, gang-spirit, temptation, social barriers and other negative traits that are a precursor to delinquency. The need for recreation is very important to a person’s life especially because man has the natural instinct for  fun and play. However, in the absence of pure fun or healthy recreational activities, youth’s desire for fun may lead them to some activities that they may consider fun but harmful like in joining gangs that uses violence as a means of enjoyment (Anderson ,2006).

 In organizing recreational activities, gender consideration must be taken into account. Boys in particular love recreations that cater to their instincts for camaraderie, leadership, war, hunting, and physical prowess. Athletic events or other competitive sports and camping or outings are best for boys. In these activities all of the above-mentioned instincts of boys are challenged, developed and   directed. For girls, on the other hand, recreational and leisure activities must emphasize on the girl’s need for beauty, grace and friendship. Aside from that, these activities must be designed for preparing girls for the challenging duties of womanhood and motherhood. 

These may be organizing a girl’s club that that focuses on art making, decorating, landscaping, fashion designing or any other activities that helps to develop their creative skills. Athletic events should not be left out in a girl’s recreational activities too for from there they also learned social and competitive skills however, these sporty activities may not be oftentimes as rigorous as that of the boys (Anderson, 2006). In a much greater perspective, engaging both boys and girls in organized recreational activities that promotes the total development of their personality prepares them to be responsible individuals who had purpose in life and not as purposeless, irresponsible  delinquents who   had nothing else to do but wreck their own life and that of others. 

B. The importance of After- School Activities

During teenage years, the teen mostly spend their time at school. During the school hours they get busy with schoolwork. But after school hours around 2:30 to 8:30 pm, a time when youths are free, is the moment when youths are prone to commit delinquent acts or being a victim of delinquent acts. It is estimated that about 60% of an adolescent’s waking hours are spent outside of school (Bayran, 2007). Since youth loves to socialize and have fun it cannot be expected that they go straight to their homes after the school hours.

Most likely they will hang around with friends of their age in some places like malls, parks, streets or in any friend’s house. If they are involved in structured activities youths will occupy this time doing recreational activities beneficial to their development.  However, if they have no useful thing to do after the school hours the youth, to fight boredom, will become involved with illegal drugs, weapons, gang activities, and other delinquent activities (Bayran 2007, “Agenda” 1997).  So based on the above scenario, whatever the teens do after school hours is critical in affecting the direction and quality of  his life

Youths, young as they are, cannot provide recreational activities on their own all the time. They need the help and the guidance of the adults who understood them. These concerned adults may be represented by private and public institutions like schools and other volunteer club groups that aimed to help the youth stay away from delinquent acts or deviant behavior by providing them with extra-curricular activities.  In keeping with this goal, Institutions that provide youth after school activities are therefore “programmed to provide a safe, positive environment that may discourage the likelihood of adolescent delinquency, specifically in the use drugs and alcohol, gang activity, and criminal involvement”(Bayran,  2007).

 One of the best contributions of after- school extra-curricular activities, aside from the fact that it discouraged delinquent acts directly, is that it helped the youth in their role as a student. Youth had always faced the greatest challenge of their life during their school years where they want to belong and feel socially acceptable. They struggle about self-esteem, sense of self-worth and belongingness. If they failed in school or are doing poorly in school activities and with no friends to hang around with, they usually got stressed, become depressed and eventually become rebellious with life itself. 

But through after-school activities the youth’s school experienced is enhanced. His social and cognitive skills are improved along with the development of responsibility and self-discipline. And by and by his academic performance will be affected positively too since his integration into the school culture provided a sense of accomplishment (Bayran 2007, Anderson 2006). In the end, because the youth found the right channel to unburden and develop himself, he will stay away from any delinquent activities

IV. Conclusion

Organized recreation and leisure activities are effective in preventing or minimizing juvenile delinquency. Recreation caters to a juvenile’s natural instinct for fun and play as well as helping him in his social, moral and character development. Without recreation or leisure activities a juvenile may resort to harmful means of enjoyment which consequently results to his committing delinquent acts.   Jane Adams, in her book The Spirit of Youth and the City Streets (1909) strongly emphasized the importance of recreation when she declared “Recreation is stronger than vice and recreation alone can stifle the lust for vice”(Anderson ,2006).