What is Juvenile Delinquency?
Juvenile delinquency generally refers to illegal behavior by children or adolescents. The meaning and age of a juvenile varies from country to country, but is generally considered to be between the age of 7 and 18 years of age. Check your local laws and statutes to determine the appropriate age in your jurisdiction.
A Juvenile Delinquent is one who repeatedly commits crime. Examples of the illegal behavior performed by such delinquents includes:
- Theft or the stealing of property, money or other items
- Breaking and entering, also known as burglary
- Sexual offenses
There are many different theories on the causes of crime. In the simplest cases, it is caused by peer-pressure, when one child “dares” another child to do something. Quite often, this is how criminal behavior begins, as children get a “high” or a “rush” from taking on more and more daring challenges. Many children in this situation don’t even think of their activity as illegal, but rather as simply having fun. Unfortunately, their “fun” leads to stolen property, property damage, bodily injury and other negative situations.
In other situations, some children simply fall in with the wrong crowd. They start staying out late on the streets, hanging out with other friends that aren’t being supervised by adults. This new found freedom can often lead to experimentation with alcohol and illegal drugs.
In more extreme cases, bad behavior can be linked to gang involvement. Many established gangs target young children because they can be more easily controlled. Young teens are often used as “runners”, taking information, stolen property or even illegal drugs from one location to another. This tactic is used because of the perceived safety of sending these materials via a young adult, as they are a less likely suspect than older teens and adults.
Juvenile delinquents sometimes have mental disorders/behavioral issues such as post traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder, and are sometimes diagnosed with conduct disorder partially as a result of their delinquent behaviors. In these cases, it is important for parents, friends and school teachers to help direct the child to assistance.
Potential Causes of Juvenile Delinquency
- Lack of educational opportunities and extracurricular activities
- Neighborhood / geographic area – The surrounding environment can have an impact on children.
- Family problems – lack of family involvement, divorced or separated parents
View other legal and law definitions in our Investigation Glossary.