Juvenile Delinquency


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 between the ages of 10 and 18. Check your local laws and statutes to determine the appropriate age in your jurisdiction.

What is a Juvenile Delinquent?

A Juvenile Delinquent is a child or adolescent who repeatedly commits a crime. Examples of illegal behavior performed by such delinquents include:

  • Theft or the stealing of property, money, or other items
  • Breaking and entering, also known as burglary
  • Pick-pocketing
  • Loitering (hanging out near establishments when prohibited)
  • Sexual offenses

Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

There are many different theories on the causes of crimes committed by juvenile delinquents. In the most straightforward cases, the motivation to commit a crime is caused by peer pressure, when one child “dares” another child to do something. This is often how criminal behavior begins, as children get a “high” or a “rush” from taking on more daring challenges.

Many children in this situation don’t think of their activity as illegal but as simply having fun. Unfortunately, their “fun” leads to stolen property, property damage, bodily injury, and other harmful situations.

In other situations, some children fall in with the wrong crowd. They start staying out late on the streets, hanging out with other friends who adults don’t supervise. This newfound freedom can often lead to experimentation with alcohol and illegal drugs.

Gang Involvement

Juvenile delinquency and bad behavior can be linked to gang involvement in more extreme cases. Many established gangs target young children because they can be more easily controlled. Young teens are often used as “runners,” taking information, stealing 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 less likely to suspect than older teens and adults.

Mental Disorders and Behavioral Issues

Juvenile delinquents sometimes have mental disorders/behavioral issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder or bipolar disorder. Sometimes, they are diagnosed with conduct disorder partially due to their delinquent behaviors. In these cases, parents, friends, and school teachers must help direct the child to get help.

Getting the child the appropriate help at an early agent may help prevent them from becoming adult offenders.

Other Potential Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

  • Poverty
  • Lack of educational opportunities and extracurricular activities
  • Neighborhood / geographic area – The surrounding environment can impact children.
  • Family problems – lack of family involvement, divorced or separated parents

Questions and Comments

If you have any questions about juvenile delinquency, please post a comment below. For more detailed information, visit the Wikipedia page. In addition, view other terms in our glossary of investigation terms.


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