Imagine a thirteen-year-old boy living with his mother. His parents have been
divorced since he was four-years-old. He has never really known his father
and therefore uses his friends for his male role models. His mother has to work
two jobs to support her family and is therefore not there to spend much time
with her child. This is the type of child that is normally delinquent. Add to this
scenario a group of teenage friends that are involved in delinquent activities and
it is almost guaranteed that a juvenile delinquent will emerge out of this
situation. In an interview that I conducted with a juvenile corrections officer
this scenario was seen as one of the biggest causes of juvenile delinquency.
He, Mike Smith, said that: The three main causes of juvenile delinquency are
fathers not being in the home, children being unsupervised, and child abuse.
This is because children learn through modeling, or what they see, so if there is
not a strong, good role model, they learn through their peers. (1999) One of the
biggest problems of juvenile delinquents, or one of their biggest sources of
delinquency, according to Mike Smith is, "without a doubt, …drugs and alcohol.
These are usually the things that lead to other delinquent acts such as skipping
school, stealing, and acts of violence and destruction (1999)." The only way
that these problems can ever be solved is by everyone working together to
make a difference in every child’s life. According to Smith, correcting the
problem of juvenile delinquency, "Would involve changes from the individual
level all the way up to the societal level (1999)." This would mean that
programs such as the Big Brother Program would be good programs to install
in single parent families. The only problem with this is that children do not need
just a male and female role model in their life; they need a good male and
female role model in their life. In this case it is not quantity of role models it is
the quality of role models in an individual’s life. The main theory that best
supports this interview is Hirschi’s social bond theory. This theory suggests that
there are four elements of bonding that "tie the individual to conventional
society and thus prevent delinquency (Bynum and Thompson, 1999: 193)."
These elements are: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief.
According to this theory, if all four elements are present in an individual the
individual will not commit delinquent acts. Yet if an individual lacks even one of
these elements, that individual has a higher likelihood of committing delinquent
acts. Hirschi said that there is large variation among individuals in the amount
of attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief in conventional behavior
and therefore there is variability in their ability to resist deviant and delinquent
conduct (Bynum and Thompson, 1999: 193). "He said that delinquents tend to
have relatively weak social bonds and consequently feel little remorse for
violating generally accepted social standards (Bynum and Thompson)." The
findings in a study of four-thousand youths conducted in the cities of Denver,
Pittsburgh, and Rochester gave five causes of juvenile delinquency. This
survey sampled youths at high risk for serious delinquency and drug use and
found that: (1) The more seriously involved in drugs a youth was, the more
seriously that juvenile was involved in delinquency, (2) greater risks exist for
violent offending when a child is physically abused or neglected in early life, (3)
students who were not committed to school had higher rates of delinquency, (4)
poor family life exacerbates delinquency and drug use, and (5) affiliation with
street gangs and illegal gun ownership are both predictive of delinquency.
(Schmallenger, 1997: 532) These five causes that are listed in the study are
almost exactly what the person that I interviewed said were the causes of
juvenile delinquency. The only variation in what Smith said and what the study
found is that my interviewee left out involvement in gangs and involvement in
school. These two elements are very important in the causation of juvenile
delinquency. Gangs are important because of the strong amount of peer
pressure involved in gang life. For some gangs, initiation involves some type of
criminal act, such as shoplifting or robbery.