The world in which modern man lives is far from the one in which lived his grandfathers. Modern life requires from adult individual such qualities as toughness, aggressiveness and resistance to stressful situations. The need to constantly be able to provide emotional alertness makes pressure on the human psyche, and it often leads to negative consequences, one of which can be an act of aggression. However, speaking about the impact that life and society have on an adult, one should remember that the same effect is exposed on children. In this case, the pressure on them is very strong, and the reaction is severe. In addition, the causes of child and adolescent aggression are often associated with family and social environment in which children grow up. Down below, the reasons of delinquency will be described, as well as the role of gender and family in causing delinquent behavior. Moreover, the case of female delinquency will be examined in order to find out whether females are treated differently from males in juvenile court system.
When speaking about juvenile delinquency, one should pay attention both on the role gender difference play in this case and the way it influence delinquency. Historically, an idea was formed that boys are inherently more prone to aggressive behavior and delinquency than girls. According to Carney, “Girls become delinquent for vastly different reasons than boys based on biological, social and cultural differences displayed in each gender. From the onset of hormones and brain development, to the child’s upbringing by families, to the way girls are expected to act in public as opposed to boys; a different set of circumstances exists for the reasons girls become delinquent compared with boys”. Siegel, L. J. gives it the following explanation: “There are indications that gender differences in socialization and development do exist and that they may have an effect on juvenile offending patterns”.
Indeed, boys and girls have always been brought up and socialized with families and society in different ways, which influenced their behavior greatly. For example, girls have always been taught to behave with more modesty and balance, to be more relationship oriented and think before acting. These principles normally lead to less aggressive behavior among girls, as well as a sense of responsibility for her actions and their consequences. Thus, boys are expected to be more independent and aggressive in obtaining goals and act out in more retributive way than girls do. Besides, it is not only upbringing that forms boys’ and girls’ behavioral differences; their psychological differences contribute to it as well. Boys are more into strategic and methodical way of acting, and they have more materialistic view of the world and have more self-confidence. Girls, on the contrary, are more self-aware and anxious around others, having more verbal acuity and lower self-confidence.
These facts contribute to the idea that boys originally are more into delinquency than girls are. However nowadays, when genders’ differences become more flexible, girls often have to adaptate to the man’s world where they are required to act aggressively and tough, which is against their nature. This role-exchange can be the reason, why the number of female delinquency cases grows.
Another factor that affects juvenile delinquency greatly is a family. In particular, this issue contains not only the general atmosphere within the each family, but also such aspects as family makeup and family behavior. It is obvious that the family is one of the strongest socializing forces in life. According to , “family teaches children to control unacceptable behavior, to delay gratification, and to respect the rights of others”. On the other hand, correct upbringing is possible only in a proper family, which means two- parent, violence-free and openly communicating household. Otherwise, there is a high risk for children to be taught aggressive, violent and antisocial behavior if there is any disruption within the family.
Obviously, children who grow up in homes with considerable conflicts, who are rejected by their parents, or who are supervised inadequately are at the highest risk of becoming delinquent in the future. However, these are so-called evident reasons; except them, there are circumstances not so obvious that may also lead to developing delinquent behavior. For example, the lack of proper parental supervision and discipline contribute to the situation when parents do not know where their children spend time when not at home, or whom they are with. This inadvertency can lead to a common situation when children become involved into bad companies where aggressive and delinquent behavior is normal.
Another important issue is communication within the family. Clark and Shields (1997) state “the positive communication is important for optimal family functioning and helps to avoid youth’s misbehavior having great implications for delinquent behavior”.
Family behavior also impacts the juvenile delinquency. In a case of parental aggression and conflicts, the possibility that the child will become offended increases. What also contributes to delinquency in such families, are familial antisocial or criminal behavior, family conflicts and lack of maternal affection.
One should also not forget that the makeup of a family means a lot. The cases of delinquency are more often in one-parent households than in full families. Demuth Brown’s (2004) study found the following: Children who live with one parent or in families that have been disrupted by divorce or separation are more likely to display behavioral problems including delinquency, than children who are from two-parent families. Children who also witness marital discord are at greater risk of becoming delinquents. Free, suggests that “the prediction of juvenile delinquency in early childhood depends on the type of maternal parenting skills that are imposed upon the child during early adolescence”. A number of studies have been undertaken which show a connection between delinquent behavior and single-parent families. Wright and Wright’s (1994) research shows that “single-parent families, and in particular mother-only families, produce more delinquent children than two-parent families”.
One of the reasons why fathers are particularly significant in the initiation and persistence of offspring offending is that they are particularly likely to be involved with sons who are at higher risk than daughters of delinquent behavior. Two-parent households provide increased supervision and surveillance of the property, while single parenthood increases likelihood of delinquency and victimization simply by the fact that there is one less person to supervise adolescent behavior.
There is one more issue about juvenile delinquency that should be paid attention to. It is about the difference of how males and females are treated in juvenile justice system. It so happened that this system was originally organized to fit the needs of male offenders who make up the majority of juveniles, but these facilities are ineffective for treating female offenders. According to Barnickol, treatment programs for delinquent females are often unsuccessful because they require continued access to services and follow-up contact, which are problematic when working with this population. Consequently, young females are less likely to receive proper treatment.
There are several major differences between males and females in juvenile justice system. According to Chesney-Lind (1977), female juvenile offenders are referred to juvenile justice system for committing offenses that are very different from those committed by male offenders. The activities that usually lead to arrest of females are non-criminal offenses characterized by rebellious behavior. Traditionally, courts classified females delinquent more often for behavior violating social gender norms, rather than for behavior classified as criminal. In contrast, male offenders were historically adjudicated primarily for criminal offenses and rarely for the status offenses for which females were adjudicated. Although male juveniles commit an equal number of status offenses, females are more likely to be arrested for such offenses. The behavior that the judicial system sees normal for males becomes deviant when it comes to females . The unfairness of such attitude becomes even more obvious by the fact that female offenders get more severe punishment for such offenses than males do.
Such a gender bias can result from the stereotypes associated with females. For example, females have occupied subordinate role in society for a long time, and society expects a greater conformity to social norms from them. Consequently, females are punished for failing to fit the established norms and defined roles. In addition, these gender biases contribute to how females are adjudicated on entering the juvenile justice system. Despite the fact that they are brought into it for lesser offenses than males, their case dispositions are severe or even more severe than males ones. In this situation, it is often forgotten that young delinquent females have a higher rate of unstable, broken or unhappy families than delinquent males. On the other hand, females have a small benefit based on their gender. For serious offenses, female juvenile offenders typically receive less severe treatment than males.
According to everything that was said above, it is obvious that the role of females in juvenile justice system is far more unfair than the males’. As a result of juvenile justice system’s structure and the resulting gender inequality, the treatment of delinquent females is largely ineffective. The reason is that the system punishes young females as offenders rather than trying to provide treatment for them as young victims, because the social basis of their delinquency is often harsher than males’.
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