Juvenile delinquency is a state wherein persons of relatively young ages (mostly below 18 years) get involved in unlawful activities because of various reasons. Theses relatively young people are referred to as the youths in general terms and these unlawful activities in which they get involved are criminal activities ranging from sexual offences to burglary or even homicidal missions. The causes of these actions are varied and could range from drug administration to poverty levels. Socioeconomics, on the other hand, can be described to mean factors that relate to both social and economic aspects. The relationship between the social and economic environments of an individual especially a youth would shape up in a very big way the life and activities of the individual activity. Such factors could include poverty, social influences from peers or the environment as a whole, poor family organization and orientation, unemployment among others. The essay below tries to expound on the relationship between the socioeconomic standings and the prevalence rate of juvenile delinquency. Low socioeconomic status represents poor conditions that would drive in one way or another, a person into criminal activities. Various theories a will be discussed herein also try to shed more light on the interactions between these positions.
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Poverty is by far the most influential of all factors that has been described to influence criminal activities among various classes of people. Poverty is a state whereby an individually is not economically efficient. This means that an individual is not in a position to provide adequately for himself or his family (suppose there is). This makes such persons poor by all standards. High poverty levels indicate low socioeconomic status and this could act as a causative agent to criminal activities. The relationship between poverty levels, criminal activities and unemployment has been identified as being positive in nature. This means that poor families are highly susceptible to indulge in criminal activities as compared to their wealthy counterparts.
Criminal activities could be borne out of poverty-stricken conditions in a very easy way as youths who in their prime adolescent ages would develop many desires for various items. Due to high poverty levels, however, this would not be possible. In order to achieve this goal, they would, therefore, indulge in criminal activities as a shortcut to attain these goals. Poverty has been accredited with being the primary source of all criminal activities, especially among the youthful class. Poverty levels are highly prevalent in slum dwellings and the rural regions. The slum regions are mostly found in urban regions and the urge to enjoy a good life as the wealthy individuals push the youth to commit atrocities that would normally be classified as property crime.
Poverty is therefore known to cause property crimes i.e. the poor steal property from the rich in a bid to eradicate inequality among these two classes. As is articulated in the social disorganization theory of economic crimes, slum dwellers and life as a whole precipitates higher levels of criminal activities. This is especially true for property crimes since the poor slum dwellers have few material possessions and therefore steal from the rich to attain a better life standard. The idea of achieving equality in the case of the poor and rich classes has been advanced clearly by the relative depreciation theory. This theory tends to explain the fact that greater success by the rich groups acts as motivation to the individuals in the lower classes to commit crime even more. The young being no exception could indulge in such activities to attain a good life. Poverty could also raise the level of disillusionment among youths whose backgrounds are very humble thereby leaving them no chance but to look for better ways to survive.
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Disillusionment could be caused by the fact that their lives would never have the benefits of enjoying the material possessions that characterize good lives. This would push them into committing a crime. The strain and anomie theory best explains how poverty and lack of opportunity leads to youths embracing crime as a source of livelihood. This is because the society places so much emphasis on the attainment of material and wealth possessions. The existing institutions, however, would hinder the poor from attaining this success. They, therefore, through the use of anomie, embrace non-institutionalized mechanisms to achieve success. Such orthodox means are always criminal nature and could be practiced efficiently by the youth. Various authors have come to the conclusion that poor individuals and families have a higher propensity to steal, engage in burglary as well as drug activities and making gains that are illicit in nature.
Another key component of poverty is unemployment. On small scales, it would not be very destructive but at macro levels, it dictates a lot in as far as poverty levels are concerned. Just like in the case of poverty levels, it has a positive relationship with the level of crime, especially among the youth. High unemployment levels indicate low socioeconomic standings and this would create a predisposition of high crime rates. Unemployment rates indicate low per capita income levels in individuals. Young people, in their endeavors to be economically independent, would be frustrated by the problem of unemployment. This would only push them into the life of crime as short means to success much to the disadvantage of their victims (mostly wealthy individuals).
Apart from the economic factors of unemployment and poverty discussed above, a host of social factors act to influence the criminal activities perpetrated by the youth. Among them is the family issue. The family like we all know it is the basic functional unit of any community and therefore, proper care at this stage means that the community will be well groomed. The family mainly takes care of a child’s character grooming and all the requisite components of proper child growth. Therefore, the elements of parenting are necessary at this stage.
Cases of juvenile delinquencies would abound at this stage if substantive measures are not put in place to avert them. For instance, cases of overcrowding of families could raise chances of these crimes to rise. This is because overcrowding means that there is limited attention or supervision accorded to every child. This might hamper the growth and development of a child in as far as matters of conformity to social norms are concerned. The lack of proper care and supervision in a child could cause that child to acquire wayward characteristics that could affect his lifestyle.
Overcrowding in families always tends to be characterized by elements of neglect on the side of the parents. Parents are conventionally tasked with the responsibility of instilling desirable cultural norms and teachings on their children. In the event they fail to do so, the children may develop weird characteristics such as criminally oriented lifestyles that would only increase the rates of juvenile crimes. The key aspect of social control that forms a basis for the social disorganization theory should be clearly implemented even at the family level. This could be achieved through instilling discipline both within and outside the peripherals of a home. Cases of single parenthood, divorce and abuse of the children could create hostilities to the children thereby pushing them into vicarious lifestyles of drugs and crime to seek solace. If the family unit is not properly maintained then cases of delinquencies among the youth could as well increase to high levels.
Another key social concern is the issue of peers and all the influences that come with it. Social and economic factors such as age groups, race or tribe and poverty levels would definitely lead to class stratification among various groups of people; the youth being more susceptible. This is explained clearly by the differential association theory that states that behaviors of a criminal nature are nurtured in a social environment .These groupings have been known to shape the lifestyles of many individuals in a positive or negative manner. This influence has widely been christened “peers pressure”. Youths in their adolescent ages tend to form groupings that could be constructive or destructive in nature thereby doing activities in a particular trend or fashion. Destructive groupings are formed as a result of interaction with delinquent persons and could include drug abuse groups and criminal gang groups among others. Drug trafficking and abuse groups could be very dangerous especially to youths emanating from humble backgrounds. Considering they are desperate to make ends meet, they engage in almost anything to obtain sources of livelihood. Drug abuse itself could be disastrous in that it could lead to behavioral disorders that consequently lead to homicidal acts among the youths.
It could also lead to very grave misconducts of a sexual nature i.e. rape and other sexual related offences. The criminal gangs on their side induce criminal activities into the members who get involved with them. Criminal gangs therefore act as channels through which juvenile delinquents are created. Peer influence could also be explained by the social learning theory that states that individuals tend to do things that they have seen their compatriots or other people do. Drug abuse would be one such activity. Stealing and living affluently with little or no struggle the risks involved notwithstanding, would sure enough act as an incentive to youths who may want to try new things out thereby indulging in criminal activities.
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Apart from peer influence, criminal acts among youths could be influenced by environmental settings. As discovered by Ernest Burgess and Robert Park, the ecological theory of geographical settings would influence crime activities in a big way. The nature and frequency of criminal acts would depend hugely on humans and their existence with the environment. This can be referred to as the effect of the crime-prone neighbors. The ecological theory extrapolates further the idea that most criminal activities are witnessed along transition zones of the concentric pattern attributed to Burgess. Urbanization has been credited with the growth of slums that have further created conducive conditions for criminal acts to be perpetrated mostly by the youth (Hall, 2007). Neighborhood decay can lead to widespread acts of crime as exhibited in the broken windows theory. Herein, the youths can be involved in various unlawful acts considering heir environment. A child living in a poor social and economic environment characterized by crime would be a place at a higher risk of practicing these behaviors considering it is part of life that he has (Hall, 2007). This shows how behavior enforcement occurs among children. With poverty and issues of unemployment acting as the driving forces of all these criminal acts it remains a prevalent activity in slums where these two conditions exist at exceptionally high levels. The effects of the surrounding could be devastating to the individual and the family/community as a whole if not checked properly.
Other social factors could be relatively small in nature but their effects could be great. Such factors could include social norms and community expectations on an individual, the issue of race and health conditions of an individual. The societal expectations on an individual would put too much pressure on him to deliver to the set standards. Youths especially, are always expected to go through the schooling system and attain educational honors to help not only their families but the community as a whole. In most cases however, certain youths fail to ward off this pressure and end up embracing crime to conform to the societal expectations. The issue of race also plays an integral part in the way criminal activities are conducted.
In America for instance, the minor African-American and the aboriginal Canadian groups would in certain circumstances feel inferior to the predominantly white race. In order to attain equality and nice lifestyles, crime would be sought as an option and in that case increasing such activities. The most affected groups are mostly the teenagers who in trying to attain total independence from parental rule like in the case of their white counterparts, would try to indulge in activities that would provide livelihood for them; crime. Though more of a physical than a social or economic factor, an individual’s health condition would count a lot in determining how the individual would relate to the environment and even societal expectations. Poor health conditions would even lead to conduct disorders that arise at childhood but manifests at the adolescent period, or worse could lead to antisocial personality disorders. This in turn could lead to the perpetration of violence by the affected adolescent.
It must be noted that poverty and social influences act to affect the levels of criminal activities among youths in a very big way. It should also be noted that a majority if not all of the situations that have been discussed above are activities that characterize poor individuals. Therefore, poverty is reflected as the biggest issue that characterizes criminal activities. Necessary measures should be put in place to control delinquent juvenile acts from growing.