Juvenile Delinquency | Theories and Risk Factors

Although some individuals may be born with a predisposition to violence or criminal behavior, the general consensus among forensic psychologists is that in the majority of cases, beginning at birth, a child is exposed to various risk factors that contribute to the development of antisocial behaviors and juvenile offending. Juvenile delinquency, the focus of these posts, will be explored in greater detail in terms of the reasons for antisocial behavior and any measures that can be taken to prevent an offending trajectory; beginning with the relevant statistics pertaining to juvenile criminal activity, and the various well-known psychological theories on the causes of juvenile delinquency, including: the theories of judgment and decision making, along with the social neurocognitive developmental approach. We will explore the various risk factors of juvenile offending and recidivism. Recent research findings will also juvenile delinquency | criminal attorneybe mentioned as they relate to the discussion of the topic. A brief discussion on adolescents’ abilities to make informed decisions regarding their rights and their criminal cases will also be included in the last entry.

In 2010, 4% of individuals 18 and below were arrested in the United States, which equates to over 1.3 million criminal cases that were processed in juvenile courts; cases consisted of 37% property offenses, 25% persons offenses, 12% drug offenses, and the remainder various types of public order arrests. Half of these cases involved individuals under the age of 16. Although roughly two-thirds of juvenile cases involved adolescent Caucasians, African American and American Indian youth had higher rates of arrest per 1,000: 87.6 per 1,000 African Americans under the age of 18 were involved in criminal cases, 36.6 per 1,000 American Indian, and 36.4 per 1,000 Caucasian. It is also worth mentioning that men are more likely to commit crimes, especially violent crimes.

Juvenile delinquency is a global concern, although the rates of delinquency vary depending on the culture. In China for example, only 1% of individuals below the age of 20 were arrested for a criminal offense in 2010, the majority of which were nonviolent crimes. Along with cultural differences, researchers hypothesize that personality traits of individuals differ between Asian cultures and that of the United States and European Nations. Although the various risk factors are thought to be applicable across cultures, differences in personality influence how these life events are interpreted and to what extent they may negatively affect normative adolescent development.

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