When the behavioral pattern of children becomes harmful, it is called delinquency. Children who receive adequate parental supervision are less likely to engage in criminal activities.
“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” – Mahatma Gandhi
A juvenile, or child, according to law, is a person who is less than the age of 18 years. When a child tends to break the law, he or she is said to have delinquent behaviour. These acts are not called ‘crimes’ but are termed as “Delinquent acts”, and the child who does the violative act is termed as a “delinquent juvenile”.
Adolescence, which is an age of instability and a time of character building of a child, is a very delicate phase; any unreasonable restriction or unbridled freedom given to the child then can result in juvenile delinquency. These children do not behave normally according to their age. They suffer either from superiority complex or inferiority complex, and tend to affect the society positively or negatively. When the behavioral pattern becomes harmful, it is called delinquency. Such delinquency may or may not amount to crime.
Causes of Juvenile Delinquency
There are number of factors that are based on socio-economic and psychological reasons that cause juvenile delinquency. Poverty, broken families, family problems, emotional abuse, rural-urban migration, break-down of social values and of joint family system, atrocities and abuses by parents or guardians, faulty educational system, the negative influence of media, besides the unhealthy living conditions of slums, and such other conditions explain the phenomena of juvenile delinquency. Some of the important factors are discussed below:
Urbanization and Modernization: Urbanization portrays a lifestyle which is beyond the capacity of most of the families. The children are easily affected; they crave for such lifestyle, and are ready to go to any extent to maintain a lifestyle they cannot afford. The constant conflict between idealized and socially approved goals and the real-life opportunity to achieve them create a sense of frustration and disappointment in the youth. The process of urbanization in developing countries is contributing to juvenile involvement in criminal behavior.
Family and Environment: Children who receive adequate parental supervision are less likely to engage in criminal activities. Dysfunctional family settings that include conflict, inadequate parental control, weak internal linkages and integration are closely associated with juvenile delinquency. A child born in a home where there is lack of security and absence of peace and unity is more likely to become morally maladjusted.
Lack of / too much Discipline: Defective discipline is closely related to delinquency. Home discipline is an essential feature for non-delinquent children.
But too much of discipline is even worse. The child either tends to retaliate openly, or tries to avoid by staying away from home most of the time. Then chances of juvenile delinquency become automatically high.
Another form of discipline called the ‘irresponsible discipline’, i.e. where the child is alternately loved and scolded or where emotions are used as weapons to influence the child, is seen in literate families. Such discipline is no discipline at all. The child soon learns his way around it and plays with the parents’ emotions. This is a slow drift of the child towards a disaster.
Movies and Media: The movies and media portray deliverance of justice through the physical elimination of enemies and show criminality and violence as sources to convert injustice to justice. This has a great impact on the young mind which tries to imitate what it sees. According to the American Psychological Association, ‘television violence accounts for about 10% of aggressive behavior among children’. The media needs to be more responsible, and parental guidance is essential for children watching television, internet etc.
Impact of Friends: With age child creates his or her own social circle where there is an association that is built outside home and family. This associational impact needs to be monitored as children who feel insecure and disappointed on the home front can easily fall prey to bad company and become deviant.
Lack of Recreation and Sports: Recreation and sports help in the development of a healthy mind. Today, with the advent of technological toys, social media etc. the modes of recreation have changed, and there is lesser indulgence in outdoor games. Sports and games tend to harness the energy into productive energy; otherwise they tend to fall prey to negative forces that can push them into the darkness of delinquency.
The Way Forward
The neglect of children by their parents, family, society and the nation create negative effect on their physical and mental growth and overall development. So, every responsible citizen has to come forward to prevent juvenile delinquency, and to work towards the proper rehabilitation and social re-integration of delinquent children.
The family is the first school for a child. Therefore efforts should be made to preserve the integrity of the family and provide necessary assistance in resolving conditions of instability or conflict. The virtues of self control and containment can be taught in the family, by the family. Parents should be educated on the parental role and obligation towards their children, and encourage more community based activities. Educational systems should work with parents, community organizations and agencies concerned with children.
By engaging children in lawful, socially useful activities, adopting humanized orientation etc. the prevalence of juvenile delinquency can be curbed. This requires effort from the entire society to develop a healthy personality in children from early childhood, providing them with active role and partnership within the society.
The society needs to encourage the children to be law abiding, honest, and peace loving citizens of the nation. Having social counselors can also help the parents and the children in resolving their conflicts and doubts so as to choose the righteous path. Participation in community service activities is another way of playing an active role in the society. They include:
(i) Cleaning a park
(ii) Getting involved with Habitat for Humanity
(iii) Serving the elderly in nursing homes
(iv) Helping out a local fire or police department
(v) Helping out at a local hospital or nursing home
(vi) Serving disabled children, etc.
The media and other voluntary organizations, by conducting regular competitions, quizzes, campaigns, etc., can promote mental and physical development of children, and also increase awareness among parents.
Our children are our assets; we need to develop our assets to the best of our ability and prevent any damage to them. We all constitute the society and nation. It is, therefore, our duty to ensure that requisite care is taken of every child and, particularly, of a child, who is uncared for, or a child, whose misfortune may have brought him into conflict with law, so that each child grows up and shapes into a responsible, law-abiding and respectful citizen.
NOTE: For a more comprehensive understanding of the issue, refer the writer’s book “Juvenile Delinquency” published by Amar Law Publications, Indore.
(Dr. Sheetal Kanwal, B.Sc. BHMS, CGO, LL.B, LL.M, is a Clinician and Physician, Educationist, Author of Law Books and Entrepreneur)