During the past few decades, juvenile arrests for violent crimes have reached an enormous rate. Violent youth have received much attention in the social science literature as well as the mass media over the past decades. Finding the main cause of juvenile delinquency and violence crimes may become more of an issue not only for law enforcement, but also among the social scientists, healthcare personnel, psychologist, state legislators and governors.
Crime among juveniles is not a new phenomenon, and the trend has been increasing in the recent past. It is noted that in the late 20th century, concern has been on the rise in respect to the criminal acts that have been committed by the youths. There has been a general belief that the youths are becoming more violent and out of control. It is also noted that the way in which the juvenile justice system has responded to the matter has been inadequate. There have been policies to address the problem of juvenile violence with calls to make the juvenile justice system to be more disciplinary than it is as of now (Bennett, DiIulio and Walters, 1996).
Changes have been implemented to make it possible for young offenders to be easily transferred to conventional justice system so as to deal with them in a more comprehensive manner. The data on juvenile violent crime have been very important in the debates surrounding the juvenile crime policies (Zimring, 1981). Within this study, the independent variables will include public high school dropout rate; percentage of children living in poverty; and the rate per 1000 of child abuse and neglect. On the other hand, the dependent variable in this paper will be violent crime rate per 100,000.
There is no doubt that the high school dropout rate has an impact on the violent crime executed by the young individuals. It is general knowledge that the young individuals dropping out of school fail to achieve the necessary skills and credentials to be able to survive in the increasingly competitive modern society. Completing high school education is necessary for one to gain entry into higher educational institutions for specialized studies. In this regard, high school drop-outs are most likely to remain unemployed compared to those who finish their high school education. This is because high school dropouts in most cases lack the necessary requirements for the available jobs in the market. Therefore, they are likely to end up living an impoverished life depending much on government assistance (McCord, Widom, Crowell and ebrary, Inc., 2001).
In addition, high school dropouts are likely to end up as criminals in an effort to fend for themselves. Indeed research has indicated that most violent criminals are high school drop outs. It has been indicated that high school dropouts are three and a half times more to engage in criminal behavior compared to graduates. Furthermore, research has indicated that a 10% point increase in the rates of high school graduation has led to positive results with close to 20% reduction in murder and assaults being registered (SLJ Staff, 2008).
In a report entitled, “School or the Streets: Crime and America’s Dropout Crisis,” it was observed that: “Increasing graduation rates by 10 percentage points would prevent over 3,000 murders and nearly 175,000 aggravated assaults in America each year,” (SLJ Staff, 2008, p 3). It has also been observed that over 3,400 murders and over 170,000 assaults in the whole nation stand to be prevented if the high school graduation was boosted by 10% (Gannett News Service, 2008). Generally, it is claimed that close to 70% of the prison population is comprised of high school drop outs. The Boston District Attorney, Daniel Conley, noted that high numbers of high school drop outs presented a threat to public safety (Gannett News Service, 2008).
Apart from the high school dropout rate having an impact on the juvenile violent crimes, it is worthy to note that children living in poor conditions are likely to engage in violent crime. During the 19th century, the children who had been abandoned in the streets because of poverty turned to crime. Also, those who found themselves living in crowded houses where they received inadequate parental attention resorted to criminal activities in search for a way to survive (Greenwood, 1869).
In some instances, these young individuals could not acknowledge that they were engaging in wrong activities. This is because most of these children did not have access to essential things in life. According to James Greenwood, “they have an ingrained conviction that it is you who are wrong, not them. That you are wrong in the first place in appropriating all the good things the world affords, leaving none for them but what they steal,” (Greenwood, 1869, p 2). There is no doubt that destitution is a breeding ground for criminal behavior. Crime and homelessness, which emanates from poverty, is often closely linked. It has also been noted that impoverished children can easily be recruited to criminal gangs where they engage in violent crime to serve the interests of their senior gang members.
Having discussed the two aspects that contribute to violent crimes committed by the young individuals, it is also important to look at the third factor which contributes to the engagement in violent crimes by the youths. It is a fact that the social environment in which an individual grows may influence the character of the person in a great deal. In this respect, crime may be affected by the social environment in which the children grow. Following this perspective, it is worth noting that child abuse and neglect may determine the child’s engagement in violent criminal activities (McCord, Widom, Crowell and ebrary, Inc., 2001).
A study conducted in the United States indicated that in the year 2006, more than 900,000 children were subjected to child abuse and neglect (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2008). Though child neglect and abuse may be measured in terms of the physical harm, it must be noted that it can have far-reaching consequences which are long term. The psychological and behavioral problems associated with child abuse and neglect may be expressed in terms of high-risk behavior which may include engagement in violent crimes. There is ample evidence which connect child abuse and child neglect to criminal behavior. In fact, it has been asserted that the connection between later violent crime and child abuse is irrefutable and quite reliable (Zingraff, Leiter, Myers, and Johnsen, 1993). Various studies have continued to indicate that a relationship do exist between child abuse and neglect and violence among the young members of the society (Carter, 2004)
There is no doubt that violent crime among the young people is a product of various aspects. From the analysis provided, high school dropout rate; poverty; and child abuse and neglect contribute to increased incidences of violent crimes among the young people. Therefore, it can be observed that the different backgrounds from which the young people are raised play a major role in shaping their behavioral pattern.
High school dropout rate, poverty, and child abuse and neglect are major contributors to violent crimes by the juveniles.
There is no relationship between school dropout rate, poverty, and child abuse and neglect and violent crimes by the juveniles.
In undertaking this research work, descriptive research design will be implemented to provide explanation to the criminal trend observed among the young people. In this case, the research will aspire to provide answers to the questions arising from the observed trend in which young people are getting involved in criminal activities. In this regard, the research will try to give reasons to why young people engage in crime. To realize the intended objectives, the research design will employ various data collection methods which will enable the collection of reliable information for analysis. The descriptive research design will rely on interviews, questionnaire administration and surveys in getting information that is useful for the study (De Vaus, 2001).
Interviews will be conducted in the crime prone areas which will be identified after an analysis of data from criminal agencies in the United States. This will ensure that relevant information is easily gathered from the people who are most affected by the incidences of crime from the young members of the society. Apart from the interviews, questionnaires will be distributed to a sample population to enable the gathering of more information related to crime among the young people. In addition, surveys will be conducted to shed more light on the aspect of crime among the young people. Therefore, this research can be said to have employed various tools of data collection including interviews, questionnaire and survey (De Vaus, 2001).
Data Analysis Procedures
This study will rely on qualitative data analysis in synthesizing the findings of the study. It is worth to note that qualitative data analysis is critical when aspiring to answer the how and why questions (Nolan, 1994). This analysis does not involve statistics which is the case in quantitative analysis. It has been established that qualitative research is only used to study individuals’ attitudes, behaviors, value systems and aspirations among other social aspects (Lewis-Beck, 1995; Nolan, 1994). Since the focus of this study is to elaborate on the aspect of juvenile criminality, qualitative analysis was identified as the most appropriate method to analyze the collected data.
After data has been collected from the interviews, questionnaires and surveys, analysis of the data will begin. First of all, the data that will have been collected will be sorted out, and then made available for analysis. The sorting will ensure that irrelevant data that may have been collected is eliminated in the course of analysis. This also enables the research to achieve its intended objectives (Hardy and Bryman, 2009).
After a critical analysis of the data that was collected, it was found out that criminal behavior among the young people was affected by various aspects. First of all, it was revealed that high school dropout rate was closely related to criminal behavior among the young people. In this case, most of the young people who did not complete high school education often engaged in criminal activities to fend for themselves. These individuals were not capable of securing decent employment as they did not have the necessary skills required for them to secure good employment. Given that these young people are locked out of the lucrative job market, they easily join the criminal gangs to make their ends meet. Such young people easily fall victims to peer pressure whereby they are attracted to the short-term benefits that accrue from the criminal behavior (Rouček, 1970).
Peer pressure has been identified as one of the elements that lures the youths into committing crime. It has been established that delinquent behavior is prone to happen in a social setting. In such social settings social norms that enhance responsible behavior are usually broken. In this case, most of the rules and regulations preventing individuals from engaging in criminal behavior lose significance. Members of the gangs often engage in criminal activities as a response to the traumatizing and destructive changes taking place in the society (Burfeind and Bartusch, 2011).
Poverty has also emerged as one of the main causes of criminal behavior among the youths. The gap between the haves and have-nots has continued to rise leading to what has been referred to as ‘the unwanted others.’ There has been the emergence of the welfare systems to cater for the poor in the society, but this has not addressed the problem related to humble socio-economic status in the society and the ever-rising dependence of the low income earners on social security arrangements. This has led to the emergence of a ‘new poor’ class (Rouček, 1970).
It was reported that in neighborhoods which were home to moderate and low income earners, they were highly associated with criminal behavior. Here, the young people engaged in criminal activity due to the poor conditions in which they lived. It can be argued that the main reason for taking part in criminal activities was to enable the young criminals to have something to eat since their economic condition was pathetic. Engaging in criminal activities was seen as the easy way out for these young offenders in making ends meet (Burfeind and Bartusch, 2011). As much as this can be despicable, it was the explanation was revealed by the findings of this undertaking.
Another aspect that was revealed was that child neglect and abuse had an impact on the criminality of young people. From the statistics that were gathered from the criminal justice departments, it was revealed that most of the youth who engaged in criminal activities had a troubled past. They were subjected to neglect and abuse by their families and care givers which pushed them into criminal activities. It is true that when children are growing, they need to be taken care of and nurtured to embrace the established societal norms (Burfeind and Bartusch, 2011).
From the data and analysis provided, it can be established that juvenile delinquency and engagement in criminal activities is determined by various factors. The factors identified as key to engagement of the young people in criminal activities include high school dropout rate; poverty; and child abuse and neglect. These aspects contribute to increased incidences of violent crimes among the young people. Therefore, it can be asserted that addressing the elements which have been associated with criminal activities among the young people will play a vital role in curbing juvenile delinquency. There is need to curb the rate of high school dropout to enable the young people gain necessary skills needed in the job market. Also, it is important to ensure that the issue of poverty is addressed so as to accord the young people at least an average lifestyle. Lastly, the families and caregivers need to be taught about the importance of providing the young people with an appropriate environment for their growth. Child neglect and abuse should be avoided to enable the young people grow in a righteous path.
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