Public concern is escalating on children engaging in crimes at an age below thirteen years. The young offenders are at a great risk of becoming extremely violent and dangerous criminals if appropriate intervention and prevention to curb their behaviors is not initiated. The number of child offenders handled by juvenile courts is on an upward trend since 1997 when the numbers of child cases was about two hundred thousand children below thirteen years. Currently, juvenile courts have to deal with cases of children offenders approximately one million two hundred thousand. It is apparent that majority of the offenses reported are arsons, sex offenses and violent offenses. Reports on child offenders indicate that a child who starts to engage in delinquent activities at a tender age of less than thirteen years is at a higher risk of becoming a prolonged criminal in comparison to those who engage in crime at ages above thirteen years. Based on diverse studies on how juvenile offenders are handled by mental health institutions, juvenile justice system and social services, several operative methods of intervention and prevention have been developed to address the juvenile offenders. The paper will discuss the intervention and preventive methods to guarantee that juvenile delinquency is tackled at a tender age of youngsters.
Chapple, (2005), affirms that there are three types of child delinquents faced by the juvenile justice system in the United States. The first group of juvenile delinquents is the serious child delinquents. These are predominantly children who have committed offenses such as aggravated assault, rape, robbery, extreme arson and homicide more than once. The second group of offenders is other child delinquents who have committed offenses for an initial time. The last group is juvenile depicting persistent disruptive behaviors. The behaviors include incorrigibility and truancy. The offences may result to offences.
Early Disruptive Behaviors among Juveniles
Early disruptive behaviors among children can be identified at the preschool period. Preschool environment is a fundamental stage merely because juvenile delinquency can be addressed at an early stage. Preschool setting is a pivotal environment in comprehending young offenders and setting up of preventive interventions. This is because of the following critical reasons. First, it is apparent that predicative relationship in child delinquency exists between preschool settings and later extends to the later stages where the child is typified with behavior disorder and delinquency. Second, it is palpable that disruptive code of conduct among child offenders is a primary source of referral to mental health services in preschool children. Third, crucial developmental skills that play a central role in child delinquency are developed in the preschool setting. The skills include language development. Lastly, it is observable that comprehending the disruptive behaviors among children at the early stage of preschool will play a pivotal role in addressing the delinquency (Maschi, 2006).
There are several factors in preschool period that play a decisive role in developing a positive or negative anti-social behavior among children. The factors make certain that either positive or negative antisocial behaviors gained extent to adulthood of the child. The first factor is language. Language is the essential means utilized in communication between parents and children. A delayed language development among children results to increased level of stress among children. Increased stress affects their socialization capability and increases criminality prevalence of the child (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray & Ray, 2003).
The second factor is temperamental characteristics. Temperamental illustration is the tendency of children to certain behaviors factored by definite environmental factors. Temperamental characteristics: negative moods such as angers and difficulty in emotional control by children are prior factor to antisocial and delinquent behaviors. The third factor is limited attachment to caregivers. An early infant-mother bond plays a central role in determining the behaviors of a child. The closer the child is to the mother the less the chances of the child engaging in the criminality behaviors (Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray & Ray, 2003).
Risk Predictor and Factors
Adams, Robertson, Gray-Ray & Ray, (2003), state that risks and predicting factors for child delinquency are majorly contrasting to those depicted by older juvenile offenders. The dominant factors in children offenders that can be prevented and intervened are family, biological and individual factors.
Early Risk Factors in Child Offenders
In the preschool period it is ostensible that risk factors, which determine criminality of a child, are chiefly family and individuality influences. Definite predictors such as a high level of impulsivity and aggression among children are credited to factors such as genetics and surrounding environment of the child. Carmen & Trulson, (2005), uphold that the compelling predictor for delinquency among the children is aggressive behaviors especially when they are less than twelve years old. This simply means that parents and kindergarten caregivers stand in an excellent position to determine the aggressiveness of the child. Based on an Oregon study that was carried out in different countries such as Canada, New Zealand, United States, England and Sweden it is obvious antisocial behaviors in children is a crucial factor that sets stage for criminality traits. This is especially the case for the male children in comparison to female.
This merely means that an onset of negative behaviors among children at tender ages purely acts as indicators to a more serious negative code of conduct especially at an older age. In another research study presented on the juvenile offenders it was noticeable that juvenile offenders at their late preteens in offenses such as violence and property offenses have pre-records that are epitomized by: presence of behavior problems in the preschool years, covert and aggressive manners such as lying and impulsive and hyperactive manners at their tender ages (Carmen & Trulson, 2005).
The family also plays a part in the onset of criminality traits among child offenders. This is through encouraging of antisocial behaviors among children. This is through parents exposing children to stressful upbringing. This is palpable through parents being antisocial, substance or drug abusing parents, parents utilizing poor parenting methods, family violence, physical abusive parents, large families and parental psychopathology.
Peers: Peers are a documented influence that plays an extremely momentous role in child delinquency. The factor has the ability to accelerate rate of criminal behaviors among children. This is through association of a child with peers who have deviant behaviors, peer rejection which leads to negative consequences and depiction of antisocial manners in children with continuous premature unsettling behaviors. When children start to grow the number of risk factors to derail them to delinquent habits expand. This is attributed to the presence of environmental factors stimulated by peers. It is obvious that the deviant peer association is directly linked to juvenile offending. Studies have affirmed the deviant peers play an exceptional role in compelling youths with a previous history of non-deviant behaviors to start engaging in delinquent behaviors (Loeber & Farringtomn, 2001).
Moreover, association of deviant juveniles with other deviant peers leads to a high affinity of being arrested at tender ages for criminal offenses in comparison to those who do not engage in deviant behaviors. Other studies have confirmed that presence of delinquent older siblings leads to the younger child to engage in delinquent (Loeber & Farringtomn, 2001).
Peer rejection is another fundamental issue, which results to antisocial behaviors that lead to juvenile delinquency. According to the Oregon Youth Study it was distinguishable that rejection in the first grade by peers played a decisive role in a later delinquency trait of a juvenile. This simply means that a rejection in the first grade can act as a marker to intervene in order to control the antisocial behaviors. Peer rejection of a child is also an indicator of an adolescent and child delinquency. This is chiefly because a rejection by the peers may force an adolescent to associate with bad company such as gangs in order to compensate for the rejections (Loeber & Farringtomn, 2001).
Race and Gender: Siegal, & Welsh, (2011), state that youths of minority races in the United States such as Latinos and African Americans are overrepresented in juvenile delinquency statistics. This is contrary white Americans. Moreover, it is also unmistakable that male children are overrepresented in juvenile delinquency. This is specifically in committing of offenses considered crime if committed by adults. This is converse to female children. Female children have limited number of documented crimes. In addition, most of the documented offenses committed by female juveniles are status offenses. This simply highlights the relative role that race and gender play in children delinquency. Male children who are African Americans or Latinos are at high risks of committing offenses in comparison to male white children. Moreover, a male child is at a high risk of engaging in deviant behaviors as compared to a girl child.
Interventions and preventive measures to Juvenile Delinquency
Presently, majority of the intervention and behavioral management programs for juvenile offenders are concentrated on the mid ages of teens in adolescent and high schools. This simply means that the root cause of the delinquent behavior is never addressed. The interventions address an already existing problem of juvenile delinquency. Behavioral management tools and interventions should be concentrated at an early stage to tackle the root cause of juvenile delinquency. This is merely ensuring that juvenile delinquency is prevented compared to tackling them at a later stage of a juvenile. Preventive mechanisms that target to address the aggressive nature of the juveniles, antisocial behaviors, family issues, peer rejection and other risk factors have to be initiated to tackle the issue of juvenile delinquency at an early stage.
Promising Interventions Programs at School and Community Level
Based on a research by Martin, (2005), he confirms that the most promising intervention and preventive programs for delinquency among children in school and communities include the following: Classroom behavior management programs. This is a program that is designed to check on the behaviors depicted by juveniles at their tender ages. The program is to guarantee that children who illustrate contrary behaviors such as antisocial, aggressive and violent behaviors are tackled. This is through have specialized staff to address the issue. The second intervention program is social competency curriculums. Curriculums for the juveniles should be fashioned to guarantee that the study has a commitment to school and dedicated to school work. This will reduce chances of students engaging in crime because of lack of interest to school curriculum.
The third intervention program is conflict resolution and violence prevention curriculums. Schools and communities should structure curriculums that start to address the issues of violence and help students to resolve conflicts amicably. This will guarantee that children grow up with knowledge on how to resolve conflicts they face. The fourth program is schools initiating mentoring programs at extremely tender ages of children. Students should be mentored to guarantee that they grow up to become law abiding people both inn adolescent stage and adult stage. This will make certain that children live within expected societal norms and values (Martin, 2005).
The fifth intervention program is initiating bullying prevention programs. Bullying leads to juvenile delinquency both to the perpetrator and victim. This is merely because bullying leads to peer rejection of the victims. This may force the victim to associate with deviant prone students. Contrary, perpetrators maintaining the habit of bullying others lead to criminality traits in the future. The last intervention program is community intervention programs. This is through the community establishing facilities that address issues of child delinquency with the intention of preventing them. This would result to reduced juvenile delinquency (Martin, 2005).
Juvenile Justice Intervention Programs
Panel on Juvenile Crime Prevention, et al, (2001), conclude that currently the juvenile justice system acts as an institution where all the cases of juvenile delinquency that have not been addressed by other institution are forwarded to tackle them. The juvenile justice chiefly does not have any clear intervention program to tackle child delinquency. Majority of programs present in the juvenile justice system address delinquency among juvenile offenders above thirteen years. This simply means that the system does not have any preventive intervention that can act as a program to address the root cause of juvenile delinquency which starts at preschool stages.
Nonetheless, scholars are designing intervention programs that are more preventive of child delinquency instead of rehabilitation oriented programs present in the juvenile justice system. The programs are an effort of collaboration among law enforcers, schools, health facilities and the community. The apparent programs that should be embraced entirely in United States are the following:
Michigan Early Offender Program: The program was initiated to provide specialized in-home intervention and preventive juvenile programs to youths below thirteen years. This is especially for the cases of children who appear for the first adjudication process or have had a prior contact with law enforcers (Lemert, 2010).
Minnesota Delinquents under Ten Programs: The program is a structured intervention to guarantee that parents receive admonishment letter advising parents on protective programs for their children. Moreover, the program advices parents on available programs to address delinquency among children (Lemert, 2010).
Toronto under Twelve Outreach Project: The intervention program by the Canadian Juvenile justice system ensure that multisystemic perspectives incorporating preventive and incorporation programs that target the child delinquent, parents, communities and schools are utilized. For example the programs ensure that there is an expedited service for delinquent children by a centralized police protocol (Lemert, 2010).
Sacramento County Community Intervention Program: The program incorporates services that are provided by community intervention specialist. The specialist has the responsibility of conducting a family assessment on several issues that lead to juvenile delinquency. The issues include: mental and physical health, economic capability, substance abuse, family functioning, family needs, vocational needs and social functioning of the family (Lemert, 2010).
Preventive mechanisms are an essential for the development of juvenile who are law abiding citizens. The preventive mechanisms for juveniles especially when they are young include the effort of parents, teachers and the society. The crucial preventive measures include the following:
Nurturing of child centered orientation attitudes: This is a preventive mechanism where children in the society are made aware of the need to obey established laws, regulations and norms guiding the society. This is achieved through awareness programs that are facilitated by the state governments.
Parents nurturing a law abiding attitudes among juveniles: The most compelling stage to introduce a child to the differentiation of what is wrong and right is at a tender age. The most advisable age is below twelve years. Parents have to nurture a positive attitude towards understanding that engaging in outlawed activities has repercussions. This will guarantee that juveniles grow up to be law abiding citizens.
Encouraging mandatory elementary classes on juvenile delinquency: The school curriculum have programs that play a pivotal role in child delinquency. The curriculum should be modeled to guarantee that there are mandatory juvenile delinquency classes for all students. The classes will play a pivotal role in preventing of juvenile delinquency.
Juvenile delinquents exclusively children make up a population that needs distinctive attention through invention programs to make certain that they reform to be law abiding teenagers that live by expected societal norms and values. This is particularly the case for children with violent, aggressive and disruptive behaviors. Intervention and preventive programs should be initiated because of the following reasons. First, child delinquents are a significant problem in the society that has to be addressed. This is simply because subjecting children offenders to preventive and intervention programs is easier in comparison to adolescent delinquents or adults.
Second, is merely because information on child delinquency in the United States is limited. Majority of information available is on juveniles at older ages of thirteen years and above. This means the government has to invest more on child delinquency which tends to address the root cause at an early stage. Third, juvenile delinquency programs for children below thirteen years are extremely expensive for families. This is attributed to the younger and tender ages of the offenders making them expensive. Lastly, early juvenile delinquency prevention is essential and cost benefit at the end in comparison to addressing the program at an adult level. This is apparent in the confinement budgetary allocation to rehabilitate criminals in the United States (Shears & Furhan, 2008).
Juveniles are a crucial part in the society. This is merely because of their ability to provide the future manpower for the country. The rates of high profile juvenile crimes risk the success of the juveniles. This is attributed to the fact that the juvenile justice system invests more on rehabilitation programs for juveniles above thirteen years. Nevertheless, it is necessary that the juvenile justice system has to initiate programs that address child delinquency at an early stage. This is chiefly because prevention at an early stage of a juvenile is exceptionally cheap.
Adams, M. S., Robertson, T, C., Gray-Ray, P., & Ray, C, M. (2003). Labeling and Delinquency. Journal of Adolescence, 3(149), 171-186.
Carmen, V., R. & Trulson, R., C. (2005). Juvenile Justice: System, Process, and the Law. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning
Chapple, L. C. (2005). Self-Control, Peer Relations and Delinquency. Journal of Justice Quarterly, 22 (1), 89-106.
Howell, C. J. (2003). Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework. SAGE.
John, E. R. (1979). Juvenile Delinquency and Its Origins: An Integrated Theoretical Approach. CUP Archive.
Lemert, M. E. (2010). The Juvenile Court System: Social Action and Legal Change. Transaction Publishers.
Loeber, R., & Farringtomn, P. D. (2001). Child Delinquents: Development, Intervention, and Service Needs. SAGE.
Loeber, R. (2008). Tomorrow's Criminals: The Development of Child Delinquency and Effective Interventions. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Martin, G. (2005). Juvenile Justice: Process and Systems. SAGE.
Maschi, T. (2006). Unraveling the link between Trauma and Male Delinquency: The Cumulative Verses Differential Risk Perspective. Journal of Social Work, 51(1), 59-70.
Panel on Juvenile Crime Prevention, et al. (2001). Juvenile Crime, Juvenile Justice. National Academies Press.
Shears, K. J., & Furhan, R. (2008). Examining Interpersonal Relationship Predictors of Delinquency across Ethnic and Racial Samples. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 22(3-4), 289-299.
Shoemakler, J. D. (2013). Juvenile Delinquency. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Cengage Learning.
Siegal, J. L., & Welsh, C. B. (2011). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice and Law, 11th Ed.: Theory, Practice, and Law.
Siegal, J. L., & Welsh, C. B. (2010). Juvenile Delinquency: The Core: The Core. Cengage Learning.