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«The Motivation of Juvenile Delinquency» - Great Essay Sample

«The Motivation of Juvenile Delinquency»

Nowadays society faces an issue: juvenile delinquency is increasing dramatically and rapidly; its structure and character are radically changing. It is important to understand the essence of this phenomenon, to see why it happens. Organized crimes committed by adults greatly affect juvenile delinquency and crimes committed by young people; moreover, those crimes subordinate juvenile delinquency, using age and physical features of young people in criminal purposes. Public danger of teen and youth crimes increases, as its organization, intellectualization and technical equipment are in constant development. Today, one of eight crimes is committed by juveniles.

Juvenile delinquency today is totally different than 10, 5 or even 2 years ago despite the fact that the symptoms are similar. It is changing quantitatively and qualitatively and extremely fast. However, neither teachers nor practical psychologists nor law enforcement officers are psychologically prepared for its rapid change. They cannot even explain the reasons of such a dramatic growth. Because of this, serious shortcomings in preventive work can be seen nowadays. A necessary condition for effective work on detection and investigation of crimes, committed by juveniles, is knowledge of motivation and reasons for teenage crime.

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Juvenile delinquency or youth delinquency is one of the most pressing social problems all over the world. Growth of this type of crime is inherent primarily in the developed countries. The main causes of juvenile delinquency and youth delinquency are youth unemployment, a lack of confidence in the future, dissatisfaction with modern way of governance etc.

Thus, according to the West German police, 14% of all offenders, arrested in 2009, did not have a permanent job. Among the perpetrators, who committed a qualified theft, 25% were unemployed. .They have committed 28% of a total number of violent crimes, and 34% of a total number of robberies.

Western experts expressed other opinions about the causes of growth of juvenile crimes. So, the head of the Federal Bureau of Juvenile Justice and Crime Prevention of the United States said the major causes of juvenile delinquency are: family breakdown, child abuse, absence of the inalienable rights of children on education, training and living in normal conditions etc. Examination of juveniles in Connecticut showed that 75% of the perpetrators with the most serious acts of violence had been abused by their parents and others. Their share in the total number of people, who have committed violent crimes, was 33%.

Japanese specialists estimated the cause of the current state of juvenile crime in their country peculiarly. They think that an increase in crime is caused by the growth of wealth and its consequences - the stress associated with education, deficiencies in family training, the breakdown of traditional family values, manifestations of individualism etc.

It should be noted that the studies provided by Japanese specialists also show that in most cases juvenile offenders are those who grew up without parents, or children from low income families.

A serious problem for Japanese schools is a lack of specialists in psychotherapy. An increase in violence by parents, teachers and classmates is associated with this problem.

Nowadays, young people are characterized with an increased criminal activity. However, as it is commonly believed, youth is the future of any country. The fate of any society and state depends on their habitual behavior, lifestyle, and personality traits. Not surprisingly, much attention is paid to teenagers and youth crime in criminological, sociological, psychological and pedagogical literature. Although the role of young people and youth is important for the future of the country, an increased criminal activity is not so simple and straightforward. That`s why, it is so important to find out the motivation of violent juvenile crimes.

Murder, grievous bodily harm and rape are considered the most violent crimes committed by teenagers. In 1995, the shares of these crimes in the overall juvenile crime were the following: premeditated murder – 4, 6%, serious injury – 19,9%, rape – 13,8%, hooliganism – 27,5%.

Thus, hooligan actions compose the greatest part of violent crimes. In most cases, assaults and murders start exactly from hooliganism. is the examples of hooliganism are: disturbance of public order, insults at passers, brutal violence, which ends in severe beatings. In most cases the motives of hooligan actions are  bodily harm and murder. Therefore, disclosure of psychological mechanism of hooliganism requires special consideration.

As a result of a criminological research, the need of adolescents in self-assertiveness, provided in such an ugly way, is the basis of crimes, involving disturbance of public order.

The need for self-esteem, self-assertiveness is inherent for every person, but it is most inherent for juveniles. It can manifest itself in external, and sometimes ugly or funny shapes, such as extravagance of dress and demeanor, bravado on generally accepted standards, etc. The main areas of teenagers’ self-assertiveness are to achieve their recognition, gain prestige, popularity, in family, school, and within their official groups. However, compliance of this need in official groups is dramatically difficult and in most cases impossible for demoralized and socially neglected adolescents. Troubled families, deficiencies in educational activities at school lead to the fact that these minors do not have success in their families and among classmates. Therefore, the main area of self-assertiveness of these individuals is informal peer group, which at first is leisure and then criminogenic. Self-assertiveness of these groups is expressed using false, perverse ways, with immoral, anti-social actions.

Thus, in many cases, illegal hooligan behavior is as an ugly attempt to show teenagers’ "ego" as a form of illusive self-assertiveness.

Motivation mechanism of misbehavior has singularities. First, the crime in these cases does not have apparent external cause, which was the basis for the widely accepted attitude about causeless and unmotivated juvenile delinquency. Second, most of hooliganism cases were committed in a state of alcohol intoxication, which accelerates motivation processes.

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It should be noted that very often motivations of juvenile hooligans are different; juvenile crimes are done under the influence of several reasons, namely the motives of substitution and the motives of false assertiveness. Motives of substitution are expressed in the fact that if the initial goal is unattainable, the person seeks to replace it with another goal which is achievable. Because of the removal actions, mental stress is substituted. Such facts are found mainly in the commission of violent crimes.

Due to the fact that the difficult demoralized teens cannot get the approval of their personality using adequate methods (recognition of the family, succeeding at school, success among classmates), they are under a constant state of mental stress (frustration). Discharge of mental stress usually manifests itself in the form of their aggressive response - delinquency. In the process of hooliganism, the main reasons of committing such actions are:

-  showing aggression and anger;

-  discharge of mental stress (substitution);

-  false, distorted self-assertiveness in the form of humiliation, suppression of other people`s individuality, violence against them etc. In the latter case, psychologists talk about mechanism of overcompensation.

-  As criminologists noted motivation of violent crimes often is adolescent “childish” in nature: the desire to have fun, to show the strength, agility, courage, establishing oneself in the eyes of peers and getting their recognition. The biggest driving force is status motivation, self- assertiveness. Relationships with friends, as it is known, are extremely important at this age.

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-  Loss of friendship or personal status among peers or classmates causes frustration, accompanied with aggressive and hostile feelings toward the source of this frustration - former comrades. The latter can be the object of hostility and revenge of the rejected teenager. Violent teen motivation is highly emotional and situational. In the structure of incentives the need of self-assertiveness prevails. Self-assertiveness expressed through the violence is a typical teen motivation. Often it is combined with cruelty, violent behavior of juveniles. The largest number of cases of violence is among teenagers, aged11-16 years. Often crimes against a person, which are the acts of senseless cruelty and sadism, are committed in the teenage years.

- The criminal actions of teens are described with unjustifiable cruelty, inhumanity, lack of feelings, the slightest compassion and sympathy for the victim. Unfortunately, such cases of cruelty have not yet been fully explained by psychologists and physiologists. It is hardly possible to recognize cruelty as an outcome of deployment of the genetic programming of an individual, which can predetermine the appearance of violence in certain periods of the individual`s life. According to some researchers, in a period of 11 to 16 years, genetically based psychological predetermination of human behavior becomes less weighty. We cannot deny the influence of such a biological factor as puberty, but it forms a background for more decisive influence of social environment but not for delinquency. Most scholars believe that causes of juvenile violence can be found in social conditions of personal development, particularly, in the contradictions of wishes and their satisfaction, in the facts of social injustice, originally transformed through the consciousness of a teenager (when a person does first, but not always successful, attempts of self-realization).

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The causes of malicious actions, revenge, anger and frustration that push adolescents to commit crimes against another person and public order should be found in this sphere.

Psychologists believe that the origins of many personality defects, including callousness, indifference, cruelty etc, are rooted in the relationship of a child with adults, especially parents, or rather, in interpersonal anomalies during early childhood. The study of individual young people  and adults with physiological and psychosomatic disorders, neurotic disorders, difficulties in communication, mental activity etc shows that all these phenomena are much more common among people who suffered from the lack of parental attention and warmth.

Malevolence or inattention of parents causes unconscious hostility of children. This hostility may manifest itself either openly or covertly. Unmotivated cruelty, displayed by some teenagers and young people to strangers, who cannot harm them, is often a consequence of children's experiences. If this impotent aggression is directed inward, it gives a low self-esteem, feelings of guilt, anxiety, and so on.

Deprivation of child's needs of communication, which is manifested especially in the emotional contact with parents, and especially the sense of rejection from mother during the first few months of life, can have irreversible consequences for the child`s future. It can lead to antisocial behavior and persistent display of aggressiveness. Pathology of communication at an early age may lead to later violent motivation and hooliganism.

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The absence of mother, or the so-called deprivation of maternal love, has the greatest distortive influence on the child's personality. J. Bowlby, a modern English psychiatrist, for a long time has been monitoring children of broken families, who were deprived of maternal love from infancy. He made a conclusion that the absence of mother for a child in infancy (from six months to two or three years) leads to reduction of intelligence, nervous tension, and formation of the following stable traits of character: impulsive aggression, the absence of guilty; it means that a teenager is concerned neither with punishment, nor responsibility, and he/she lives in an isolated world where people do not pay any attention to him/her. He/she does not want any friends or acquaintances; he/she is simply indifferent to other people.  Absence of mother during the infant age is the strongest frustrating factor, because it blocks or significantly hampers the satisfaction of crucial basic needs (all needs starting from security to communication and emotional contact) (Bowlby, 2002).

Psychologist A. Becroft points out that "the need of emotional contact can be satisfied only by one person, the child addressed first till the age of three years.  This person is a mother. A child who is separated because of any reason from the mother, as a rule, tries as far as possible to make an emotional connection with any other person. However, this is rarely possible. Attitude of other educators to children can be completely pococurante. When emotional ties begin to be built between a teacher and a child, they are sometimes carelessly and rudely interrupted" (Becroft, 2009).

It was also found that the recovery of interrupted emotional contacts may be renewed maximum four times, and then the child stops to strive for such contacts and, in general, it becomes indifferent to him/her. Then such children become non-contactable, without loyalties and friends. Psychologists and psychiatrists see the key for understanding the problem of deviant behavior among adolescents in this sphere. The study of recidivist offenders aged 15 - 18 years in one of the English reform school has shown that anxiety and aggression, caused in early childhood, determined the tendency of children to crime, including violence actions that they committed in the future (Bowlby, 2002).

Significant role of the development of aggressive behavior of children belongs to home education.

Aggressive feelings can be formed in early childhood as a result of the corresponding reaction of parents on the aggressive behavior of children. If the aggressive behavior of the child is encouraged by others, then a teenager can form aggressive feelings and attitudes towards people and life situations. Psychologist J. Corey, noting dependence between aggression of juveniles and the nature of their communication with parents, says: "Most parents blame their children for such ways of expressing anger, as spitting, backtalk, blows to the face, the use of swear words, etc. Some parents decry all forms of physical aggression, while others teach their children "not to give up," and sometimes parents encourage boys to physical struggle (Corey, 2005).

American psychologist H. Roberts indicates the following ways of forming child's aggressive tendencies in a family (Roberts, 2000):

1) Parents encourage aggression of their children directly, or show the example (model) of appropriate behavior to others. In general, children who watch aggression of adults (especially if it's an important adult for them or a respected man, who manages to succeed because of aggression) usually take this form of behavior.

2) Parents, who inhibit aggression in their children using aggression, teach their children aggressive behavior, which will be shown during their more mature years.

Frequent physical punishments have great importance for the emergence and development of aggressive behavior. Parents, who hold authoritarian upbringing, use frequent physical punishments. The harmful effects of an oppressive education cause defects of socialization in the family.

Criminological data suggest that the origin of specific forms of antisocial behavior of adolescents is rooted in the conflicts between parents. Thus, 64, 7% of surveyed juveniles admitted that the abnormal situation in their families forced them to commit the first crime.

Pathology of marital relationships produces many forms of severe social behavioral effects in individual behavior up to severe forms of criminal behavior.

The conflicts in a family explain the paradoxical situation, when (and not so rare) difficult children grow up in families with good economic conditions and relatively high culture of parents (including teaching) and, conversely, when the poor families and parents with low education raise good children. Usually neither physical conditions nor culture, nor even pedagogical knowledge of parents are able to compensate the inadequacy of stressful, tense atmosphere of the family. The chances of occurrence of child antisocial tendencies can be defined as 3 to 100 in families with healthy, normal atmosphere. In those families with tense situations, this figure rises to 98 to 100 (Broemmel, 2011).

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Perhaps families with constant atmosphere of bickering, turning into a fight between the couple (mother being beaten by father, a child being beaten by one of his/her parents) have the greatest criminogenic potential. Ill-treatment of a child by most people who are close to him/her, for example, father or mother, hurts a child and hardens his/her heart. Children, who are constantly trying to adapt to a difficult situation full of stress and frustration, to avoid cruelty of older people, are forced to look for perverse self defense through the protective identification. The most common perverse tools for self defense are: lies, cunning, hypocrisy and sycophancy. Ill-treatment of parents, rude affront of human dignity lead to the emergence (according to the mechanism of substitution) of anger, which then continually breaks teen`s relationships with peers, and in adolescence it leads to gratuitous cruelty to adults (Corey, 2005)..

The results of a research on juvenile offenders (whose cruelty was the main feature of behavior) show that the main reason for appearance of cruelty was a cold unfriendly atmosphere in the family in early childhood (up to 3 years).

Forensic psychology shows that unmotivated cruelty is often related to delayed effect of imprinting mechanism of traumatic experience entrenched in childhood. Motivation is usually associated with carrying and setting in child`s mind the imprinting mechanism of humiliation, abuse, etc.; it often results to exceptional and cruel crimes against a person.


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Crimes, which were committed by numerous groups of teenagers, are particularly dangerous. Their actions are characterized by high intensity, riot, increased aggression and brutality. Numerical superiority (five-seven against one) allows them to commit robbery, hooliganism with impunity and fearlessly, accompanying these action with severe beatings.

Due to these facts, we can say that the reasons that motivate violent crimes are very different but very often they have roots in the childhood and family upbringing. So if society wants to decrease juvenile delinquency it should pay more attention to kids` upbringing and to health of families in general.


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