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Essay Essay, Research Paper


We have all become used to reading about crime and violence in the newpaper and seeing it reported on TV news. Such headings as “Pregnant 15 year old shot to death on St. Louis school bus”, or “Toddler found murdered in rural Ohio” are commom place to us. But what we may not realize is that growing numbers of of these violent crimes are being committed by teenagers, even by children. The trend is being felt all over the nation, from big cities to small towns. Violence is running over from the streets to the schools. It is interesting to look back at a list of the top problems in schools in the 1940’s as quoted in the US News & World Report, they included talking out of turn, chewing gum and making noise. Very mild problems when compared with the gun use that has caused many schools to have seccurity guards doing weapons checks on students at the school doors.

Among the main causes of juvenile delinguency is the breakdown of the family which ordinarily would provide a structure for children and teens to grow around. Here they would receive discipline and support, learn values and have positive role models. Most single parent homes are poverty stricken. In mmmany single parent families there is no shared responsibility for parental guidance. The parent is often struggling and confused and there is a lack of parenttal integration in the children’s lives. This leads to many unsupervised children filling their empty hours with television. Here they are saturated with materialism and violence. There is little on television to offset the flood od violence children watch. Even the news is slanted. It is too common to see gangsters and white collar criminals receive media attention while people dedicated to peace on earth are ignored. The same views are played on television over and over and there is no time for new ideas. The media has one purpose – to sell products and to do so it promotes exaggerated concepts of beauty, youth, sex, and ultramaterialism. Lacking discrimination skills which parental guidance would instill it is no wonder that children are confused with their attitudes.

With reguard to the deviant behavior that children go on to adopt, the structural strain perspective supports the belief that once youths internalize the common symbols of what it means to be a success in American culture they are likely to be headed ffor deviance, depending on their means to reach those goals. If they are unable to reach those goals except by socially unacceptable means they have used the mode of adaptation to anomie known as innovation. This is the situation which many youths who want what life has to offer in the abundance and variety seen on TV but do not have the income or the potential to afford these things legitimately. Lacking strong moral grounding they take advantage of deviant ways to make money or attain the goods, such as stealing, burglarizing, selling drugs, mugging and so on. A chain reaction can begin here, leading to more advanced crimes including murder.

To deal with the youths committing crimes the Office of Juveenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention was created in 1942 in response to national concern about the problem. This is a federal agency with 5 divisions which have different functions such as giving grants to states for juvenile system improvement programs such as one to remove juveniles from adult jails and lock ups. Another division sponsors training for juvenile justice pracitioners within juvenile delinquency programs. Information on juvenile delinquency and missing children is disseminated by another division. (LYNX:http://gopher.usdoj.gov/ojp/ojjdp.html).

We see that funding and support is available for the problem, but knowing where to use it to best effect is difficult. It is my belief that as children acquire most of their impressions and understanding of the surrounding world in the early years before middle school, it is here that we should focus our efforts. If there is money to build a prision, why not build a nursery or pre-school to get to the root of the problem. The earlier a patient is diagnosed with a chronic illness, the better the chances of helping or even curing the person. So why not deal with kids now using preventative measures such as education, training in values and respect for the life and property of others as well as self.

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