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Juvenile delinquency is also known as youth crime. The term “juvenile delinquency” is mostly referred to crimes committed by youths under the age of 18. It is categorized into three groups: delinquency, crimes and status offenses.
There are theories that provide explanations to juvenile delinquency (Merlo and Benekos, 2008). The theories provide a scientific explanation and approaches towards understanding crime among the youths. This paper focuses on biological and psychological theories that explain youth crimes. Both theories belong to a wider set of theories referred to as positive school theories.
Biological theories suggest that crime is caused by genetic transmission of criminal tendencies. It is stated that a tendency to commit crimes may be genetically passed on from one relative to another. A person may commit crimes as a result of his/her family members possessing criminal history. Hormonal imbalances within the biological apparatus of human beings may lead the individual to commit a crime (Merlo and Benekos, 2008). A person may also commit crimes due to neurological dysfunction when the brain does not function properly. Brain malfunction may be the cause for a person to commit crimes since he/she may not be consciously aware of his/her actions. Biological theories also state that a person may commit crimes due to poor development during the early years of his/her life, which, for example, may be reflected in the lack of normal social life.
Psychological theories claim that certain individuals have characteristics that make them more prone to committing crimes compared to others. According to the psychoanalytic theory, there is a hypothesis that all human beings possess criminal tendencies (Freud, 1961). It is through growing up and experience that such tendencies become reduced. If a child grows up poorly socialized, he or she may develop antisocial vibes, which direct him or her to crime. Psychological theory also proves that crime may result from the way a person perceives morality and law. Depending on what an individual considers right or wrong, crime may or may not be committed. Within the psychological theory there is a behavioral theory, which suggests that an individual’s behavior can be learned. Once learned, it may be altered depending on the consequences of portrayal. The consequences may include punishment or rewards in the form of money and respect (Wilson and Hermstein, 1985). Due to the lack of experienced behavioral learning, crime can, therefore, affect an individual’s life. Psychological theories also postulate that crime can be related to intelligence. The theory describes the fact that children with low intelligence are more likely to commit crimes compared to those with higher intelligence. The theory argues that intelligence helps a person determine what are the advantages and disadvantages in committing crimes.
Recently there has been a case of a young boy, Paul David, who has become an American nightmare because of his delinquent behavior. He steals from his siblings, curses his mother, manhandles her, stays out all night, fights on the street. Moreover, he is always in trouble with law and is almost expelled from school. David has certain underlying issues that have an effect on him: he was born to a single mother, lives in a poor community, hates his mother and his mother hates him (Griffin, 2007).
David’s behavior can be explained by the biological theory that states that delinquent behavior gets inherited from one relative to another. The reason is that David’s mother hates him. She says, “he behaves just like his father, who is normally in and out of trouble”. It can be presumed that David inherited the behavior from his father. This theory supports the fact that the cause of David’s delinquency is the inherent characteristics that he cannot detach himself from. Poor social development while growing up can also make a contribution to David’s delinquent behavior.
David’s behavior also accounts for the psychological theories that state that certain characteristics inherent to some individuals cause them to be more at risk of committing a crime than others (Wilson and Hermstein, 1985). The very fact that this young boy lives in a poor neighborhood causes him a lot of frustration. His hatred towards his mother is also a determining factor. Owing to this hatred he wishes to cause his mother more anguish. He also vents his frustration on the crowded community that he does not like either. These situations push him further into crime.
Biological and psychological theories can be used to explain juvenile delinquency and come up with an appropriate remedy for them.