Meaning of Juvenile delinquency
Delinquent children belong to that category of exceptional children who exhibit considerable deviation in terms of their social adjustment and are consequently also labeled as socially deviant or socially handicapped. They are found to possess criminal tendencies and usually indulge in antisocial behaviour. In this sense, they are very much like criminals and antisocial elements. In legal terminology, they are referred to as delinquents and not as criminals.
Delinquency and Crime
‘Crime’ and ‘delinquency’ are legal terms and their meaning varies from country to country, from one state to another in the same country as well. In India, any person of age 21 years or more convicted by a court for violating the provisions of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) is termed as criminal, but there are state laws which vary from state from state.
Similarly, if a minor individual in the age group of seven to eighteen is convicted by a court for violating the provisions of the Children’s Act, the IPC and CrPC, is termed as delinquent.
Individuals between the ages of 18 and 21 who violate the provisions of IPC and CrPC are midway between criminals and delinquents and are labeled as ‘young’ or ‘youthful’ offenders. After the trial by the court, they are sentenced to be sent either to an institution or to prisons depending on the seriousness or the nature and circumstances of their crimes.
The individuals below the age of seven, even if they commit such offences as are covered legally by the term delinquency, are not labeled as delinquents and termed problem children, because they are not mature enough to distinguish between the legal and the illegal and between right and wrong.
Who are juvenile delinquents?
Criminal behaviour or the tendency to commit crime is not restricted only to adults and is found in minor children and adolescents also. These individuals are known as juvenile delinquents or young delinquents and usually referred to as ‘minor with major problems’. They violate the law of land and commit offences like theft, gambling, cheating, cheating, picking pockets, murder, robbery, dacoity, destruction of property, violence and assault, intoxication, vagrancy, begging, kidnapping, abduction and sexual offences. Juvenile delinquency should therefore, be considered to be a serious challenge to the well-being of society.
Causes of Delinquency
The early researches held heredity to be the main cause of delinquency. Many hereditarians like Henry, Maudsley, Tredgold and Dugdale that delinquency is inherited, was tested by William Healey, Winfield and associates. They concluded that delinquency is not inherited and therefore, it is wrong to blame heredity for delinquent behaviour.
Constitutional or physiological factors-
A defective constitution or glandular systems were also thought to be the causes of delinquent behaviour. Udai Shanker observes poor health, too short or too big stature of some deformity which gives rise to feelings of inferiority, disposes one to more aggression, as a compensatory reaction for his inadequacies. This observation seems to be well-founded but it is not so, for not much scientific evidence has been reported in its support so far. It may, however, be taken to be one of the causes of delinquent behaviour.
Many writers emphasized that most important cause of delinquency and crime is low grade mentality, but others deny that delinquents are mentally retarded. High intelligence is no guarantee of good behaviour. Often, persons with superior intelligence have been found to be the leaders of notorious gangs, and antisocial organisations. On the basis of statistics, it is sometimes argued that since majority among the delinquents have low intelligence, defective intelligence causes delinquency. Defective intelligence may lead to delinquency in one situation and may be a barrier to it in another situation. Hence, low intelligence alone cannot be said to be responsible for delinquent behaviour.
Environmental and social factors-
It has been proved that delinquent behaviour is a learned reaction. Delinquents do not inherit delinquent characters from their parents or ancestors but are made so by the uncongenital environment and social conditions.
It is thus therefore, the uncongenital family, school, neighbourhood and society, social environment which should be blamed for the delinquent behaviour of the child since he picks up delinquent traits in such situations. A defective and deficient family environment is a fertile ground for the germination of delinquency.
Findings from various studies indicate that the family environment, in which the following relationship or conditions prevail, is most susceptible to delinquency:
- A broken home where family is incomplete due to death, desertion, separation or divorce;
- Improper parental control;
- Unusual jealousy and rivalry among siblings or children within the family and relations;
- The delinquent and criminal behaviour of the parents or other family members;
- Domestic conflicts;
- Economic difficulties and poverty of the family;
- Dull, monotonous and uninteresting home environment;
- Denial of reasonable freedom and independence to the youngsters;
- Maltreatment and injustice to the youngsters;
- Lack of proper physical and emotional security.
In these situations and environment child does not get proper opportunity for the satisfaction of his basic needs. He falls victim to emotional problems like inferiority, insecurity, jealousy which leads to maladjustment that consequently turn him into a hostile, rebellious and antisocial personality.
Uncongenital environment outside the home-
The home environment provides the base for delinquent behaviour, the social environment outside the home nourishes it by supplying substitutes for the satisfaction of unsatisfied basic needs and urges. Sometimes peer group lead him to engage in delinquent behaviour.
Maladjustment in school-
In many cases school environment may be a significant stimulating factor. It brings about serious maladjustment and consequently increases the probability of delinquent character-formation. Such environment may include- defective curriculum, improper teaching methods, lack of co-curricular activities, lack of proper discipline and control, slackness in administration and organisation, antisocial or undesirable behaviour of the teachers. Maltreatment and injustice done to the child, failure or backwardness.
Therefore we can conclude that, delinquency is an environmental and social disease. Delinquent acts are learned and acquired. No child is born delinquent nor is delinquent behaviour the product of genes. Thus, delinquents are not a specific type of human beings born with any such innate, physical, mental or emotional characteristics. They are normal individuals with normal needs and desires. The denial of these needs leads to maladjustment and results in their becoming hostile and rebellious. Thus delinquent behaviour is a reaction to or resentment against the prevailing social and environmental conditions.
Prevention and Treatment of juvenile delinquency
Delinquency, besides being a legal problem, is basically a psycho-social problem. All delinquents are essentially maladjusted personalities and the result of faulty upbringing and maltreatment. The solution of the problem requires preventive as well as curative measures.
Initially these involve improvement of the social or environmental conditions which stand in the way of the satisfaction of the basic needs of the individual. The following suggestions may work well in this direction:
Parents should be aware of the psychology of delinquency so that they may treat and handle their children with understanding and provide them an appropriate environment for the satisfaction of their needs and urges. This requires parental education which may be provided through guidance services, clinics and voluntary social organizations.
The child’s company-
Parents, family members and school authorities should keep a close watch on the activities and social environment of the children and take care to see that they do not fall into bad company. Antisocial elements and criminals often seek out youngsters for their nefarious purposes. Active efforts should be made to save the children from them and they should be educated in staying away from such elements.
The children should be removed from their original environment i.e. defective family environment, and placed either in foster homes or well-managed reformatories and special schools so that they may be provided with a healthy environment for their emotional and social adjustment.
Rectifying school education and environment-
The school environment should be healthy and congenial. The curriculum, methods of teaching, discipline, class-room behaviour of the teacher and the social atmosphere of the school should be rectified so that children do not get involved in problems of emotional and social maladjustment. The attitude of teachers who impose their authority on children understanding their basic needs should be changes. Teachers should be familiar with the psychology of individual differences and delinquency.
The problem of juvenile delinquency should not be regarded as penal problem. It is as educational and welfare problem. Juvenile delinquents should not be put behind bars and treated through the penal system. In fact, they require rehabilitation and re-education for which special legal provisions should be made. The legal processes dealing with juvenile delinquents have been changed in the progressive communities of the world.
In India following essential features are adopted:
- Establishment of special juvenile courts with trained magistrates to deal with juvenile delinquents.
- Appointment of trained social workers or probation officers for taking charge of delinquent cases.
- Taking the help of clinical psychologists and psychiatrics for understanding the delinquent behaviour of children.
- Establishment of special schools where special education, correction and rehabilitation is possible.
- Provision of keeping the children in the custody of responsible persons or social agencies.
- Establishment of remand homes where delinquent children may be lodged while awaiting trial or placement in an approved school or in the custody of a responsible person; or if so directed by a probation officer prior to employment or on discharge from an approved school.
The provision of ‘special schools’ or ‘approved schools’ needs particular mention in this programme. These schools have specially trained staff. The curriculum is flexible and provides opportunities for self-expression, recreation, manual work and learning of useful crafts. Provisions are made to satisfy the basic needs and urges of the children and thus they are helped in their social and behaviour and learn to respond meaningfully to social situations and conditions.
The attitude towards delinquency in our country is also changing. In most of the states, Children Act has been enforced and some have gone ahead in the work of rehabilitation and re-education of young offenders. However, there is a need to arouse public consciousness of this problem. No government can solve a social problem without public cooperation. Therefore, there is a need for a change in our attitude towards delinquents so that they may be helped in their readjustment and rehabilitation.
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