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Juvenile Delinquency, Public Policy and the Community at Large

This is an analystical study of adolescent psychology or what used to be known as "juvenile delinquency from the perspective of public policy, and what the implications of this study has in terms of the community at large.

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This author has attempted to show that the problem of juvenile delinquency is a complex social problem with many causes and in turn a wide array of treatment strategies not to mention public and social welfare policies, which might help, eradicate the problem. The causes of juvenile delinquency include divorce (broken homes), mental illness, psychological problems, societal change, poverty and welfare to mention a few.
A history of social welfare for youth has shown that there are three paradigms outlined in the treatment of "at risk" youth. The "remedial" paradigm, the "prosocial" paradigm, both of which view adolescence as a time of stress and even immorality. Thus, the attempt is to build character through service organizations, which focus on services and social control. However, the "integrative" paradigm which views children and youth as an integral part of community and social development stress creating environments for youth to nurture healthy development.
Three treatment strategies outlined in this research paper include "restorative justice" or mediation, boot camps, and Natural Wrap-Around Care which utilizes people already in the family's environment to help youth develop coping skills, self-efficacy, and improved relationships with family and other adults. Out of the three, "restorative justice" and Natural Wrap-Around Care, as researchers indicate, hold out the best possibilities in terms of reforming problematic youth.
Finally, the author has attempted to show that programs adopted at the grassroots level within communities and neighborhoods and which emphasize qualities of caring, compassion, determination, and perseverance are most often the most successful programs in dealing with such social problems as juvenile delinquency. In addition, programs, which are most successful, are outcome-based programs, which are flexible enough to adapt to changes within the community environment and to change readily when certain programs are not working. In essence communities, which take an active role in dealing and treating their youth, hold out the best possible hope that problematic youth will be able to change and adapt both positive and successful attitudes as they continue to mature into working adults.

n: Public Policy & Its Ramifications
For An Analysis of Juvenile Delinquency

Capella University

Jack Lynn Schauer

Table Of Contents

I. A Background Study
II. A History
III. Broad Explanations
IV. Treatment Strategies
V. Social Welfare & Public Policies
VI. Families, Communities & Faith-Based Welfare
VII. Conclusion


The problems associated with juvenile delinquency go back into American history at least a century if not more. There are of course many reasons for juvenile delinquency, ranging from hereditary problems (such as bipolar and unipolar illness; ADHD; psychological problems due to antisocial behavior) but there are also many environmental factors which are also important determinants. This complex problem makes it extremely difficult for public policymakers to come to grips with. However, there are social welfare policies, if adopted that would address these concerns.

The purpose of this research paper is to both examine and evaluate the various problems, which can result in children and young teens becoming "juvenile delinquents," also identified as "high risk" adolescents for lack of a better phrase. As a matter of course in this research this author will want to fully examine all of the scientific and psychological evidence, which pertains to this complex problem, and in turn examine how public policy in addressing social welfare concerns might come to better grips with this ever-growing problem. In comparing various treatment models for "at risk" adolescents this author hopes to be able to discern which of these treatment alternatives might be most beneficial in terms of not only a clearer understanding of the problem from the perspective of public policymakers but in turn how specific social welfare directives or even mandates might help to bring this problem into a clearer focus. In addressing these treatment alternatives and concerns policymakers might then be able to come to a better pragmatic understanding of the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency, and thus in turn translate that understanding into effective legislation to address the problem.
I. A Background Study
The question of what causes juvenile delinquency is a
very complex issue indeed. In fact in doing research on this subject one can provide almost any number of a group of perspectives related to this complex problem; including economic ones, sociological, well as psychological and psychiatric bases for it.
To begin with let us explore the environmental basis for juvenile delinquency. The author, having once served as a mentor for "problem" or "at-risk" children and adolescents has seen how the effects of divorce appeared to have a substantial impact upon children and adolescents. According to Yongmin Sun (2001) predisruption and disruption of divorce in and of itself upon male and female adolescents creates academic, psychological, and behavioral problems. In addition, he writes, families on the verge of breakup tend to be characterized by less intimate parent-parent and parent-child relationships (Sun, 2001).
Another quite interesting study, according to Furstenberg and Kiernan (2001) compared the effects of divorce both upon men and women before they reached the age of 20 and over the age of 20. Six areas in turn were examined in this quantitative study including demographic behavior, educational attainment, economic position, welfare position, mental health, and smoking and drinking habits. The results were quite complex with some commonalities and some differences between men and women.
For example, according to Kiernan & Furstenberg (2001) the evidence was quite clear that those who experienced parental divorce after age 20 did not differ from those intact families with respect to becoming parents or forming partnerships at an early age. Turning to the educational, economic and welfare outcomes, according to these same authors, both men and women who experienced childhood divorce, compared to those after age 20, had significant higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of individuals receiving state benefits, as well as lower educational and economic situations as well as higher rates of individuals living in social housing (Kiernan & Furstenberg, 2001).
Another study by Johnson, Thorngren, Smith & Adina (2001) validates other previous studies on divorce: that is that children from divorced families do generally perform worse in school than children from nondivorced or intact families. These same children (of divorced families) according to these same authors, in turn not only display lower social skills and confidence in general, but are also more easily overwhelmed by emotional problems.
In another study by Boehnke & Bergs-Winkels (2002) conditions of rapid social change may lead to increased juvenile delinquency. According to these same authors, criminological theories, suggest, however, that although conditions of rapid social change do not create juvenile delinquency, they do force youth into "prodelinquent leisure activities". According to Boehnke & Winkels (2002) resources acquired by children and adolescents in family and public life, however, may prevent these same youth from drifting into such "prodelinquent leisure activities and indirectly from delinquent behavior".
In respect to this, according to Anderson, Carter, & Lowe (1999) if the culture by the school is alien to, or opposed to, the culture of the child's family (as Native Americans have often experienced, for example), the young child is in a very difficult, somewhat untenable, position. These authors cite the lack of participation in school by significant numbers of Native American, African-American, and Hispanic youths, may in part be explained by this. Anderson, Carter, & Lowe (1999) also state that the school has evolved as an overburdened carrier of culture as changes in technology and family functions have occurred.
In addition, 'preventive' intervention in schools, and early identification of difficulty is based on the premise that lack of success in schools predicts future failure in the job market (Anderson, Carter, & Lowe, 1999). This in and of itself can create undue pressures upon minority kids, for example, which may lead them to deal with their anxieties in gangs or drug related behavior. These authors conclude this section by stating that often too much is expected of our public schools, and they have found it very difficult to deal with all of the assignments that culture gives to them, often including society's primary problems: racism, sexism, poverty, and the use of drugs. In summary, when these kinds of pressures also occur during the growth crisis stage of adolescence when all of the adolescent's subsystems (physical, cognitive, and emotional) are in rapid flux, again the pressure, especially of minority group children to conform to public school standards may lead many of them into undesired behavior such as gangs or drugs (Anderson, Carter, & Lowe, 1999).
II. A History
According to Oliveira & Edington (1995) social welfare organizations targeting young people (i.e., children and adolescents) have been in place since at least 1675. According to Oliveira & Edinton (1995) youth services groups can be traced to the early 1800s when several religiously affiliated youth programs were established such as the Juvenile Missionary Society of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church in 1831. However, it was not until late 19th century, early 20th century with the rise of industrialization that programs targeted toward youth were developed. In a study by Salley Fullerton (1990) social, political, and economic conditions brought about by the Industrial Revolution called for immediate reforms. According to Fullerton, fast urbanization in America was accompanied by lack of infrastructure, poverty, poor sanitation, harsh labor conditions, lack of habitable housing, lack of open space and play areas, racial violence, and an overall problem of transition to a new cultural urban/industrial identity.
According to Fullerton (1990) industrialization created a perceived need for social change and leading to a political atmosphere of progressive liberalism, this in turn ...

Solution Summary

The problems with juvenile delinquency go back over a century ago, but it has only been recently that the problems dealing with public policy and political psychology the past few decades. In terms of the enormous costs that are associated with adolescent psychology in particular are multidimensional: environment, mental illness, sociology, historical-political perspectives all have value within this psychopolitical analysis. The complexity of the problems associated with adolescent psychology are enormous and thus very difficult to deal with from a public policy perspective(s).