What are the Four Main Types of Juvenile Delinquency?

What are the Four Main Types of Juvenile Delinquency?

Delinquency exhibits a variety of styles of conduct or forms of behaviour. Each of the patterns has its own social context, the causes that are alleged to bring it about, and the forms of prevention or treatment most often suggested as appropriate for the pattern in question.

Howard Becker (1966: 226-38) has referred to four types of delinquencies: (a) individual delinquency, (b) group-supported delinquency, (c) organised delinquency, and (d) situational delinquency.

(a) Individual delinquency:

This refers to delinquency in which only one individual is involved in committing a delinquent act and its cause is located within the individual delinquent. Most of the explanations of this delinquent behaviour come from psychiatrists.

Their argument is that delinquency is caused by psychological problems stemming primarily from defective/faulty/pathological family interaction patterns.

Researches of Healy and Bronner, Albert Bandura and Richard Walters, Edwin Powers and Helen Witmer, and Henry Meyer and Edgar Borgatta are based on this approach. Healy and Bronner (1936) compared delinquent youths with their non-delinquent siblings and analysed the difference between them.

Their most important finding was that over 90 per cent of the delinquents compared to 13 per cent of their non-delinquent siblings had unhappy home lives and felt discontented with their life circumstances. The nature of unhappiness differed: some felt rejected by parents and others felt either inferior or jealous of siblings or suffered from mental conflict.

They indulged in delinquency as a solution to these problems, as it (delinquency) either brought attention from parents or provided support from peers or reduced their guilt feelings. Later studies also identified important aspects of family relations leading to delinquencies.

Bandura and Walters compared the aggressive actions of white delinquents with those of non-delinquent boys with no clear sign of economic hardship.

They found that delinquents differed from non-delinquents a little in their relationship with their mothers but more in their relationship with their fathers.

Thus, father-son rather than mother-son relations seemed more crucial in delinquency, as delinquent boys could not internalise moral values because of the absence of good role models in their fathers. In addition, their discipline was also more harsh and stern.

(b) Group-supported delinquency:

In this type, delinquencies are committed in companionship with others and the cause is located not in the personality of the individual or in the delinquent's family but in the culture of the individual's home and neighbourhood. The studies of Thrasher and Shaw and McKay talk of this type of delinquency.

The main finding in understanding why the young became delinquent was their association and companionship with others already delinquent. This was later put very clearly by Sutherland, who developed the theory of differential association.

Unlike the psychogenic explanations, this set of ideas focuses on what is learnt and who it is learnt from rather than on the problems that might produce motivation to commit delinquencies.

(c) Organised delinquency:

This type refers to delinquencies that are committed by formally organised groups. These delinquencies were analysed in the United States in the 1950s and the concept of 'delinquent subculture' was developed.

This concept refers to the set of values and norms that guide the behaviour of group members encourage the commission of delinquencies, award status on the basis of such acts and specify typical relationships to persons who fail outside the groupings governed by group norms.

Cohen was the first person to refer to this type of delinquency. He was followed by Cloward and Ohlin and a few others.

(d) Situational delinquency:

The above-mentioned three types of delinquencies have one thing in common. In all of them, delinquency is viewed as having deep roots. In individual delinquency (according to the psychogenic explanation), the roots of delinquency lie primarily within the individual; in group-supported and organised delinquencies (the sociogenic explanation).

The roots (of delinquency) lie in the structure of the society with emphasis either on the ecological areas where delinquency prevails or on the systematic way in which social structure places some individuals in a poor position to compete for success.

Situational delinquency provides a different perspective. Here the assumption is that delinquency is not deeply rooted, and motives for delinquency and means for controlling it are often relatively simple.

A young man indulges in a delinquent act without having a deep commitment to delinquency because of less developed impulse-control and/or because of weaker reinforcement of family restraints, and because he has relatively little to lose even if caught.

David Matza is one scholar who refers to this type of delinquency. However, the concept of situational delinquency is undeveloped and is not given much relevance in the problem of delinquency causation. It is a supplement to rather than a replacement of other types.