Essay on the youth and crime

With the emergence of these changes, it is imperative to study why the youth deviate from legal and social norms, to identify the type of young people who indulge in criminal behaviour, and, above all, to determine whether or not deviant youth can be resocialised.

But before analyzing these issues, it would be profitable to understand the concept of youth. Who are the youth? Is the concept of ‘youth’ age-linked or age-graded?

A person below-12 year of age is called a child, one between 12 and 18 years is regarded as an adolescent, one between 18 and 30 years is viewed as a young person, and one between 30 and 50 years is described as a middle-aged person.


Before the enactment of the Juvenile Justice Act on December 1, 1986, a child between 7 and 18 or 21 years of age (age prescribed differently in the Children Acts in ‘ different states) violating the law was considered a juvenile delinquent.

However, the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 defined a ‘juvenile’ as “a male below 16 years of age and a female below 18 years of age”. For the purposes of analysing the problem of ‘youth crime’, a person who is between 16 and 25 years, i.e., one who is in his late adolescence and early adulthood, and one who has still a ‘dependency status’, has been regarded as ‘youth’.

In present-day India, a person normally marries in the age group of 20-25 years. After marriage, his responsibilities and experiences with different persons gradually make him more prudent, more mature, and more responsible.

Before marriage, a person is less mature socially and is more dependent on others. We have, therefore, termed the age-group of 16-25 years as ‘youth’.


In the total population (1991 figures) of our country, 12.85 per cent persons belong to the age-group of 0-4 years, 23.15 per cent to 5-14 years, 19.17 per cent to 15-24 years, 38.33 per cent to 25-59 years, and 6.50 per cent to 60 plus years, (see, India: 1992, 19).

If we take only male population of 439.2 million (out of total population of 846.3 million or 51.9%) in 1991, 25.8 per cent belong to 0-9 age group, 11.9 per cent to 10-14 age group, 9.9 per cent to 15-19 age group, 8.6 per cent to 20-24 age group, 7.8 per cent to 25-29 age group and 36 per cent are above 30 years.

Thus, only 18.5 per cent males (of 15-24 years) are youth. Thus, there are nearly 16 million persons in India in the age-group of 16-25 years, or it may be said that nearly one-fifth of the country’s population constitutes the ‘youth’.

The youth (16-25 years) are distinct from juveniles (7-16 years) and adults (25+ years) because of the following factors:


i. While juveniles are totally immature socially and mentally, youth are comparatively more mature.

ii. While juveniles function more on the basis of imitation and suggestibility, youth tend to function more on the basis of rationality and reasoning.

iii. While juveniles have no aspirations, youth have quite a few aspirations-occupational, economic, marital and career.

iv. While adults have marital and familial responsibilities, youth are usually free from such liabilities and duties.


v. While adults are comparatively free from family dominance, youth continue to remain under family control.

vi. The attitudes of the youth are not so rigid, stern and strict; these are comparatively flexible.

vii. The youth are full of greater energy and enthusiasm and are more adventurous.

On the above basis, a youth offender needs to be separated from a juvenile delinquent and an adult criminal on the following three grounds:


1. Age: Since a youth offender is above 16 years of age, he cannot be treated as a juvenile delinquent. Nevertheless, he belongs to an age-group, unlike an adult criminal, where he cannot be considered a person who is totally responsible for his criminality.

2. Accountability. Though a youth has the capacity to understand the consequences of his act, yet being dependent on his family and many others for his need gratification and not being obliged to discharge any responsibilities to his family, he cannot be held guilty “in will”. Because of his parents and other family members shoulder the main responsibility of ensuring his social obedience and conformity to social norms.

3. Social philosophy: In recent philosophical trends in sociology and criminology, while dealing with immature youth offenders, the focus is on three things:

(a) Emphasis on environmental influences: A youth’s crime is explained as a result of the influence of social environment on his behaviour. His individual responsibility is thus minimised in all areas. His crime is interpreted as symptomatic of a failure of social systems to protect him and to provide him security,


(b) Emphasis on resocialisation: The emphasis on social environment has led to a greater faith in his correction, resocialisation and rehabilitation. Care and protection rather than punishment or mere custody are stressed,

(c) Emphasis on prevention: A further development consonant with modern social philosophy is the conviction that the state has greater responsibility than the family of adopting measures to prevent youths from criminal activities.