Juvenile Delinquency

Family interactions are most important during early childhood, but they can have long-lasting effects. In early adolescence, relationships with peers take on greater importance. Family structure and family functioning are two general categories under which family effects on delinquency.

Increased risk of delinquency experienced among children of broken homes is related to the family conflict prior to the divorce or separation, rather than to family breakup itself (Rutter et al., 1998).

  1. Become familiar with the problems of youth in American culture
  2. Distinguish between ego identity and role diffusion
  3. Discuss the specific issues facing American youth
  4. Understand the concept of being “at risk” and discuss why so many kids take risks
  5. Be familiar with the recent social improvements enjoyed by American youth
  6. Discuss why the study of delinquency is so important and what this study entails
  7. Describe the life of children during feudal times
  8. Discuss the treatment of children in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
  9. Discuss childhood in the American colonies
  10. Know about the child savers and the creation of delinquency
  11. Discuss the elements of juvenile delinquency today · 12 Know what is meant by the term status offender

cyber Delinquency: Catfishing

Case profile: Aaliyah’s Story

Evidence-Based Juvenile Justice—intervention: Family Key Programs

KEAIRA BROWN WAS JUST 13 YEARS OLD when she was charged with murder and

became the youngest person in Wyandotte County, Kansas, ever to be tried as an adult. Her family life was close but troubled. Her mother, Cheryl Brown, had three other children, two enrolled in local colleges. Keaira was involved in after-school activities, including playing the violin. But when her mom went to prison on a drug charge, things began to spiral downhill for Keaira, and when she was only 10 she attempted suicide. 

On July 23, 2008, at about 4:00 PM, Keaira was supposed to be at a summer program at the Boys and Girls Club in Kansas City. Instead, she was involved in the carjacking of Scott Sappington, Jr., a junior at Sumner Academy, who had just dropped his siblings off at their grandmother’s house. When he returned to his car, neighbors heard him yell, “Hey, hey,” then there was a struggle inside the car, and he was shot in the head. 

An investigation led to a 6-year-old who told police that a young girl told a group of children to get rid of her bloody clothes. Police distributed pictures of the bloody clothes to the media, and soon after, the clothes were traced back to Keaira Brown.

Prosecutors thought the murder was a result of a carjacking that went wrong, while Keaira’s family claimed she was an innocent pawn for area gang members who thought she would not be prosecuted because of her age. They were incorrect. In April, almost a year after the crime, a Wyandotte County judge ruled that Keaira should face trial as an adult. On November 9, 2010, Keaira Brown was found guilty of first-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery. She will have to serve 20 years before being eligible for parole.

Stories such as that of Keaira Brown are certainly not unique. While the Supreme Court ruled in Roper v. Simmons that juveniles cannot be sentenced to the death penalty, it is quite legal to incarcerate them in adult prison for life if they commit a capital crime, as long as the judge takes age into account before sentencing takes place ( Miller v. Alabama ). 1 So Keaira, who was 13 years old at the time she committed her crime, may spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Roper v. Simmons

  • A juvenile under 18 years of age who commits a capital crime cannot face the death penalty.

Miller v. Alabama

In this case, the Supreme Court held that mandatory life sentences, without the possibility of parole, are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders.

The problems of youth in contemporary society can be staggering. Because of trouble and conflict occurring in their families, schools, and communities, adolescents experience stress, confusion, and depression. There are approximately 75 million children in the United States, a number that is projected to increase to about 85 million by 2025. 2 

Since the mid-1960s, children have been decreasing as a proportion of the total US population, so today 24 percent of the population are 18 and under, down from a 1964 peak of 36 percent at the end of the so-called baby boom. Children are projected to remain a fairly stable percentage, about 23 percent, of the total population through 2050. Though the number of children is projected to remain stable, racial and ethnic diversity is growing, so that the population is projected to become even more diverse in the decades to come. 

In 2023, less than half of all children are projected to be white, non-Hispanic; by 2050, 38 percent of children are projected to be white, non-Hispanic, down from 55 percent today.