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Speculative Note on the Meaning of Juvenile Delinquency (From Youth Crime, Social Control and Prevention, P 3-8, 1984, M Brusten et al, ed. See NCJ-97757)

NCJ Number
P P Lejins
Date Published
6 pages
This paper suggests reasons why social science approaches to the problem of delinquency have failed and proposes a theory of delinquent behavior.
The primary problem with the juvenile delinquency field is that social scientists usually interpret cases against the background of value systems and ideologies which are extraneous to the rational approach of contemporary social science. Although social scientists have made important contributions to the knowledge of delinquent behavior, this knowledge is invariably segmental, developed within very specific and delimited frames of reference. In some cases -- for example, the interpretation of delinquent behavior as advanced in the 1920's and 1930's by the Chicago School of ecological criminology -- sound findings seem to abound. However, these findings are culture-specific, and the extent to which they can be generalized has not been ascertained. A useful theory of delinquent behavior must recognize that a pragmatically and theoretically viable concept of juvenile delinquency must be limited to a particular culture, social culture, legal order, system of socialization, state of technology, and time frame. There must be an agreed-upon concept of juvenile delinquency. An adequate definition of delinquent behavior must recognize that it is not the kind of behavior that determines which child is delinquent, but rather that this behavior is used as a reason for intervention by a special public agency into the process of socialization. This official intervention occurs when conventional socialization agencies, such as the child's family or private community groups (i.e., clubs or after school activities) cannot handle the child's behavior. This definition is applied to a real-life situation.