Although it is quite subjective as to whether a bad childhood is the cause of youth crime, the fact remains that a quarter of all reported crime is committed by young offenders between the ages of ten to seventeen. Home Office statistics show more than a half of all recorded robberies (51%), a third of burglaries (32%) and a third of vehicle crimes (31%) were the result of young offenders. (Home Office, 2012) Shockingly England and Wales has more young people in custody than any other European country. Content There are two patterns of youth offending behaviour, ‘adolescent-limited’ and ‘life course-persistent’.
Adolescent-limited offending is often a result of young teenage people being influenced by their peers that they are mixing with. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable at this stage because the ability to moderate risk-taking and thrill-seeking does not fully develop until their late teens. Life course-persistent is when anti-social behaviour manifests itself earlier on and is linked to risk factors that can operate much earlier on in a child’s life, like poor parenting, abuse and neglect, and medical conditions like ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
What this information suggests is that relatively few young people who commit crime when they are in their teens go on to become prolific offenders for the rest of their life. (Moffitt, 1993) Criminal behaviour in adolescence is relatively common due to peer pressure and thrill seeking. Forty percent of offences are committed by people under sixteen about half of males and a third of females, report having committed at least one offence before the age of eighteen. (Newburn, 2002) However, offending declines rapidly after adolescence and many youth offenders do not remain offenders in adulthood.
(Sutherland 1938) Strengths Many family factors have been shown to predict young offending, particularly relating to bad parenting such as harsh discipline, poor supervision and low parental involvement with the child. Evidence shows that a destructive upbringing can be damaging to the child resulting in impulsivity, attention problems, low school attainment and behavioural problems. (Farrington, 2007) A shocking statistic of twenty five percent of boys and forty percent of girls in custody say they have experienced violence at home.
In July 2012 Jessica Jacobson and Amy Kirby from the Home Office published a report on the causes to youth crime. What was identified as the primary cause was poor parenting and lack of discipline from parents, schools and society; this meant that children were growing up with no respect for authority and no understanding that their actions have consequences. (Home Office, 2012) The most significant factor that influences character formation is the upbringing a child receives.
Studies show that children brought up with good parents, grow up to be well rounded, responsible adults. Children surrounded by criminal family or friends during their developing years are more likely to become criminals because they build up anti-authority attitudes and the belief that offending is justified. (Farrington, 1994) Sutherland (1942) argues that criminal behaviour is socially learned behaviour. If a child is brought up within a criminal upbringing, they associate to crime and learn techniques to commit crime.
Wells and Rankin’s (1991) found that delinquency was ten to fifteen percent higher among children from broken homes than those from intact homes, the range of offences were vast like underage drinking, truancy, running away from home, burglary, theft, robbery and assault. Rodgers and Pryor (1998) conducted the same experiment again seven years later and found the research findings had changed dramatically; children from broken homes were double the number at risk of delinquency than children from intact families.
The theory that upbringing can cause offending is not a new phenomenon, Walter Miller in (1958) identified four reasons for over conformity to focal concerns that lead to delinquency. One reason was that boys that have fatherless or female dominated homes become delinquent because of insecurity due to unstable or broken homes and overcompensating for the lack of male role models by being masculine themselves, engaging in street fights and anti-social behaviour.
Social control theory is another example of how upbringing can lead to young offending. Travis Hirschi believes that young people that commit crime and use drugs do so because they lack self-control. He suggests that lack of self-control is the result of poor parenting and families that are unable or unwilling to monitor their children’s behaviour. (Hirschi, 1969) Weaknesses Parents could be getting the blame for youth crime in a bid to avoid taking responsibility and escape punishment or sentencing.
During the London riots in August 2011, David Cameron stated that parenting was to blame, but many young offenders stated that they knew what they were doing and hoped that their mothers did not find out. Research showed that rioters were going against their upbringings due to factors of boredom, opportunism and economic deprivation. In this case upbringing was not a factor it was that public services like youth clubs were cut in the area because of the austerity policy.
The austerity policy is the Government cutting public services and benefits in a bid to pay back debts but this was causing crime. Poverty and social disadvantage are closely related to youth offending. It was no wonder trainer and mobile phone shops were being looted because people could afford luxury items due to deprivation, high youth unemployment, benefits cuts and child allowance being stopped. This all meant that families were struggling to survive in this double dip recession. The root cause of crime here was economic deprivation not upbringing.
Another example of how upbringing is irrelevant is in Jack Katz (1988) ‘seduction of crime theory’ he argues that the real cause of juvenile delinquency is simply because they enjoy offending. He also thinks that a large portion of crime is committed because young people are addicted to it. Katz’s (1988), states that at the moment of the crime, there is a transition that takes place from the choice to commit crimes rationally to a compulsion to do so. He describes how offenders are seduced by the compulsion to commit crime.
Travis Hirschi (1969) social control theory states that there are several genes that are hypothesized to have an influence on the development of antisocial behaviour and conduct disorders. There has been slow progress in identifying these genes. Now, it seems that certain serotonin pathway genes may be associated with impulsiveness, antisocial, aggressiveness and violent behaviour that can lead to criminality. Conclusion It was extremely important in this essay to identify the two different types of young offending by criminologist Moffitt (1993).
This is because it shows two different types of behaviour patterns and two different root causes. It confirms that some people offend because of their upbringing and others are motivated by other factors like peer pressure, economic deprivation, boredom. What this shows is that offenders are motivated by different factors. The case studies in this field carried out by criminologists like Farrington and others have only investigated the cause of youth crime from a boy’s perspective and found that upbringing is a risk factor for delinquency.
With the release of youth crime figures from the Home Office (May 2012) that showed one hundred and sixty thousand crimes were committed by girls, research into the cause of female offending needs to be examined because the cause of female youth crime could be different to boys. In the 21st century society has a growing problem with girl gangs and female delinquency and the cause might not be upbringing but biology, genetics and hormones or another factor completely.
Research shows that victims that suffer bad upbringings and endure physical, mental and sexual abuse can transition from victim to perpetrator. This is due to a number of factors like learnt behaviour and the perpetuating cycle of abuse. A bad childhood does not excuse serious crime but a report from the Youth Offending Team consisting of opinions from young offenders stated that unresolved problems or feelings from their childhood propelled them into offending.
However some offenders use a bad childhood to blame parents, to avoid taking responsibility and a way of getting a more lenient sentence or punishment. (Ministry of Justice, 2012) Primary socialisation states that part of family life is to instil the values of right and wrong but there is not only one way to learn right from wrong. If a person receives bad instructions or advice from their parents or no advice at all, there is always secondary socialisation where they can learn a good moral compass from school, religion and society as a whole.
Hirschi (1969) Stated if young people are attached to school and religion then that brings a greater level of social control. Residential instability which includes the disruption of family life and parental controls and the erosion of community solidarity for example neighbours twenty years ago were an extension of the family and maintaining social order. All this leads to social disorganisation which is the breakdown of social controls that allows crime and delinquency to flourish.
On the 8th of January 2013 it was reported that a record number of parents were getting a criminal record as a punishment for letting their children play truant from school. Ten thousand parents a year are being found guilty of letting their sons or daughter miss school lessons. (Ministry of Justice)This is another example of how parents are being held responsible for young people offending. Parents will receive on the spot financial fines of sixty pounds; if they do not pay it is doubled to one hundred and twenty pounds. If parents go to court they could pay up to two and a half thousand pounds. References