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The Rise of Juvenile Delinquency and The Flaws of The Juvenile Justice System

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A main change that has occurred in the world is an increased of juvenile delinquency. The term juvenile delinquency can refer to those offenders aged between ten and sixteen years (Queensland Police Service, 83). Australia state governments are responsible for dealing with young offenders. Juvenile justice system is responsible for the supervision of young people who have committed crimes (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ix). However, juvenile crime has become one of the serious problems today due to the rapid growth of juvenile delinquents recent years. In Australia, numbers of young people under supervision were increasing from 2.2 per 1000 in 2006 to 2.5 per 1000 in 2008 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, ix). For instance, Western Australia government stated that 137 of average daily population of WA juvenile in 2008 increase to 161 in 2009 (Mission Australia, 1). Besides that, Queensland police statistical review in 2010 shows that youth crimes in Queensland were increasing 36 per cent since 10 years ago (Queensland Police Service, 35-43). Young males committed most offences in Queensland (Queensland Police Service, 83). In 2010, most of the property and stealing offences in Queensland committed by the boys aged ten (Queensland Police Service, 84). Therefore, Queensland police statistics showed that the young male’s aged between ten and fourteen was the fastest growing criminal groups in Queensland (Queensland Police Service, 83). Thus, above evidences show juvenile justice system today is ineffective in controlling crime.

Important issues for criminologist’s today are why these changes in juvenile have occurred and work on overcome their problems. In this essay, I will seek to rigorous review a number of criminological theories for the juvenile delinquency phenomenon. Then, I will argue that those criminological theories would reduce juvenile delinquents today. In my examination, I will first explore the labeling theory to explain the youth crimes were caused by social process and how labeling theory play a certain influence to strengthen the juvenile justice system to overcome the problem of juvenile delinquency today. Secondly, I will then use Merton’s strain theory to examine the social structures strain within society may cause people committed crimes and how rehabilitation programs assist the current juvenile justice system.

First and foremost, labeling theory originally developed by sociologists in sociology studies, but it is regularly used in criminological studies (White & Haines, 72). Therefore, labeling theory is different from other criminological theories because other criminology theories presume criminal behavior lead by biological, psychological or genetic perspectives (White & Haines, 72). However, the labeling perspective argues that crime is a social process (White & Haines, 72). For example, White and Haines argued that the rise of rock-and-roll music culture, gay and lesbian activism and Vietnam War between 1960s and 1970s, which created a new phenomenon for current youth cultures (White & Haines, 73). Those processes have challenged the current status, it also threatens some powerful groups in society and they request to stop those changes. Thus, the members of the criminal justice system applied label like deviance or criminal to those people for their actions and behaviors (White & Haines, 74-75). However, this approach is defining the meaning of crime and which type of people actions or behavior classify as criminal (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 226-227). Thus, the labeling process may occur negative effects such as stigmatization and influence those young people to become a real criminal as the criminal justice system describe.

According to symbolic interaction theory, above approach would create self-image for people to help them define themselves (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 226-227). Unfortunately, those youths not only create a positive self-image for themselves but they also create criminal self’s image for themselves. In 1938, Frank Tannenbaum argued the idea of labeling theory from an example of conflict between youths and adults in an urban neighborhood (Tannenbaum, 20). For example, the youths would play like child when they were young children (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 227). When those children become teenagers, they might try something exciting or dangerous to play, which would deteriorate the relationship between the adult neighborhoods (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 227). Those adults would describe them as good kids but doing bad things. (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 227). However, if the conflict between youths and adults getting worsen, then the adult’s will describes the youths as bad (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 227). Tannenbaum concluded: “The person becomes the thing he is describes as being” (Tannenbaum, 20). Therefore, if a youth unable to draw out from a criminal self-image, then they describe themselves might transform into a real criminal.

On the other hand, Eadie and Morley argued that the young person would become more offend once they were labeled as criminal (Eadie & Morley, 552). Young offenders today might found out being ridicule by the current juvenile justice system and slowly turn into a real criminal. For instance, Seen and Heard pointed out in their research in 1997 was around 78% of young people mentioned that the Australian police did not treat them with respect (Seen & Heard, 84). However, Lemert provides an explanation on the labeling on people future behavior and describes the different between primary deviation and secondary deviation (Lemert, 17). Primary deviation may refer to initial deviant (White & Haines, 79). According to Tannenbaum example of conflict between youths and adults in an urban neighborhood, Lemert describe those young people who undertake that deviant behavior as primary deviation (Lemert, 40). Secondary deviation may refer to when a person engage into some form of primary deviation (White & Haines, 80). For example, the police apprehend a young person, they will label as deviant. But that young person will start act different and become stronger in order to counter ridicule by neighborhoods or get surveillance by the police (White & Haines, 80). Above example coincide Eadie and Morley research, they found out the young people today would slowly accept the role that the society labeled them and start to mix with other people that also been labeled like them (Eadie & Morley, 552). Therefore, based on labeling theory and its examples proving that the current juvenile justice system today is ineffective in controlling juvenile delinquency.

In addition, in order to overcome juvenile delinquency today, operation of juvenile justice system should not have stigmatizing effect, has greater tolerance and minimal intervention. Becker argued criminal label overrides other labels, so outsiders normally think of the people who get labeled are criminal (Becker, 34-35). For example, if a person served in prison before would ridicule by the public because public stereotype criminal (Becker, 37-39). Above situation influence those persons cannot get a normal job and it may force them return to crime to survive. Thus, in 2011, Australian Institute of Criminology and Victorian Safe Communities Network held the Young People, Risk and Resilience conference in Melbourne (Australian Institute of Criminology, 4). This conference brings together police, researchers and practitioners to assist young offenders today in order to protect them from being penalized for their offences. Diversionary programs have occurred because its have potential to reduce the numbers of juvenile delinquency in Australia. For example, Victoria Legal Aid (VLA) proposed a diversionary program to divert young offenders from the formal criminal justice processes in order to reduce unnecessary negative labeling and stigmatization. Moreover, diversionary programs like Pasifika operate on all state to reduce numbers of juvenile delinquency in detention (Mission Australia, 1). White and Haines argued that the limitations on publicity in juvenile cases and restrictions on taking fingerprints from young offenders would help them divert from the official criminal justice system (White & Haines, 84). The held of Tattoo Removal Scheme in Victoria is a young offender program to help them rebuild a new image because tattoos were once as a symbol of deviance (White & Haines, 84). Thus, diversionary programs help to assist operation of juvenile justice system today, which would avoid negative labeling and stigmatizing effect, and help to reduce numbers of juvenile delinquents.

In 1930s, American sociologist, Robert K. Merton adapting Durkheim theory to American society and develops strain theory (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 154). Merton argued that social structures strain within society may cause people committed crimes (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 154). The major concepts of strain theory are stimulating the individual to look for greater wealth in order to achieve the “American Dream” (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 154). Thus, it became a psychological motivation to the public, which persuade individual to work harder to achieve certain social goal. However, Merton argued that opportunities are not equal to everyone, so not every individual can achieve social goal (Merton, 188). Those individual who achieve wealth may indentified themselves as middle class but for those individual who fail to achieve their social goal may remain as lower class (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 155-156). Merton argued that social structure, not social culture, to explain why the rate of lower-class people in America committed crimes was higher than other classes (Bernard, Snipes & Gerould, 156). For instance, those people who receive poor education would not get a good paid employment, they may willing to commit crime in order to achieve wealth or change their status. Therefore, if the opportunity is unequal in a society will lead to some individual whom in poverty to commit crime.

Depend on the opportunities that is available in a society, people must choose a way to achieve their goals. Merton describes those adaptations to this strain theory in five different ways such as conformism, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion (White & Haines, 61). 1) Conformism refers to those who accept both culture goals and institutionalized means (White & Haines, 61). Innovation refers to those who accept culture goals but some of them cannot succeed through institutionalized means (White & Haines, 61). Therefore, they might obtain their goals through illegal means, such as stolen, robbing or drug dealing. Ritualism refers to those who accept culture goals but they cannot attain them such as drug users (White & Haines, 61). Retreatism refers to those who reject both culture goals and institutionalized means such as drug addicts (White & Haines, 61). The last possible adaptations, rebellion refers to those who replace the society value by crating a new system to achieve their own goals such as criminal gangs (White & Haines, 61). Thus, those possible adaptations define the relationships between culture goals and institutionalized means and shows the choices available for people to survive under this social structure in a society.

Besides that, strain theory points out the social strain and opportunity structure is the main factor to cause youth crime. Thus, poverty resulting the rapid growth of youth crimes rate and reduction of poverty will reduce youth crimes. The Smith Family for the AMP Foundation described the youth unemployment rate in Australia remains high. For instance, around 21.6% of youths aged between fifteen and nineteen were unemployed. Moreover, The Smith Family also point out the most of the unemployment youths are early school leaver, so this show that why they could not get a well pay employment. Thus, strain theory comes out with expanding opportunity, fostering healthy group activity and juvenile justice system should include individual rehabilitation combined with social programs in order to control the problem of juvenile delinquency (White & Haines, 55). In 2000, Victorian Government held the Youth Employment Scheme (YES), which help to train those young people aged between fifteen and twenty-fourth. The program helps the local government to reduce the youth unemployment rate in Victoria. There have some socials programs have occurred at every state to assist current juvenile justice system in order to reduce juvenile delinquency. For instance, in New South Wales, Youth Pathways to Education, Employment and Training which is an education-based program for young offenders in the community who have drop off from school early and Targeted Youth Support Program provides young people with a range of relevant educational, vocational, recreational and cultural programs (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 166). Moreover, in Tasmania, Ashley Youth Detention Centre is a rehabilitation program to help those youths who committed serious offences (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 182-183). Therefore, if the social opportunity were equal and more rehabilitation programs held in every state, then the number of juvenile delinquents would decrease.

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The Rise of Juvenile Delinquency and the Flaws of the Juvenile Justice System. (2018, September 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 22, 2021, from
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