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An assignment on Succinctly compare and contrast the social and legal definitions of juvenile delinquency

Comparison between social and legal definition of juvenile delinquency


Social definition juvenile delinquency

Just as legal definitions of juvenile delinquency have varied, social definitions have evolved as well. As Norval Morris and Gordon Hawkins so aptly put it: Juvenile delinquency is not a simple term. It means different things to different individuals, and it means different things to different groups. It has meant different things in the same group at different times. In popular usage, the term juvenile delinquency is used to describe a large number of disapproved behaviors of children and youth. In this sense, almost anything the youth does that others do not like is called juvenile delinquency. For example, a juvenile’s parents, siblings, or relatives may call a certain behavior “delinquent” even though no law was violated. The youngster who refuses to do household chores, fights with siblings, associates with “bad” friends, talks back, or listens to the “wrong” music may be called delinquent by parents, although the juvenile court would likely ignore the problem. It is not unusual for parents to complain to their local probation department that their child is a juvenile delinquent and beyond their control. Once parents discuss the matter in detail with a probation officer, they may redefine their youngster as a problem child or a person in need of supervision (PINS), but not as a delinquent. Parents also may find family counseling more appropriate than the juvenile court for addressing many adolescent problems. In the public’s mind, a few juveniles hanging out together on a street corner elicits the image of a delinquent gang. Although these juveniles may not belong to any formal gang, it is their appearance that decides a person’s view. When juveniles use obscene language, pose in “threatening” ways, listen to explicit music, or wear clothing to set them apart from the adults watching them, it is not surprising that they are labeled delinquent. However, their actual behavior does not need to be legally defined as delinquent for the public definition to be applied. In each of the previously mentioned settings, juvenile misbehaviors provoke public reactions. On some occasions and in some settings, their misbehaviors may be tolerated; in others, they may not. When the legal definition of delinquency applies to a juvenile’s behavior, it suggests that what he or she did exceeded the limits of public tolerance and further suggests that the behavior would be considered inappropriate for adults as well as for childre


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